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Meet Cornwall's female undertaker who is inspired by her courageous daughter

Lisa Nicholls is working as a funeral assistant in Redruth after man years as a full-time carer for her daughter

A mum whose daughter has a life-limiting illness that means she is unlikely to make it into adulthood is drawing from all the difficult times in her life to make a success as a woman in the male dominated funeral world.

Lisa Nicholls’ daughter Savannah was diagnosed with a two-in-a-million chance leukaemia when she was just three months old but fought the illness and won.

The courageous youngster will celebrate her 14 birthday on Christmas Day but sadly cannot walk properly or speak and is not expected to live into adulthood.

Lisa, 35, said: “Savannah is 13 years cancer free and although she has a tough time with seizures she is incredibly happy and loves her family, friends and school.

“We’ve said goodbye to her numerous times but she has always pulled through. She’s remarkable.”

Lisa, originally from Penzance but who now lives in Truro , was initially a dance teacher but closed down her dance school to be a full-time carer for Savannah and parent to her four other children.

After being out of work for the best part of a decade she was asked to speak at the funeral of close friend and well-known Penzance character Julyan Drew, sparking a passionate interest into the funeral world.

Lisa said: “It was an honour and afterwards I went to the job centre and said ‘help me, I want to be a funeral director’.”

Lisa gained financial backing from a lottery funded company and after a chance encounter with a paramedic, was pointed in the direction of Scott Watters of Redruth -based Cornwall Funeral Services where she now works for free as a funeral assistant.

An enthusiastic Lisa says she has now found her calling and has already learned so much in the two to three months she’s been there.

She said: “I’ve had breakdowns, been suicidal, been in and out of the doctors and felt like a failure as a mum but I want to be more than a carer. Doing this job allows me to be Lisa, not just a mum and a carer.

“People say I’m a hero for caring for Savannah but I’m not a hero. I have to do it or else she’ll die. I’ve been through a lot but think that all the negative experiences have given me a positive outlook on life.

“I’ve planned Savannah’s funeral 100 times both in my head and on paper but now I hardly think about it. I’m focussing on living.

“It’s definitely given me an extra layer and I’m able to bring my life experiences to the job. I want to change people’s outlook so we’re not scared of death and know it’s something we need to talk about. Right now it’s a taboo subject.”

Lisa says she has already learned so much and feels like a part of the family at Cornwall Funeral Directors.

She lists her day-to-day tasks as everything from admin to tending to bodies, something she says is conducted with the utmost respect.


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