Terminal cancer patient intends to 'stay positive'

ZOE Ward has just celebrated a Christmas she thought she'd never see.

Doctors had warned the 33-year-old, who has terminal cancer, that she may not make it this far, but she's defied the odds.

Although struggling with a chest infection, she was able to enjoy a family get together, with husband David, their six children and parents and brother. Her goal now is to celebrate daughter Ella's ninth birthday on January 22.

Zoe, of west Hull, was in her second year as a student nurse when she discovered last September, just weeks after getting married, that she had lung cancer.

It is a rare cancer in one so young and a non-smoker.

After five bouts of chemotherapy and radiotherapy the tumour had shrunk to the size of a pea and, although left wheezing from the scarring on her lungs caused by the treatment, she was hopeful life could carry on as normal.

But it was not to be. Friends and family had raised money for her and the children to go on holiday to Eurodisney in July, but she got as far as Leicester when she felt sick and started experiencing tunnel vision.

She had been having headaches and realised she had brain tumours.

Husband David said: "When I first found out it was really difficult. It really took me a while to get my head round it. I just felt a darkness inside me. But in the end I felt I couldn't think like that."

Now Zoe's health has deteriorated to the point where she can only look weeks ahead. But despite having to use a wheelchair and carry an oxygen cylinder, she refuses to get down.

"I do get upset thinking that it's my last Christmas but I have to stay positive. I have to look like I want to live. I don't want my kids to remember me, crying and being upset.

"When it comes to something like this nature is going to take over, I have to show the kids not to be frightened."

Instead she's been teaching Bethany, 16, Ben, 14, Jade, 11 and Ella and David's sons Daniel, 18, and Andrew, 16 to be ready "for when she's gone" and driving home the message "that they should be looking after each other, watching over each other – and helping with the pots, knowing David has been working all day."

So they will always remember the special times. Zoe has been filling "memory boxes" with mementoes from when they were little, such as Christening candles and school certificates.

For each one there's a gift, a letter and a photo of them together, before she lost her long blonde hair.

Her illness has sharpened both Zoe and David's appreciation of

the simple things of life.

For Zoe it is "daft things" like cooking the children's tea or picking them up from school.

She said: "Putting the tree up was a big thing – this is the last year I will be putting up a tree – just silly things that people take for granted.

"People should appreciate what they have in life and realise the little things do matter."

They've been kept going by the flood of support from family, friends and well-wishers.

David said: "All you hear on the news is all these bad things. Then suddenly out of the blue there are all these people who care.

"It puts your faith back in humanity.

"There's love out there and that's so powerful it keeps you positive."

In her matter of fact way, Zoe says she is now classed as "palliative care", has been to visit Dove House Hospice in Hull, where she will die and has been organising her funeral.

She said: "I think I've had to confront things head on. Acceptance is a massive word, but a strong word.

"If you learn to accept then you can deal with everything else.

"The kids think I am coming back as a guardian angel. I've told them the reason they are taking me now is because I am needed elsewhere more than I am needed here."

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER LED TO BOOK

A CHANCE meeting on a train with entrepreneur Sharon Wright, a contestant on TV's Dragon's Den, led to Zoe's diaries being turned into a book Just One Day, which Sharon helped edit and publish.

The idea is that it will help people with cancer know they are not alone and show their loved ones what they are going through.

She said: "The main message would be positivity. You have to stay positive and keep fighting."

Proceeds will go to the Willow Foundation, which provide special days for seriously ill adults, aged between 18 and 40, with the rest "to help David when I'm gone."

To get a copy of Zoe's book, priced 8.99, email her at zoeward33@hotmail.co.uk