Family back appeal after loss

Hayley Whitehead with daughter Annabella. Her family are supporting Weston Park's Christmas appeal.
Hayley Whitehead with daughter Annabella. Her family are supporting Weston Park's Christmas appeal.
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Teacher Hayley Whitehead died aged just 28, but thanks to her family her memory lives on. Grace Hammond reports.

A grieving family from Sheffield have vowed to shine bright this Christmas in memory of young mum and popular teacher, Hayley Whitehead.

At the age of 28, Hayley Whitehead, from Low Edges, had everything to live for; a close family, loving husband and a two-year-old daughter as well as plans to have another child.

But in May 2013, after suffering with pain in one of her breasts, Hayley visited her GP, who sent her for further tests at Weston Park Hospital. Hayley was diagnosed with breast cancer and just four months later, after chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, she passed away in Weston Park Hospital surrounded by her heart-broken family.

Hayley, who taught at Greenhill Primary School and lived just a few doors away from her mum, Gaynor, and dad, Paul, left behind a shocked circle of family and friends, and her two-year-old little girl, Annabella.

This year, despite still coming to terms with Hayley’s death, her family are supporting Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity’s Christmas Star Appeal to give more families in our region the chance of a brighter future together. This festive season Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity is asking the local community to remember the vital work of the hospital and donate to The Christmas Star Appeal which is generously being supported by Napoleons Casino.

Athough Hayley lost her battle with cancer, support for the appeal will help fund pioneering cancer research and improve cancer treatment to ensure patients in the future continue to be offered the best possible chance of survival.

Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity is the only dedicated charity for the hospital and exists to support the world-class cancer research and to improve the treatment and care for people living with cancer.

Hayley’s mum, Gaynor, who now helps care for her granddaughter, Annabella, now three, along with Hayley’s husband, Stephen said: “It’s so cruel. It hits you like a sledgehammer. I didn’t only lose my daughter; she was also my best friend. I saw Hayley every day and we were always doing things together like shopping and holidays.”

“Annabella keeps us all going and we have to stay strong for her. This Christmas, there will be a huge hole where Hayley should have been but by supporting the Christmas Star Appeal we can at least be assured that we’re making a big difference to families that may be facing a similar diagnosis to Hayley’s.”

Since Hayley’s death, her family and friends have been fundraising for Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity and in July, Hayley’s husband Stephen and 20 of his friends from Royal Earl Football Team embarked on a three day, 175 mile bike ride which raised over £2,500 for the cancer charity.

“We want to do all that we can to help raise funds for Weston Park Hospital – they do a fantastic job there but there’s so much more that could be done,” says Gaynor.

The family were no strangers to the effects of cancer after Gaynor’s sister; Beverley battled breast cancer 20 years ago, as well as her 34-year old niece. But the speed at which Hayley deteriorated was hard to come to terms with and they have since vowed to help raise awareness of the importance of self examination.

“We were shocked at how quickly the cancer took a hold of Hayley; spreading to her bones, liver and brain in just a few months. We all went on a final family holiday in June to Menorca and just a few months later she was unable to smile and spent most of her time asleep. It’s so important that people are more aware of their own bodies. Hayley was so young and had her whole life ahead of her; it just goes to show that cancer really can affect anyone.”

Annabella and Gaynor were the first people to donate to the Christmas Star Appeal and get their star; which, Gaynor told Annabella, would be “hung on the tree for mummy” this Christmas.

The cancer charity needs to raise over £2 million this year to fund a wide range of projects that will keep Weston Park Hospital at the forefront of cancer care.