THE heartbroken family and fiancé of a “lovely, bubbly and outgoing” York woman have spoken of their devastation after she died only weeks before her wedding.
Leanne Kelly, 25, died less than four months after being diagnosed with cervical cancer, and the speed with which she deteriorated denied her the chance to raise awareness of its effects.
Now her parents, Jane, 51, and Mark, 49, and the man she was due to marry earlier this month, Trevor Garner, plan to keep her memory alive by spreading the word about the smear test that could save women’s lives.
They are calling for a change in national guideline policies, which invite women aged 25 to 50 for screening every three years and those aged 50 to 64 every five years, and have said that women should be tested as early as 18.
Leanne’s father, Mark, said his daughter wanted to raise awareness after being told by a specialist as St James’s Hospital, in Leeds, that nothing more could be done for her. He said: “It was something Leanne desperately wanted to see happen while she was still with us, but it all happened so fast.
“So now we want to do this on Leanne’s behalf. Women should be having smear tests from 18 and regularly.
“If we can prevent just one more tragedy by telling Leanne’s story then we would feel like we had accomplished something out of our heartache.”
Leanne first became aware she was ill through pain in her back and stomach and aching in her legs. Although initial tests did not reveal the extent of her condition, she was taken into hospital when she began haemorrhaging blood while working at Leading Solvent Supplies, in Tockwith. On November 16 last year, she discovered she had a tumour and began intensive chemotherapy. But she was told in January that nothing more could be done, with the cancer spreading to her liver, spine, lymph nodes and bones.
Trevor, 42, of Dringhouses, said: “We were all devastated. The news just didn’t sink in. But Leanne was the brave one and was more worried about how the news affected us all, rather than herself.”
WHAT CANCER RESEARCH SAYS…
Cervical screening is very important because we can stop cervical cancer from developing. This is one of the few cancers that is preventable because pre-cancerous cell changes can be picked up before they have a chance to develop into cancer.
The screening test involves a nurse or doctor taking a small sample of cells from the surface of the cervix.
The original cervical cancer screening programmes across the UK screened women from 20 to 64.
The screening programme in England now starts at 25 because cervical cancer is very rare before this age.
The UK National Screening Committee carried out a review into screening policies last year, following the high-profile death of Jade Goody. The report decided to keep the current age threshold of 25, saying the risks for woman under 25 could outweigh the benefits.