Teenager loses brave cancer fight

IN January, 17-year-old Sarah Woodhead was told she had just weeks to live.It was the only moment during her gruelling six-month battle with cancer that she shed any tears.

Anthony Bond

IN January, 17-year-old Sarah Woodhead was told she had just weeks to live.

It was the only moment during her gruelling six-month battle with cancer that she shed any tears.

Last Wednesday, surrounded by her loving family and boyfriend, the teenage horse-lover died peacefully at her home in Monewden, near Wickham Market.

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Her parents last nightspoke to the EADT and paid tribute to their “brave” daughter.

Her mum, Hazel Woodhead, 42, said: “We did everything together and it is like part of my body has been removed. She just accepted the situation she was in and was very brave and never once complained. She was just remarkable and showed lots of courage.”

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It was during last summer after finishing her studies at Kesgrave High School that Sarah started to feel unwell. After various tests she was told in late August that she had Hodgkin's Lymphoma and she soon started chemotherapy treatment.

“She was very positive about it,” said Mrs Woodhead, who works as a hairdresser. “She did ask the consultant at that stage if she was going to die and he said that he could not answer that question.”

However, as the months progressed, Sarah's condition worsened and she was told she had a rare form of the cancer. In January, she was rushed into hospital after one of her lungs collapsed. The following day she was given the worst possible news. She had just weeks to live.

“Obviously she was upset, we all spent that night with her and made a few plans,” said Mrs Woodhead. “She said that she had so much to look forward too and that was what upset her more than anything. She felt that she had not done anything with her life, she found that really difficult.

“I was cross that nothing could be done to help her and that this could happen to a 17-year-old girl. We felt very helpless but we just wanted to protect her. You have to accept the situation and just make the most of it at that time and make the most of whatever you have got left.”

Last weekend Sarah, her family and her boyfriend Matthew Sewell, 20, went on a memorable expenses-paid trip to London thanks to the Make-A-Wish charity.

They stayed in a five-star hotel, travelled in a limousine and went to see the show Chicago.

But last Wednesday, Sarah's short life came to an end, surrounded by her parents, sister Paula, 19, and her boyfriend.

“It was quick and sudden. Thankfully she was not in severe pain,” said her father Gordon, 44.

Mrs Woodhead added: “We knew it was going to happen, we just did not know when or how. I thought that we would have a bit more time and I did not expect it to be so quick.

“Throughout her illness she took everything that the doctors told her and she wanted to know everything. The doctors always spoke to her and told her straight and she knew everything that was going on. She was just remarkable and was never frightened.”

Sarah lived for horses and her boyfriend, Matthew, and was a member of the Easton Harriers hunt. She had planned to study an equine course at Otley College and had ambitions to run her own yard.

“She was very easy to please and did not want for much,” said Mrs Woodhead. “She never had any expectations in life and loved being around her family.

“She was very self-conscious and had to be immaculately dressed. She would hate it if somebody saw her and she was not perfect. She was not your normal teenager. She was not one of these who wanted to go out on a Friday. She was always older than her years.”

Sarah was diagnosed with cancer at a similar time as reality TV star Jade Goody. They also died within days of each other. As her own health declined, Sarah watched Jade's public illness with cervical cancer with interest.

Mrs Woodhead said that while they had sympathy for Jade, the way her cancer fight was played out in the media spotlight had seemed inappropriate and - in some cases - lacked dignity.

“She was interested because she would see Jade say 'I'm losing my hair' on TV and she would say 'that happened to me a few weeks ago'. When you saw Jade crying on TV, Sarah did not cry.

“Her attitude was that there are people all over England in the same position as her and you need to get on with it with dignity. If you go around the cancer wards none of them are crying, they are just hoping that they are going to get better.

“If you put yourself in Sarah's shoes, she saw lots of people rallying around Jade and giving her lots of things like the big wedding. But as a teenager dying of cancer, it must have hit home that it was possible for Jade but not Sarah.”

Mrs Woodhead also said that elements of Jade's story could cause concern for her daughter.

“There are lots of things about cancer that do not need to be talked about, and with every stage of Jade's illness it went into great detail. You do not know how you are going to die of cancer and we were not told how Sarah was going to die. I do not think that people need to know how you die and I think Jade was going into lots of detail.”

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