Mother-of-eight's brave cancer fight

A COURAGEOUS mother-of-eight has spoken of her brave battle against cancer and her determination to not let the disease dictate her life.

Craig Robinson

A COURAGEOUS mother-of-eight has spoken of her brave battle against cancer and her determination to not let the disease dictate her life.

Joanna Dearing was 17 weeks pregnant when she first discovered a lump on her right breast around 18 months ago.

Just six weeks later the 42-year-old from Wickham Market was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

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Although that tumour was removed, tests by doctors at Ipswich Hospital showed the disease had spread to her spine and into her lungs and that it was incurable.

All the while Mrs Dearing and her husband Robin were preparing to launch their new sandwich shop, Sunny Daze, in Saxmundham.

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The day before she was told about the cancer in her spine the couple, who have been married for four years, had also just picked up the keys to their new home in Broad Road.

“It's been quite a busy few months,” Mrs Dearing said. “I had to wait until I was 27 weeks pregnant until the first lump could be removed.

“Within four weeks another two tumours had returned in the same breast and I had to be induced to give birth early so I could have chemotherapy.”

Mrs Dearing gave birth to Lucie-Mae, who weighed 5lbs11oz, on June 7 last year and began her gruelling treatment 10 days later.

“By that stage I had a tumour about the size of half a tennis ball,” Mrs Dearing said.

Session after session of chemotherapy followed in a bid to stop the disease spreading further.

“In November during radiotherapy they found another lump but I think they thought that treatment would knock it on the head,” Mrs Dearing said. “But in January this year I started having a bad back.

“It was really painful so I went to hospital for a number of scans but they couldn't find anything. Eventually an MRI showed I had a tumour in my spine.”

Mrs Dearing, who temporarily lost the use of her legs, had the growth removed - along with part of her spine - three weeks ago.

Surgeons had to insert two 12 inch metal rods to support her back and she is now walking with the help of crutches

But more tests revealed there are now more spots on her lungs.

“It is all down my right side,” Mrs Dearing said. “I'm going to have to continue chemotherapy in tablet form. It's not curable. The doctors have said it will be like living with a chronic illness - hopefully it can be managed for a few years.”

But Mrs Dearing is refusing to let the disease beat her and is remaining positive - drawing on the support given to her by the rest of her family.

“It's terrifying when they tell you that you've got cancer because your first thoughts are that you are going to die,” she said. “But I've always been quite strong. With eight children it has been tough but in another way it has made me cope better.

“I've always been a get up and go person. Its three weeks after major surgery and I'm going up and down the stairs and I'm getting the kids' clothes out. If there's something to do then I'll do it. It's definitely going to have a fight on its hands.”

GETTING a new business up and running is difficult enough when you are in full health - but for Joanna and Robin Dearing it has been extra hard.

Their sandwich shop - Sunny Daze in Chantry Road, Saxmundham - opened its doors last week but Mrs Dearing's illness has meant that her husband has had to shoulder a lot of the burden.

Along with two friends the 29-year-old has given the store a complete makeover costing between �7,000 and �8,000.

“It was a big job - we weren't able to just to move in and start straightaway,” Mrs Dearing said. “We had to restore the place from scratch and spend an absolute fortune.

“Robin has had to do everything himself to get everything up and running. He's unbelievable. He's been going out at 8/9am and then coming back as late as midnight.

“I'm fortunate that we live near to my three sisters so they've been taking it in turns to look after me. I just sit at home and do the computer work and take phone calls.”

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