Student crosses marathon finish line in memory of beloved aunt who died on Christmas Day

A Fylde student crossed a marathon finish line in memory of her aunty who died after being diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia.

Monday, 2nd May 2022, 4:55 am

Natalia Cross, from Lytham, completed the Manchester Marathon after pledging to run the race for her aunty Michelle Owen, who died aged 66 on Christmas Day last year.

Michelle, a beautician and foster carer who lived in South Shore, had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in April 2021.

Following several months of chemotherapy in Blackpool Victoria Hospital, she was moved to Manchester Royal Infirmary and received a bone marrow transplant at the end of September.

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Natalia Cross, from Lytham, ran the Manchester Marathon 2022 for Leukaemia UK in memory of her aunt Michelle Owen

Natalia, who is studying psychology at the University of Manchester, visited, supported and comforted Michelle as she was not allowed any other visitors.

It was during this time that Natalia promised Michelle she would run the marathon for Leukaemia UK.

Natalia, who is on a placement year as a trainee clinical psychologist and research worker and hopes to follow this as a career as a doctor, has raised more than £2,100 for the charity.

She said: “The marathon was really hard but I feel really happy to have done it and proud of the money raised.

Michelle Owen, from South Shore, who died on Christmas Day last year after being diagnosed with leukaemia

"I spoke to Michelle about running this marathon for her in the hope that she would be there to watch me do it, and she absolutely loved the idea.

"She said it was a beautiful thing to do for her so I feel very proud to have run the marathon in memory of her and know she was running it with me.

"We are missing her every single day and are devastated by our loss but hope to raise money for Leukaemia UK and turn our grief into something positive.”

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Natalia Cross, from Lytham, and Jack Fletcher ran the Manchester Marathon 2022

Even though Michelle was initially responding well to the transplant, her daughters Kirsty and Keisha were informed their mum had developed a rare and terminal virus affecting her brain at the end of November.

She was diagnosed with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy which is neurological disorder characterized by destruction of cells that produce myelin, an oily substance that helps protect nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

Michelle spent the last two weeks of her life under the loving care of staff at Trinity Hospice in Bispham before her death on December 25 last year.

Wendy Cross, Natalia’s grandmother, said the family is extremely proud of her granddaughter’s marathon achievement.

She added: “Natalia was determined to run this marathon and trained hard with dedication.

"She has kept her promise to Michelle, who fought a long, determined and brave battle and it was in her memory as she crossed the finish line.”

Natalia was accompanied at the marathon by best friend Jack Fletcher, who took on the race to raise money for Trinity Hospice in memory of his mum, Lynn.

Jack, who is an apprentice accountant at Ribby Hall Village, lost his mum to cancer 14 years ago when she was just 40-years-old.

To donate to Jack’s fundraising, visit

And to support Natalia’s fundraising, visit