‘There’s not a day goes by when I don’t think of her,’ says Katy Vincent, of her best friend, Miranda Filmer. ‘She was one of a kind.’
The childhood friends, from Wiltshire, met as 11-year-olds at The Pony Club, but through university, jobs and relationships, their friendship stood the test of time.
‘We had a sisterly bond, we worked hard and we partied hard too.’ says Katy. ‘She was my partner in crime.’
But five years ago, Miranda, a keen horse rider and sportswoman, was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer, a rare, yet aggressive, form of the disease that affects the system that releases hormones into the body.
Despite gruelling treatment Katy says her friend was ‘determined to carry on with life as normal.’
In June 2022, she passed away, aged just 30. She left behind a powerful legacy, reminding those around her to live life as she did, ‘for what and who she loved’.
For Katy, adjusting to life without her best friend has been tough – they were just 11 when they met, and became close friends.
Katy, who is an officer in the Royal Engineers, says: ‘Her parents are like my second parents. Their door is always open, and we’d go on summer holidays to Cornwall.
‘Miranda was very much the glue that held our friendship group together. She wasn’t interested in being the loudest one in the group, but when she spoke, you listened. We all valued her so much.’
Katy says it was a huge shock when she first found out that her friend had cancer, when they were just 25.
Miranda had been suffering with stomach pains, and after several trips to A&E, she was eventually diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer.
Katy explains: ‘She just dropped it into conversation one day. She really played it down and said it wasn’t a big deal.’
According to the NHS website, neuroendocrine tumours are very rare, and develop in many different organs of the body. The cancer affects the neuroendocrine cells, which are the ones that release hormones into the bloodstream, meaning it is often misdiagnosed.
In the years that followed her diagnosis, Miranda underwent gruelling treatment at the Royal Free, including surgery on her spine and chemotherapy. Throughout her treatment, she was determined to carry on with life as normal – competing at an international level with her horses and, as Katy says, ‘partying hard when she could.’
Katy says: ‘A lot of the time, because Miranda didn’t want to make a fuss, you could be in denial that she was unwell.
‘She still rode her horses as much as she could, and went out walking with her dogs. She competed with her horse only two months before she died. She was helped onto the horse, but once she was in the saddle, you wouldn’t have known she was sick.
‘She worked for a publisher, and was determined to keep working – not letting her boss know she was unwell until she had no other option. She never wanted her illness to impact her work.’
But by early 2022, Miranda’s aggressive tumours were not responding to treatment in the way that doctors had hoped.
Katy says: ‘I remember her telling me she knew that things had got bad, because her doctors’ were happy for her to do go wherever and do whatever she wanted – she knew at that point that they’d run out of options.
‘Then in May 2022, I was away with work when I got a call from her dad, Charles, who said things were pretty bad. I’m quite a positive person, and Miranda had fought for so long, so I still tried to be optimistic.
‘But five days later, I went to see her, and I was pretty shocked. So she was so tired and frail, and her skin was quite yellow because the cancer had spread to her liver.’
Katy says it was only in the weeks before her death, that Miranda began to speak about death and dying.
She says: ‘Miranda was desperately sad for her parents, Charles and Antonia, and her family, because they’d put so much time and energy into trying to get her well again.
‘But she had lived life to the fullest for 30 years.
‘The weekend before she passed away, I went to visit her with another friend, and she was very rational. She gave me a list of people I had to call to let them know what the situation was.
‘Then we sat and watched the horse racing with her.
‘Making those phone calls was so difficult, because aside from family and close friends, people just had no idea how ill she was.’
Miranda passed away on 10 June, surrounded by her family.
‘She had a very small funeral, and then a memorial service in the September,’ says Katy.
‘It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to try and grieve your best friend. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think about her courageous battle, surviving way beyond the odds, and living for what and who she loved.’
As Miranda’s 31st birthday approached, Katy knew she had to be occupied on the day. She says: ‘I knew it was going to be a very hard day, so I wanted something to focus my mind on.
‘I couldn’t sit at home, thinking about how we’d have been celebrating if she were here. I needed to be able to mourn her, but remember the good times too.’
In tribute to her best friend, she decided she’d walk the distance between their childhood homes – about a marathon.
‘It was Miranda’s dad who suggested I raise some money,’ she explains. ‘As I’m in the military, I decided to do it in full kit to make it a bit more of a challenge and encourage people to donate.’
So on April 4, Katy set off on her challenge, accompanied by dog, Tia, and Miranda’s dad, Charles.
They were joined along the way by Miranda’s loved ones – including her Labrador, Kili.
‘We spent the day sharing memories of Miranda and chatting about what an incredible person she was.’
So far, Katy’s efforts have raised over £5,500 for the Royal Free, and the Miranda Filmer Fund has raised over £400,000.
Now, she continues to try to raise awareness of neuroendocrine cancer, as do her family, while always remembering her dear friend.
‘Miranda was a strong, determined individual, and she’s taught me not to faff around when there’s something you want to do in life.
‘She must have been in constant agony, but she was never going to let that stop her.’
To donate, to the Miranda Filmer fund, visit her family’s JustGiving page.
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