Celebrity MasterChef winner Lisa Faulkner recalls her mother"s death


The day that changed my life: TV presenter and Celebrity MasterChef winner Lisa Faulkner, 39, recalls how her mother's death forced her to grab life with both hands

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 26 October 2012

Actress Lisa Faulkner

Actress Lisa Faulkner

The day I lost my mother, Julie, when I was 16 changed my life completely.

My younger sister Victoria and I had enjoyed an idyllic Surrey childhood until that point and had always been very close, but I think we became even closer after that.

Looking back now, I feel we've both tried to use the tragic experience of losing our mother so young in the most positive way we can.

We both live for the moment now, and draw inspiration from Mum's charismatic personality and zest for life.

My mother, a legal secretary, was a
whirlwind, a firework, filling our house with good food, music, friends
and laughter.

Hanging out with her in the kitchen, chatting and watching
her cook, is one of my most enduring memories.

She
wasn't conventionally maternal though, she was very much her own person
and loved her work, her friends and fashion.

She had so much energy, so
much confidence. She taught me you can be an individual as well as a
wife and a mother, and how important it is to realise that.

The cancer started as an ulcer under
her tongue in 1987 and the dentist didn’t know what it was.

Then it
spread to her throat and neck. It was, at most, two years from that
point to her dying.

Victoria and I knew she had cancer, but we didn’t
think she was going to die.

We
were at school when Mum died at home. It was horrendous. Our dad,
David, was incredible, and my sister and I became a team and faced
everything in life together. We looked after Dad and each other and were
determined to just carry on.

But
I soon found I couldn't continue as before. I didn't want to be at
school any more – people didn't know how to talk to me and I felt like I
was different to everyone else.

All
my childhood plans changed. I'd wanted to become a French teacher, but
that went out of the window. I'd been quite shy and lacking in
confidence, but the shock of losing my mother suddenly made me wake up
and think, “Life's so short. I must find what makes me happy”.

Lisa's mother, Julie, right, in 1984

Lisa's mother, Julie, right, in 1984

There
was nobody there to tell me what I should or shouldn't do any more. I
left school and after being approached by a talent scout at a Tube
station I started modelling, something I'd never have considered before.

I wanted to grab the opportunity and go round the world and find “me”. And that's exactly what I did. It all happened very fast.

Mum
died in December and I was modelling in January, travelling the world
and making my own money. Since then I've lived life the same way –
taking every challenge and opportunity that comes along. I know my mum's
spirit continues to inspire my life. She was a glorious example.

Lisa presents Holiday Home Sweet Home, starting today, 1.15pm, ITV1. Her book Recipes From My Mother For My Daughter is out now (Simon & Schuster, 20).