For Tracy! New funeral home swaps profits for charity help

Mother of young woman who died from a rare cancer tells how more treatment research was needed

Friday, 10th June — By Anna Lamche

Funeral home Screenshot 2022-06-09 at 13.19.02

Mary McNeilly outside T&M, in Caledonian Road named after her daughter Tracy’s initial and her own

THE mother of a woman who lost her life to cancer is opening a new kind of funeral home in the belief that something good can come from even the most tragic of deaths.

“I’m doing this for my daughter,” said Mary McNeilly, 65, as she prepares to open T&M Funeral Home in Caledonian Road this week.

Unlike most funeral parlours, Ms McNeilly’s will be run as a Community Interest Company (CIC) – this means after salaries and bills have been paid, all profits will be donated to charity as a way of generating money for research into fatal conditions.

Ms McNeilly will give each family she works with the opportunity to select a charity in memory of their lost loved one.

The idea came after Ms McNeilly’s daughter Tracy died in 2014 aged just 38 from a rare cancer.

Ms McNeilly believes that if more had been known about Tracy’s condition, she would have been diagnosed earlier and may have had a better chance to fight the disease.

For a long time Tracy knew she was ill, but despite multiple trips to the doctor, “no one really knew” what was wrong with her, Ms McNeilly said.

Eventually Tracy was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease, which had been caused by the growth of a cancerous tumour.

Tragically, the diagnosis came too late. Tracy was left with 18 months to live.

Tracy died in 2014 aged just 38 from a rare cancer

In the final months of Tracy’s life, Ms McNeilly saw first-hand the important work charities do to alleviate suffering.

Tracy spent a lot of time at the Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead for respite care.

“The people in Marie Curie were so nice, they looked after her,” Ms McNeilly said, even letting her sleep on a mattress beside Tracy’s bed.

“Nobody ever really knew what the cancer was,” she said, adding there was no targeted chemotherapy that could be tried and that more research was needed.

Tracy left four young children behind.

“They actually offered my grandkids counselling and everything. And I thought that was so nice – that’s what gave me the idea for this charity,” Ms McNeilly said.

“We thought: why don’t we just open our own funeral shop? If someone comes in and a family member has died from a heart attack, we can donate some money to the British Heart Foundation,” she said.

“If it’s cancer, we can donate to Cancer Research and so on,” she said.

A guarantee of 25 per cent of the entire fee will go to the selected charity.

In the UK, the average funeral costs stand at more than £4,000, increasing to more than £9,000 when extras like flowers, catering costs and memorials are considered.

In typical funeral parlours, profits can be “extreme,” said Ms McNeilly, who has worked in the industry for more than a decade.

According to recent research, increasing numbers of families face “funeral poverty,” where rising funeral costs are hitting the poorest families hardest, often adding to spiralling personal debt.

Ms McNeilly said she is looking forward to keeping funeral costs down and redirecting any surplus earnings into charity.

“Charities need money for research,” she added.

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