TRIBUTES have been paid to a brave mother who gave birth while suffering cancer - and was then told it was terminal just hours later.
Chelsea Leonard, 27, was diagnosed with stomach cancer at 37 weeks and learned she would not survive the disease shortly after having baby Willow.
She and husband Matthew got married and bought their first home together, and focused on spending as much time with their baby.
But Chelsea sadly died of stomach cancer just months before her little girl’s first birthday.
Following her death in June, her husband said Chelsea had been “gorgeous and popular, with a smile that could light up the room”.
He said: “If I could bring up Willow to be half as strong, considerate, brave and kind-hearted as Chelsea, I’ll have done a good job.
Once she knew the cancer was terminal she took the view she just had to get on with it. She focused on spending as much time with Willow as possible - she stayed strong for her.”
Mr Leonard, 32, is now raising Willow alone in the home they bought in Ulley, near Sheffield.
The couple met at the law firm Irwin Mitchell in 2004 and they married earlier this year.
“We wanted to get a house in a nice area for Willow to grow up in, and so Chelsea could be comfortable in the knowledge we had got off on the right foot in our home,” he said.
“Chelsea enjoyed the wedding day but she was really struggling with pain at that point.
“She put on a brave face and looked stunning.
“She had to keep going for rests, but we spaced out the day a little so it was as relaxing as it could be for her.”
Mrs Leonard, who lost her own mother to cancer as a child, was pregnant with Willow when she first started to suffer repeated dizzy spells which led to her cancer diagnosis.
Medics had originally put her symptoms down to a side effect of pregnancy.
However a blood test revealed Chelsea had a dangerously low iron count.
A scan found cancer in her stomach, and then further scans following her daughter’s birth revealed that it had also spread to her liver.
She agreed to take part in a clinical test to contain or reduce the size of the tumours, and the treatment was promising until her last trial scan, which showed the tumour in her liver had suddenly grown.
Over time, the cancer spread then spread to her bones.
At her weakest point she was admitted to specialist cancer centre The Christie Hospital in Manchester, and she passed away three weeks after her wedding day.
Mr Leonard is making memory boxes for Willow, so she will know what her mother was like when she grows up.
He said: “It’s been really difficult but I’ve had no time to wallow.
“I’ve got to get up every morning to look after Willow, who is a positive focus.
“But I’ll always think about what might have been if the cancer was detected earlier, and what we would be doing if she was still here now.”
More than 300 people attended Mrs Leonard’s funeral, including family, friends and colleagues from Irwin Mitchell, where she worked as a legal clerk from the age of 16.
Her husband will this weekend take part in the Great Yorkshire Run in Sheffield,
Workmates will also take part in the race to raise money for The Christie Hospital.”