On Thursday 19th April 2018 Laura Stephenson was diagnosed with having Stage 4 Bowel Cancer.
From that moment on she fervently refused to let Cancer rule her life. Her faith was immense. Her courage was enormous. Less than 12 months earlier she had given birth to twin girls to add to her family of a 5 year old girl and a husband.
This book is a collection of blog entries, quotes and written messages. Laura’s faith clearly shines through, but her entries and thoughts are pertinent to many people’s daily lives. It’s about living, about faith, about hope and an unswerving belief that those with cancer can lead an amazing life.
On Thursday 19th April 2018 as her father, I got a telephone call from Laura as she was coming away from her appointment with the consultant. He gave her the news that she had Stage 4 Bowel cancer. When she called, Laura and her husband, Mark, were in the car on their way home to give the news to Mark’s mum and dad and to Laura’s mum. At the time I was in Malawi, volunteering on behalf of Voluntary Services Overseas. As you can imagine, the telephone call was not an easy one.
I don’t want this, Dad. I want to see my girls grow up. I want to see them get married.Laura Stephenson
And when you’re that distance away all you can say is,
You will! I promise. You will!Mike Barnes
Needless to say I caught the first flight home.
From that day onward, Laura fought with all her might and strength to do just that. As the days progressed, so did her faith in God that would help her throughout this journey. A God that would guide her in every footstep she took, every decision she took and every moment of her day.
Sister to Emily and Harriet – “inspirational and beautiful”, wife of Mark, “superhero” and mother of Heidi “my very own angel”, and twins, Sophie and Naomi, ‘my two warriors’, Laura was born to be a model ‘Mum’. After being diagnosed with Bowel Cancer she was determined to not let anything get in the way of looking after her three daughters. Many a time the offer to pick her daughter, Heidi up from school, or offer to look after her twins, Naomi and Sophie for a short while was made. The answer was always the same. “No thanks I can do it. I’m fine.”
Cancer was not going to stop her being ‘a Mummy’.
She always engaged in friendly chats with other parents in the playground. Their response was always how cheerful she was, how positive she was and how strong her faith was. It made no difference who she was speaking to, different cultures, religions, race. The response from those she spoke to, was always the same; a person of huge faith, positivity and conviction. She became a true friend of many whom she met just briefly at the start and end of the school day.
Cancer was not going to stop her relationships with those around her.
Employed as a fund raiser for a local cancer charity, she often saw it as an opportunity to talk to others not only about the charity but about how to manage living with a diagnosis of cancer and the treatments which inevitably follow. She was determined to carry on working. She enjoyed talking to people, from large corporate bodies to individuals, all interested and keen to support the work of the charities as well as to get to know her personally.
Cancer was not going to stop her working.
Being diagnosed with Bowel cancer back in April 2018, she was told that the tumours were too advanced for surgery at that time and the only current course of action was to have fortnightly courses of Chemotherapy. She would spend many an hour talking to those others alongside her undergoing chemotherapy. She would often come away from these appointments absolutely bubbling, having shared discussions which either developed into her offering words of comfort and support to those she was talking to, or alternatively receiving their support.
Cancer was not going to stop her helping those around her.
From a very early age Laura had a very strong Christian faith. This faith just grew and grew with every day. It was always important but became vital to Laura in her ‘fight’ against this ‘enemy’ that had developed in her body. Whenever anyone said, “How can God let this happen to you?”, she would always respond with
God is as angry about this as I am, and he is fighting alongside me and with me.Laura Stephenson
Cancer was not going to make her question her belief.
Following on from two brief stays in hospital, Laura came home on December 20th 2019. Christmas was spent with her family. On Christmas day, Heidi, Sophie and Naomi opened their presents with their Mum and Dad. Presents which had recently been purchased by Mum and Dad together, on behalf of Father Christmas. The girls played with their toys while “Mum and Dad’ watched and joined in.
Cancer was not going to stop Christmas
In May 2018 as her father, I remember sitting in the waiting room for her while she had her bloods tested and reading a poster that said
“Bowel Cancer detected at Stage 1 you had an 80% chance of recovery”;
“Bowel Cancer detected at Stage 4 you had an 8% chance of recovery.
I just remember thinking let’s hope she’s one of the 8%.
On Saturday December 28th 2019 Laura’s body lost its fight.
Laura’s words were about how she felt and how she thought there was a very special meaning to her life. Many of her words in the book are very applicable to the world situation we find ourselves in at this moment. An amazing ability to sum up in words, thoughts and feelings that are so applicable to today.
The thing is with being positive; it is a choice. We have the freedom to choose how we approach something … Being given the freedom to choose how we face those things in front of us, is something that I wouldn’t swop for anything… Every time I choose faith over fear, hope over worry and belief over doubt.Laura Stephenson
Enjoy the air in your lungs, drink in the beauty around you and take ten minutes out of a day to just sit, loving your own company.Laura Stephenson
Her faith was immense. Her courage was enormous. Her words will live on forever and make us all think about life, whether you have a faith as strong as Laura’s or just a belief to be the best we can in this world.
The book is a compilation of those blogs.
All quotes in the book are Laura’s or comments from people who knew Laura.
Father to Laura and her two sisters, Emily and Harriet, and husband to Julia. Moving from the south of England to the North West he became Head Teacher at a number of schools in Lancashire. He worked on behalf of the Government on Educational Technology for a brief period. Devoted to providing the best possible education in all of his schools, he worked in Africa for 12 months supporting an educational technology project in Malawi. Proud to write the book on Laura’s behalf so that others may benefit from her words that those diagnosed with cancer can still lead an amazing life.