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четверг, 9 марта 2017 г.

Empowering women to put their health first is what the Heels That Heal campaign is all about, and this cancer-focused issue aims to do just that.

We'll give you the facts you need to help protect yourself and show you how we can fight this disease. As our first story shows, it's not just the cancer victim who feels its effects. Deborah Garrett's death at just 38 left her family shattered - here they remember her brave fight...

The Husband

The couple's wedding day.
Mark Garrett, 48, is a training manager from Long Hanborough, Oxfordshire. He lives with his son Riley, six. "Slipping the ring on to Debs' finger at our wedding was the best and worst moment of my life.
We'd planned to marry abroad, but instead our wedding took place in a hospital room. My bride wore a white dress lent to her by staff, and sat in a wheelchair while a drip pumped powerful painkillers into her arm. She was so weak, she could barely whisper her vows. But to me, she was beautiful.
Just three days later, Debs was dead. Four years on, I still can't look at photos of that day. The memories are far too raw.
We met through mutual friends in August 2002. Beautiful, intelligent and fun, Debs was everything I could have dreamed of. We soon became inseparable. I knew from the start she had two children but it didn't bother me at all. I quickly fell in love with her. And them.
By December, Debs was pregnant. We moved in together and in August 2003, our gorgeous son, Riley, was born. But four months later, everything changed. Debs had been complaining of painful bloating when she collapsed at home. Fear coursed through me as I called an ambulance.
'I'll be fine,' she reassured me.
Debs spent several days in hospital, having tests and scans. When I visited her on the third day, I knew straight away something was wrong. Debs seemed so low. Not her usual bubbly self. It sounds stupid now, but when she held my hand and told me she had ovarian cancer, I was relieved. Doctors would remove her ovaries and she'd get better, I told her. She explained that it was a serious cancer, but even then, I was sure she'd survive. How could she not? We had our whole lives ahead of us.
Then doctors told us the cancer was one stage away from terminal. They couldn't cure Debs - just buy her time.
'I'm going to fight,' she vowed. I just sat there, numb.
The next few months went by in a blur of hospital wards and operations. Debs had a hysterectomy, her ovaries were removed, and she began gruelling chemotherapy. It was so hard seeing her in pain. I felt helpless. I broke down a few times, weeping while Debs comforted me, which only made me feel worse.
She did enjoy a few months in remission. On the face of it, we could be a normal family again but cancer was always there. Lurking under the surface.
And in September 2005, it returned with a vengeance. Debs' consultant sat us down and told us that nothing more could be done. The next step was to move Debs to a hospice to make her last days easier.
I felt like my heart was being torn into tiny pieces. Debs was desperate to see her children grow up. We talked a lot about Riley before she died. I promised to be the best dad he could wish for and never let him forget her.
We decided to get married. It was what we'd always wanted. We married at Churchill Hospital in Oxford on Friday October 21, 2005. The only guests were Debs' parents, Jennie and David, her two older children, Kristina, then 16, and Jon, then 12, Riley, then two, and my mum, Elsie. We didn't cry as we said our vows. We smiled. Even though we knew we were only going to be husband and wife for a few days, we were so happy. After the service, Debs was exhausted and she needed rest, so I took Riley home.
By Monday, she was barely conscious. Every breath she took was a huge effort. The children came to visit that afternoon but it was so hard for them to see her like that.
In the evening, it was just me, her mum and sister. I gently stroked her hair and whispered in her ear: 'You can go now.' A few moments later, she died. By then, I'd gone past sadness. Debs was in so much pain all I felt was relief that she was free.
Becoming a widower and a single father was scary, but Riley gave me a reason to keep living. Debs wrote him a letter before she died, which I'll give him when he's old enough. And I'm determined he'll know just how brave his mummy was."

The Daughter

Kristina and Carl with their daughter, Lily.
Kristina Spindler, 20, is a carer from Didcot, Oxfordshire. She lives with husband Carl, 23, a scaffolder, and their daughter Lily, 21 months.
"My hands shook as I opened the envelope Mark gave me a few days after Mum died. As I read the letter inside, tears rolled down my face.
'If you're reading this, it means I'm gone,' it said. 'But I always want you to remember how much I love you.'
Mum wrote a letter for each of us and mine is my most precious possession. Memories fade but I'll always have it to read - a reminder of the love Mum had for me.
Before she died, she created memory boxes filled with special mementos from our lives with her.
Mine's full of photos of us together, a programme from my first ballet performance, and two chocolates from a box of Harrods sweets we bought together during a trip to London. I still cry when I open my memory box. It's all I have left of my mum.
I was 14 when she was diagnosed. She sat my brother Jon and I down on the sofa, and hugged us as she explained about ovarian cancer. I'd never heard of it before and I didn't think for a second she was going to die. You never think that will happen to your mum.
I went with her to chemo once and hated it. It was horrible seeing sick people in bed with no hair. It scared me that she was becoming one of them - a 'cancer victim'.
When I think that Riley was the same age my daughter Lily is now when Mum died, I feel sick. I can't imagine what she must have gone through knowing she wouldn't see him grow up. Her biggest fear was that he would forget her, but I won't ever let that happen.
I don't think I fully accepted she was dying until the last time I saw her. She didn't look like my vibrant, fun-loving mum anymore. She was unconscious, her breathing was shallow and she was so pale. For a long time afterwards, that image really haunted me.
Jon and I were back at our grandparents when Mum died. In a way, I'm glad. I don't think I'd have been strong enough at the hospital. When Nan told us Mum had gone, I sobbed into my pillow.
I'd been clinging on to a tiny hope she'd get better. But I knew wanting her to still be with us was selfish. I'd never wish that amount of pain on anyone. In her letter, Mum asked me to make sure my children knew all about her. When I had my daughter in 2008, I called her Lily, after Mum's favourite flower.
I met my husband Carl after she died, so she never got to meet him. But I know she'd have loved him as much as I do. At our wedding last August, I dedicated a small table to Mum, covering it in lilies with a candle at the centre. I wanted her to be there with us all.
Mum always said she would battle cancer until she couldn't fight anymore. She tried her hardest and that's all anyone could ever wish for.
I'm so grateful that she taught me how to be a mother. I'm going to make sure her spirit lives on forever."

The Sister

Caroline Doran, 36, is a mum of three from Didcot, Oxfordshire. She lives with husband Kenneth, 41, a builder, and their three children Craig, 19, Ross, 12, and Zoe, eight.
"There's nothing more painful than waiting for someone to die. Every minute that passes is torture. The last few days of Debbie's life were agonising.
I held her hand as she took her last breath, willing her to go. She'd fought so hard but it was time for her to leave us. After she died, I felt an enormous sense of release - for her and for me. I couldn't cope with seeing the fragile, ravaged shell my beautiful sister had become.
Debs was five years older than me. Growing up, we were very different. She was a hippy, indie chick and I was into pop music and anything pink. But we were always there for each other. When I got pregnant with my son Craig at 16, Debs was the first person I told. And when my daughter Kayley was stillborn in 1996, Debs was there.
In 2003, when Mum told me Debs had been diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, I instantly knew she was going to die.
Debs came to my house soon after, and the moment I saw her, I burst into tears. She hugged me, saying she would fight the disease, but I knew in my heart it wouldn't be enough.
Debbie had gorgeous, golden hair down to her waist, so losing it was devastating for her. After her hysterectomy, she cut it into a crop. She was about to start chemo and knew she'd go bald, but couldn't cope with seeing it fall out in clumps. By cutting it herself, she was taking a bit of control back from the disease.
Debs never lost her sense of humour. In August 2004, after she completed her first course of chemo, I had a fancy dress party. Debs came in a Star Trek costume with her bald head painted green and a pair of pointy ears.
I tried not to think about her dying. It sounds selfish but I hated going to see her in hospital at the end of her life. Each time I left her, I worried it would be the last time.

Caroline's wedding day with Debs and their mum, Jennie.
The only conversation we had about death was the day after her wedding to Mark. She couldn't get out of bed or eat, and she looked exhausted.
'I want to plan my funeral,' she said, handing me a list of music she'd like played, which included The Jam's That's Entertainment.
She wanted to be cremated and her ashes interred next to my daughter Kayley. I nodded, choking back tears. I couldn't comprehend my sister not being around.
The last time I saw her, she was limp and grey. I try not to think of her like that. Instead, I think about our nights out, away from mummy duties. Those are the memories I'll treasure."
Help Wellbeing of Women battle cancer by donating money to its research fund. Online at or by phone on 0207 772 6323.
With thanks to Ovacome, the ovarian cancer support network. For information, go to or call 0845 371 0554.

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