EXCLUSIVE: Brave mum is publicly dissected on TV after dying of rare cancer in ‘gift’ for future
A mum who died from a rare eye cancer at 30 has been dissected for a Channel 4 show in a TV first.
Toni Crews bravely gifted her body to science to help fight the war on the disease.
It is hoped the programme will “educate millions” and keep Toni’s memory alive.
Toni hoped waiving her anonymity would keep her memory alive for years to come.
It also provides a moving and uplifting account of her fight against the tear gland cancer that claimed her life.
Toni can be heard narrating her own story in the programme My Dead Body, thanks to voice-replicating technology that weaves in diary entries and letters she wrote to family and friends.
In one poignant moment, she explains the decision to donate her body made her feel happy.
Toni says: “This gives me peace for the future.”
The mum-of-two, from Deal, Kent, died in 2020 aged 30 from the very rare form of cancer.
She was diagnosed in 2016 and had to have her right eye removed.
The disease returned in 2018 but Toni decided to continue to raise awareness about it – even after death.
Her parents Jo and Jason Crews told how they were determined to carry out their daughter’s wishes because she was so certain she wanted it as her legacy.
The film shows a room full of students watching as Professor Claire Smith, head of anatomy at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, leads a series of workshops in which different parts of Toni’s body are examined.
Including interviews with her parents, grandparents, siblings and pals, the extraordinary documentary aims to educate viewers on the science of cancer and how it makes its way through the human body.
Prof Smith admits she’s “nervous”, having never performed a dissection quite like Toni’s before. She explains: “We have been so privileged to explore the journey of cancer through the incredible donation made by Toni.
As part of this documentary, we were able to invite more than 1,000 students, including nurses, paramedics and neuroscientists, who wouldn’t normally get to learn about this one in a million cancer.
“Toni’s gift of body donation doesn’t end with this documentary either. Her body will be used to educate our medical students and doctors for years to come.”
Prof Smith says she hopes the research performed by her team will make Toni’s parents feel “proud”.
Channel 4 commissioning editor Anna Miralis said the film, to air next month, tells “one of the most intimate stories of all, how a young mum bravely fought for her life against a rare form of cancer”.
She added: “By donating her body to public display, the first of its kind in the UK, Toni Crews has given us an extraordinary and unique look into the journey of the disease. While the presence of her voice in the form of diary entries and letters and social media posts ensures the film is filled with all the warmth and generosity that characterised Toni’s inspiring life.”
At the start of the film, Toni admits her terminal diagnosis came as a huge shock because she was only 30.
But she is keen to be remembered as a positive person, laughing with her friends and enjoying ice cream. The film ends with some of the heartfelt words she wrote to her children, reminding them to be kind and happy – and telling them their mum will love them forever.
My Dead Body comes 20 years after Channel 4 made history with its Autopsy programme. In it, Professor Gunther Von Hagens carried out a post mortem on a 72-year-old German man.