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Jane Tomlinson; '6 months' to live, she began triathlons

Jane Tomlinson, in front of the White House. Despite being ill from liver cancer, she completed a 4,200-mile bike ride last year across the United States. Jane Tomlinson, in front of the White House. Despite being ill from liver cancer, she completed a 4,200-mile bike ride last year across the United States. (2006 file/ap)

LONDON - Briton Jane Tomlinson, hailed as an inspiration for defying terminal cancer to run marathons, cycle across the United States, and raise $2 1/2 million for charity, has died at the age of 43.

A family spokesman said the mother of three died Sept. 3, some seven years after she was diagnosed with incurable cancer and told she would not survive more than six months.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain described her as an "inspiration to millions around the world" and paid tribute to her "amazing spirit" in tackling marathons, endurance cycle riding, and ironman triathlons to raise money for cancer charities.

Her last big challenge was a cycle ride from San Francisco to New York last year.

"The whole country will be greatly saddened by the death of Jane Tomlinson," Brown said. "She will be a daily inspiration to our generation to fight on against the terrible scourge of cancer."

Mrs. Tomlinson's family acknowledged that they were more surprised than anyone when, in October 2000, a matter of weeks after being told her cancer was terminal, she decided to join a gym.

"It seemed, on the face of it, massively out of character," they said in a statement. "It is to her remarkable achievement that it became the norm for her to complete one marathon or triathlon after another."

In April 2003, Mrs. Tomlinson became the first known person to run a marathon on chemotherapy when she completed her second London Marathon.

In November 2004, she became the first woman with incurable cancer to complete an Ironman triathlon - a 2.4 mile swim, followed by 112 miles of cycling, and a full marathon.

Canadian Ryan Bowd and Scot Martyn Hollingworth, cyclists who supported Mrs. Tomlinson in her ride across the United States, said she was one of the few people worthy of being called remarkable.

" 'Inspirational' and 'remarkable' are words that are often batted around easily in our modern times of pseudo-celebrity and reality television hero manufacturing. Most people who we use these words to describe are often not worthy," they said in a statement. "This was not so in Jane Tomlinson's case."

"Jane . . . exemplified qualities of the human spirit that most people can only aspire to."

Mrs. Tomlinson leaves her husband, Mike, and children Suzanne, Rebecca, and Steven.

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