Fundraised for funeral
How could my daughter be so brave?
Ihated seeing my girl Sarah, then 21, suffering. ‘It’s agony,’ she groaned. It was early 2011, and Sarah had started suffering from shooting pains in her right foot. It’s not fair, I thought. You see, things had never been easy for her.
Sarah had been born in June 1990 with hypochondroplasia – a form of dwarfism.
A string of health problems followed – rheumatoid arthritis, a connective tissue disorder, asthma.
Doctors didn’t know why she was so poorly.
But Sarah was determined to live a normal life.
She’d worked in a corner shop since she was 13, and became supervisor later on.
Age 20, she moved in with her big sister Melissa, then 26.
She was thrilled to be independent. But her arthritis was crippling.
And when the foot pains started, doctors put it down to that.
Only, within months, Sarah could barely walk, had to give up work.
Finally, in September 2012, doctors referred her for a biopsy.
And in December, I was driving us to the supermarket when her phone rang. ‘It’s the hospital,’ she said. As she listened, her face went white. Dropping the phone in her lap, she stared straight ahead.
‘I have synovial sarcoma,’ she whispered. A rare soft-tissue cancer. Speechless, in shock, I almost crashed the car.
The next day, I took Sarah to Manchester Hospital.
A surgeon told us there was a huge tumour in her foot, and it’d spread up her heel. But that wasn’t all. ‘The tumour is too big to remove,’ he said.
They’d have to amputate her right foot.
‘I can’t believe it,’ Sarah wept.
I held her as the news sank in.
But, brave as ever, she was determined to soldier on.
An MRI was booked for January 2013, and we knew the amputation would follow soon after.
But, on Christmas Day the following week, I didn’t even get a chance to see my younger children, Callum, then 16, Martina, 14, Corrie, 6, and Rosie, 3, open their presents...
Sarah had been poorly the evening before and at 7am she called me. ‘I feel awful, Mum,’ she said. I rushed round, took her to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
But as I opened her car door, she panicked. ‘I can’t walk,’ she stammered. Grabbing a wheelchair, I rushed her into the waiting room. ‘Help!’ I shouted. Then I noticed red dots all over Sarah’s arms and neck.
Lifting up her
T-shirt, my heart stopped. They were everywhere. A nurse dashed over to look and Sarah was rushed into Intensive Care.
The next few hours and days were a blur.
Sarah was diagnosed with meningococcal septicaemia – a combination of blood poisoning and meningitis.
The doctor told me to call family and let them know.
‘She may not make it,’ he said.
Distraught, I called everyone, barely able to get my words out.
I kept a bedside vigil, while my mum Elizabeth looked after the younger kids. They visited. ‘When is Sarah coming home?’ Rosie asked, too young to understand.
Somehow, Sarah got through the worst.
But the infection had stopped the blood flow to her limbs – and by January, her fingers and legs were black.
Then she caught gangrene.
‘We need to amputate both legs below the knee,’ the doctor said. ‘OK,’ Sarah sobbed. It was a drastic move. But it’d get rid of the cancer, too, and it was the only way to save her life.
Sarah was transferred to Preston Hospital, where surgeons operated for more than 10 hours.
My heart pounded as she was taken to the Critical Care Unit. She’s OK, I thought, relieved. But after a month of intensive care, Sarah needed her right arm and the end of her fingers on her left removed. It was a long recovery. Sarah spent months in hospital learning how to use prosthetics.
We had the house adapted – and, finally, in November 2013, Sarah came home. My mum helped me care for her.
Sarah still needed regular checkups – but for the next few years, she tried to enjoy life.
‘I’m lucky to be here,’ she’d smile.
She’d visit friends, spend time with her siblings.
Only, this March, Sarah started coughing up blood.
Panicked, I rushed her to hospital, where scans showed large shadows in Sarah’s lungs. Then an MRI confirmed it. ‘The sarcoma is back,’ the oncologist said.
There were tumours in her lungs and through her whole body. It was terminal. I broke down. My beautiful daughter had already been through hell. Now this?
‘How long do I have?’ Sarah whispered as I held her.
‘Three to six months,’ the oncologist replied. My whole world shattered. Sarah was 27, and dying. ‘I’ve got to make the most of the time I’ve got left,’ she wept that evening.
Telling the children was tough. They were distraught.
So we tried to make the most of every moment.
But Sarah’s health deteriorated quickly.
‘I want to plan and fund my own funeral, so you don’t have to worry,’ she said one day. ‘No!’ I gasped. Still, Sarah was adamant.
Over the next few weeks, Martina started a fundraising page and Sarah planned a starshaped headstone, a burgundy theme, speeches...
They’d soon raised nearly £5,000. I was so proud. But by May, Sarah was struggling to get out of bed. Every movement was agony. And on 18 May, my darling girl passed away peacefully in her sleep. I’m heartbroken. But I didn’t want Sarah to suffer any more.
My beautiful girl had been brave enough already.
She had already been through hell. Now this?
Her legs turned black After her op
Proud mum My girl coped so well with everything
Sarah: she made the most of every day
The long road to recovery