Days before Christmas, most mums and dads are buying last-minute gifts, baking mince pies and trying not to tear their hair out as the kids burst with excitement. For Donna and Elliott Lowe, December 22, 2016, marked the point their world came crumbling down. Donna was diagnosed with cervical cancer just three days before Christmas last year.
In January came a further blow, as scans showed the cancer had already spread to the lymph nodes in Donna’s pelvic region. The mum-of-four fought a brave fight against the disease, undergoing chemotherapy as well as daily radiotherapy for six weeks. Sadly, Donna never saw another Christmas. She lost her battle on August 5, 2017, aged just 32, at Willens Hospice in Milton Keynes.
One year after Donna’s diagnosis, Elliott admits the children – with ages ranging from five to 11 – are finding it difficult to come to terms with their loss.
He told Mirror Online: “The children are struggling beyond words. My eldest is angry with everything, my disabled son still thinks she is coming home and my eldest daughter shuts herself away. “My youngest daughter is very matter of fact and tells everyone that her mummy is in her heart and her head. “I’m dreading Christmas. I have no idea what to expect or how the kids will react, I’m just going to have to play it by ear.” In spite of all he has to contend with, Elliott is selflessly trying to raise awareness of cervical cancer and encourage women not to put off going for smear tests.
The dad, 42, shared two heartbreaking photos on Facebook to show how the cancer ravaged his wife’s body. In one image, a happy and healthy looking Donna smiles happily.
In the other, she lies in a hospital bed, her face sallow and sunken, with an empty and haunting look in her eyes and bones protruding from her chest. Elliott wants people to share the images and admits Donna postponed her last smear test before her diagnosis. She turned to doctors after experiencing excessive bleeding – with some blood clots the size of golf balls – as well as pain in her abdomen and lower back. He wrote: “A year ago to date (22/12/2016) my beautiful wife, my best friend, the mother to our four beautiful children, my world, my soul mate, in fact my everything, was given a diagnosis by Milton Keynes Hospital that would devastate our lives and change it forever.
“I am sharing this with you today to encourage everyone reading this to make sure that we take it upon ourselves to ensure that the special women in our lives – in fact all women in our lives, be they relatives or friends – attend their Cervical Screening (once called smears) and not to either miss them or forget to re-arrange.
“My wonderful wife postponed her last smear for reasons I can’t even remember – believe me, I’ve tried to remember and there’s not a day goes by I wish I could swap places with her or wish I’d dragged her to the appointment and re-arranged it for her.
“Having already spoken to some of you here I know that some haven’t had a smear in a number of years, I think the longest was 20 years. “Cervical screening (smear) takes only minutes. I am aware it’s not the most comfortable or dignified of experiences for women to go through but the consequences of missing one devastates lives for everyone connected – and will do for generations to come. “I wake up every morning alone, bring my kids up alone.. yes I have family around me supporting me, and I’m truly thankful for that, but it’s never the same nor will it be.
“Please share this post with your friends and ask them to do the same. Together we can beat cancer and save lives.
“Don’t let another family go through the pain we go through every day. Thank you.”
Elliott’s wish is certainly coming true. His Facebook post has already had more than 13,000 shares and 17,000 ‘reactions’ since the morning of December 22.
What would he say if Donna could see him now?
“If Donna was here I hope she is proud of what I’m trying to achieve,” Elliott says.
She most certainly would be.