Clitheroe mum’s lottery jackpot joy after heartache

Gill, Shirley and Jonathan with prize money
Gill, Shirley and Jonathan with prize money

A lottery jackpot winner says her windfall is the start of a new chapter after losing her daughter to cancer.

Shirley Doolittle (57), from Clitheroe, was shocked when she scooped the £10,000 rollover in the East Lancashire Hospice lottery, where her daughter was cared for before passing away in August 2013.

When Gill from the lottery office phoned I thought at first there was a problem with my payments or some kind of technical problem

Shirley Doolittle

Nicola stayed in the hospice for two weeks and was just 38 when she lost her battle with advanced melanoma after being diagnosed in 2011

Shirley was undergoing treatment for cancer herself when Nicola was diagnosed. Shirley says, after the heartbreak of losing Nicola, her lottery win feels like the beginning of a new chapter for her and husband Jonathan (53), after all they have been through.

Recalling the moment she discovered she had won, Shirley said: “When Gill from the lottery office phoned I thought at first there was a problem with my payments or some kind of technical problem. Then when she mentioned the rollover it occurred to me I might have won something. She asked if I was sitting down and it was only then I thought I must have won. I felt numb and couldn’t take in the news, then I got upset too because of Nicola and all she went through. 

“I tried to contact Jonathan at work to tell him, but couldn’t get through. I just felt I had to tell someone. When he got home I tried to play it cool, but couldn’t hide my joy and blurted out that we’d won. I’m glad I got to see his reaction and that I could tell him face to face.”

Shirley, who has another daughter, Alison (37), began supporting the hospice because of the care they gave to her daughter Nicola and others: “Jonathan and I both lost our mums to cancer and decided we wanted to support a charity locally where you can see the impact and the hospice was our choice because of the care they gave to Nicola. Then, one day, I was shopping at Booths in Clitheroe and heard a canvasser mention the hospice lottery to other shoppers. I’d been meaning to sign up so I took the opportunity to sign up there and then for two numbers in the weekly draw.”

When Shirley discovered she had won the prize, she said she felt like it was a blessing from God: “I’m a firm believer some good has to come from the worst situations. Nicola gave a year of her life working for the church, which included a visit to the Bethany Orphanage in Tanzania.

“With the help of our faith in God, Nicola and I held on to the hope she could beat this disease right up until the end. She was a very outgoing and fun-loving girl, enjoying life to the full. In her final year, she planned her wedding to Steve, and honeymooned in Italy. Outwardly, she was strong, and presented a very positive attitude to family and friends, but obviously there were low points, and our faith in God never failed to sustain us during the difficult times. It all takes its toll though, and I am still recovering. Grieving is exhausting work, but has to be endured as part of the healing process. I would like to think the hospice will still be there when my time comes.”

Shirley and Jonathan, who have been married for 19 years, plan to spend some of the prize on their garden as they both love gardening and are planning a special holiday next year to mark their 20th wedding anniversary.