Healthy Living: Families back campaign after cancer struggles

Leah Pearson and boyfriend Tom Woodhead
Leah Pearson and boyfriend Tom Woodhead
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This festive season special silver stars will be taking pride of place on Christmas trees across the region as part of an appeal to help patients at a Sheffield hospital.

The Christmas Star Appeal is being run in aid of Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity, backed by The Star - and now families who have seen their loved ones go through treatment are encouraging others to give gifts to support the site’s vital work.

For Haley Pearson, December 25 will be a difficult day, coming just five months after the tragic loss of her daughter Leah, who bravely battled a brain tumour before dying aged just 18.

Leah, from Brierley, Barnsley, was an aspiring actress and dancer. She had just started a job as a beauty therapist when her life was cruelly cut short.

The teenager began complaining of headaches initially diagnosed as migraines last November, but just four months later she was given the shocking news that she had an incurable brain tumour.

She received radiotherapy and chemotherapy at Weston Park - but while celebrating her mum’s 36th birthday in June, she suffered a major fit triggered by the tumour and died shortly afterwards.

Haley said: “When Leah was told the news that she had cancer she was determined to beat it. She was smiling right through the process and she gave the whole family hope.

“Leah was a very popular girl and had a bright future ahead of her. The care was outstanding at Weston Park Hospital and they made everything that little bit more bearable. The staff were beyond amazing and we can’t thank them enough for what they did.”

Haley and her husband Nigel, along with Leah’s sister Shelbey, 16, and brother Corey, 11, are supporting the Christmas Star Appeal, and have also produced a fundraising calendar to collect additional money for the charity.

Meanwhile, a husband and wife who were both treated for cancer at Weston Park are backing the campaign.

Bernard Evans, 52, who works as an assistant director with the Home Office, was told two years ago that he had throat cancer which had spread to his neck and shoulders.

“Nothing can prepare you to deal with cancer,” he said.

“When I was diagnosed I couldn’t believe it and it was even more heartbreaking to tell my wife and children.”

Bernard, who lives near Worksop, received chemotherapy followed by intensive radiotherapy before he was given the all clear.

But then illness struck again when his wife Sian, 51, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“We thought we would be able to start living our lives again, so my diagnosis came as a big blow to us all.

“However, after a series of treatments I was able to then receive radiotherapy, which so far has left me in remission,” said Sian.

“The care at the hospital is incredible and Bernard and I are eternally grateful for everything they have done for us.

“It’s been a difficult few years, but with the help and treatment from Weston Park we are now both doing well.

“We are looking forward to spending a special Christmas together.”

People who donate to the appeal will receive a silver Christmas star decoration to hang on their Christmas tree.

Helen Gentle, fundraiser at the cancer charity, said: “We’re asking people if they can spare just a few pounds this Christmas to donate to our appeal and help the charity fund world-class cancer research and improve treatment and care.”

See the coupon for details of how to donate. Readers can also post the voucher to the charity, along with cheque donations.