A DEVASTATED family told how their Christmas-loving mum took her last breath listening to Walking in the Air - just 22 days after she was diagnosed with cancer.
Mum-of- four Lesley Partridge, 43, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last month.
She died at home just three weeks later surrounded by family and friends to the strains of her favourite carols - including the title tune from the film The Snowman, made famous by Aled Jones.
Lesley’s daughter Georgina Mole, 23, said: “This was mum’s favourite time of the year and we got her tree and decorations up thinking we’d have one more magical Christmas with her - but sadly it wasn’t to be.
“We’re in a state of shock and still can’t believe we won’t be here to celebrate Christmas with us this year.”
Single mum-of-four Lesley, from Halesowen, West Midlands had been experiencing stomach pains for weeks.
But she bravely hid her agony from children Georgina, Caylea, 22, Brendan, 13, and Brianna, 11.
Georgina explained: “Mum had terrible tummy ache but she thought it was acid reflux so she just bought some over the counter medication hoping it would go away.
“She soldiered on, going to work every day as a community carer without ever complaining.
“She was a protective mum and never wanted her kids to see her in pain.”
But the pain got too much for Lesley and she visited A&E on October 14th.
Doctors suspected she had cysts on her liver and after a week of tests she was sent home to await the results of a biopsy.
Georgina says: “Ten days later, on November 6th, I went with her for the results.
“The news was absolutely devastating - mum was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given a maximum of just six months to live.’
Lesley was offered chemotherapy but was warned that the treatment would only extend her life, not save it.
“After a week of soul searching, mum decided against it,’ says Georgina. ‘It was going to be an aggressive treatment and she wanted to lead as normal a life as possible for the little time she had left.
“We all understood the reasons for her decision and she had our full support.”
Lesley thought she had months left to fill with memories and she drew up a bucket list.
“We planned to make special memories with mum,” explains Georgina.
‘She wanted to spend a day at an indoor snow dome, and was also hoping to fulfil her dream of having a go at jet-skiing.
“Also, my sister Caylea had recently got engaged and she brought her wedding plans forward to January next year so mum could be there on the big day.”
Lesley celebrated her 43rd birthday on November 9th, three days after her diagnosis.
But her condition had already declined so fast that she was struggling to walk and needed a wheelchair.
Georgina says: “We took mum out shopping and she chose new wallpaper before a group of us got together and redecorated her living room.
“Mum adored Christmas and every year she liked to get the tree and decorations up early, in time for the I’m A Celebrity launch show.
She was pretty out of it but her fingers and feet moved along to the Christmas carols playing on the stereo.Georgina Mole
“We were planning the biggest and best ever Xmas with a huge celebration for 39 people - but sadly it wasn’t to be.”
A fundraiser was launched to help make Lesley’s dreams come true.
But sadly she went downhill fast after she caught a chest infection.
“Antibiotics wouldn’t shift it and by the following week she was struggling to breath and swallow," remembers Georgina.
‘We moved her bed downstairs and called palliative care nurses. I couldn’t believe we were preparing for the end already.”
Lesley had a constant stream of visitors at her bedside as Christmas carols played.
Georgina says: “All her friends and family wanted to say their final goodbyes.
“Mum’s door had always been open to anybody and she was ready with a cup of tea and good advice when you needed a shoulder to cry on.
“She was pretty out of it but her fingers and feet moved along to the Christmas carols playing on the stereo.
“And when her best mate turned up, she opened her eyes to say: “Alright Ness”.
Lesley passed away on November 28th, just 22 days after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, sometimes known as the ‘Silent Killer’ because it does not cause any symptoms in the early stages.
Georgina says: “Walking in the Air from The Snowman was playing as mum took her dying breath.
What is pancreatic cancer?
Pancreatic cancer is the deadliest form of the disease in the UK because it's so hard to spot.
The average survival rate across Europe is just five per cent, with just one per cent living for ten years or more after diagnosis.
One reason for such a poor outlook is that pancreatic cancer tends to be diagnosed too late.
By the time you have symptoms, have gone to your GP and been diagnosed, the cancer tends to be quite advanced.
Only eight out of 100 people can have surgery to have their pancreas removed - which gives them the best chance of cure.
According to Pancreatic Cancer UK the disease is spread into two main groups, exocrine cancers and endocrine cancers.
Most are exocrine, which start in the exocrine cells that make enzymes.
The others are called neuroendocrine tumours and start in the endocrine cells, which produce fewer hormones.
Both types of cancers behave differently and are treated differently.
Diana Jupp, of Pancreatic Cancer UK, said: "Decades after huge progress has been made in treating other forms of cancer, pancreatic cancer is still taking far too many lives.
"It’s very difficult to treat, very difficult to diagnose and can spread quickly – depriving people of precious time with those they love most. It is so important that we take on this tough disease through the latest cutting-edge science and by being there for patients, families and friends."
“Everything happened so fast. In the space of 22 days, we’d gone from looking forward to a lovely family Christmas, to mum being diagnosed with cancer and dying.
“We held her funeral on December 13th - we should have been out Christmas shopping with her and instead we were saying our last goodbyes.
“I was touched at how many people came to pay their last respects to mum. She will be truly missed.
“We all wore bright colours because we wanted to celebrate her life. Walking in the Air was playing in the background during the service.
“I can’t believe that she’s gone but I have to be strong and plan a magical Christmas without her.”
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