In January 2009, five strangers were thrown together to host a dinner party for the Channel 4 programme ‘Come Dine with Me’ with contestants; Gill Buley, Sophie Branfield, Richard Carpenter, Gabrielle Hennig and Spencer Uren taking part. The show kicked off on the Monday night at Gill's house. All contestants bonded and relationships developed over the week. It was a real emotional rollercoaster ride for all! Sadly for the contestants, that rollercoaster ride of emotions remained with them for the entire year as a truly sad story unravelled…
Spencer was facing turbulent times as his little sister had just been diagnosed with Cancer. Sorrelle, aged only 23, was strickened with Hodgkins disease and was undergoing chemotherapy so Spencer decided that if he won the show he would donate the winnings of £1000 to a local Cancer charity to support his sister.
Spencer, a strong contestant in the show, had an amazing personality and impeccable eye for detail. His night was the final, on the Friday when the winner would be revealed. Unfortunately, he didn’t win the show, as his menu let him down. Being a vegetarian the other contestants had hoped for a vegetarian banquet. Spencer however tried to please all with a chicken and blue cheese dish, but as the other contestants didn’t really like blue cheese it didn’t go down too well!
Gill went on to win the show and bagged the £1000 prize fund but decided to share the winnings with Spencer, in support of his sister. It was a very emotional evening, and the gesture of good will touched all the contestants as well as the ‘Come Dine with Me’ production team. Nobody was more overwhelmed than Spencer, but as he wiped the tears from his eyes and expressed what it meant to him, he was unaware at the time that he would be facing his own tragedy in the months to follow.
The contestants became close and planned reunion parties to follow the event, but Spencer and Gill developed a very special friendship and kept in regular contact, meeting up a couple of times a week. One day, Spencer sent a text to Gill to say that he was feeling unwell and was at the local hospital where they were conducting tests to diagnose the problem; Gill went straight up to the hospital, armed with supplies of goodies and magazines that were most welcome.
A couple of weeks later the doctors at the hospital informed him of the most devastating news, Spencer was diagnosed with a very rare form of Pancreatic Cancer that was unfortunately not curable. He thought he may have a couple of years, but sadly the Cancer was far too advanced and he passed away on 31st May 2009 aged just 37.
When asked where he wanted his share of the prize money to go Spencer, during his final weeks, said, ‘having walked in the shoes of a Cancer patient, I would like to make a big difference and make the experience as comfortable as possible for others and their families during the traumatic phase of receiving treatment’. His chosen charity is the Cancer ward at the North Hampshire Trust Hospital in Basingstoke.
Gill knew the initial £500 donation wouldn’t go far, but hopes, that she can get enough people involved who share our passion for food and have been touched by our story, we can raise enough money to make a real difference, not just in our community but eventually in Cancer research too. We can’t do this alone; we need YOUR help and support. Gill started the charity in January 2010 and we have already achieved close to £25,000.