x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Memorial for cancer sufferer Dave Hodgson, 'an inspiration'

A memorial service has been held for the Meydan executive who wrote extensively about his battle with cancer.

DUBAI // A memorial service was held yesterday for a man who inspired thousands by remaining positive throughout a two-year battle against cancer.

Friends and relatives gathered at Christ Church Jebel Ali to pay tribute to Dave Hodgson, 41, who documented his fight against a rare form of skin cancer on Twitter.

Many who attended the service had not met him in person, but, nonetheless, had been touched by his open and inspiring tweets.

"He touched a nerve," said Lesley Cully, 41, from the United Kingdom. "In the few months I followed him and read his updates, he completely changed the way I look at life. It's a term which is bandied around so much these days, but he really was an inspiration.

"He showed us that you have to live your life in a joyous way. Whatever happens, or whatever gets you down, you have to be positive. Dave didn't stop right to the end. He didn't stop making a difference. I wish I'd met him."

Mr Hodgson moved to the UAE in 2009 - the same year he was diagnosed - and worked as the corporate communications director for Meydan racecourse. In July 2011 he was told he would have no more than 12 months to live.

The same month, he and his wife, Natalie, took their long-postponed honeymoon in the Maldives before travelling to Chicago to undergo a revolutionary new treatment.

He spent Christmas Day in hospital with his wife and seven-year-old daughter Olivia, and posted his last tweet two days before he died.

Mrs Hodgson posted a message on New Year's Eve saying that her husband had died, and hundreds of people immediately posted their condolences. Mr Hodgson had almost 2,500 followers on the social networking site.

Among them was Adam Kechil, the presenter of the motoring programme In Gear on City 7. He was invited to give a speech at the service yesterday.

"Social media helped us learn, before Dave left us, what a truly remarkable person he was," he said. "Even though he was going through all of that, he still managed to make me and a lot of other people smile."

Mrs Hodgson did not speak at the service, but a family friend, 39-year-old Briton Tara Armes, read WF Auden's poem Stop all the Clocks on her behalf.

"He was very kind, he adored his wife and kids more than anything," she said. "He was so positive. Nobody thought he would ever die."

mcroucher@thenational.ae