Cancer survivor becomes funeral director at 29 after losing friends to disease

Laura Hampson
·3 min read
Ayesha Slader has become a funeral director aged 29 (SWNS)
Ayesha Slader has become a funeral director aged 29 (SWNS)

A woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer aged 14 has become a funeral director after losing friends to the disease.

Ayesha Slader, 29, went into remission in 2007 after treatment. 

She asked to visit a funeral director a few years later as she wanted to know what had happened to her friends and fellow cancer sufferers after they died.

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She then spent five years training as a funeral director with Pengelly Funeral Directors in Saltash, Cornwall, before securing a permanent position there.

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"When I was ill at hospital there were two other people of similar ages with cancer - both of them passed away,” Slader said.

"I had a couple of treatments in Bristol as well - a few people I met there also died. It’s really hard. I was speaking to one of the people I got close to – I had just got the all clear. He hadn’t said, but he’d just been told he was terminal.

“It’s difficult – I was the one who wasn’t supposed to get better. You almost get a bit of guilt - survivors' guilt I think they call it.”

Ayesha during her cancer treatment (left) and 14 years later (right) (SWNS)
Ayesha during her cancer treatment (left) and 14 years later (right) (SWNS)

Slader, who hails from Plymouth, Devon, said Pengelly were fantastic in showing her how they operate when she was curious all those years ago.

“I’d quite often go to funerals of people I met in hospital when I was younger,” she added.

“I just wanted to know what happened after they died. I wanted to know what happened and that the process was still kind to them. 

"The funeral directors took me through each step when I went to see them and said in a few years’ time I could come back.”

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Slader calls the job “tough but rewarding” and she’s thankful to work with “a really good team”.

“There are bad days but most of the time it's good and we meet some lovely people,” she added.

“It’s strange because this is a time people shouldn’t thank you - but it shows you’ve helped them and having been through that I think I understand it more.”

Pengelly arranged the funeral for Slader's mum Sonia, who died of a chest infection after suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (CPOD) in 2018.

It took Ayesha five years to train to be a funeral director (SWNS)
It took Ayesha five years to train to be a funeral director (SWNS)

Slader explained that she also took up playing rugby to help cope with the loss.

"You'd think dealing with death all the time would mean I'd be in pretty good stead with losing someone,” she said.

"And being poorly, I've lost a lot of people that way too, but I wasn't expecting it to hit me as hard as it did. I couldn't function properly, I was angry and mad, I needed an outlet."

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Slader found local rugby team Plymstock Albion Oaks and turned up at a training session knowing no-one there and never having played the sport before.

"But for the first time in those six months, I didn't feel angry or upset, just for the hour I was there," she said.

"I have taken so much from this sport and from this group of women, that aren't just there as teammates, they're there as my friends."

Additional reporting by SWNS.

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