A heartbroken husband today paid tribute to his ‘amazing’ wife – who lost her battle with cancer only months after giving birth to their baby daughter.
Chelsea Leonard was diagnosed with stomach cancer aged just 26, when she was 37 weeks pregnant.
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And, after she gave birth to her daughter Willow Grace, doctors delivered the devastating news her cancer was terminal, and Chelsea had less than a year to live.
In the 11 months that followed, Chelsea and her partner Matthew got married and bought their first home together, and focused on spending as much time as possible with baby Willow.
Tragically Chelsea died less than two weeks before her little girl’s first birthday.
Today Matthew – who is taking part in this Sunday’s Great Yorkshire Run in Sheffield city centre in memory of his wife – said Chelsea had been ‘gorgeous and popular, with a smile that could light up a room’.
“If I can bring Willow up to be half as strong, considerate, brave and kind-hearted as Chelsea, I’ll have done a good job,” he told The Star.
“Once she knew the cancer was terminal she took the view she just had to get on with it
“She focused on spending as much time with Willow as she possibly could – she stayed strong for her.”
Matthew, aged 32, a litigation lawyer, first met Chelsea in 2004 at Sheffield law firm Irwin Mitchell, where they both worked.
He proposed on the first night they spent together in the house they bought in Ulley, Rotherham, where Matthew is now raising Willow on his own.
“We wanted to get a house in a nice area for Willow to grow up in, and so Chelsea could be comfortable in the knowledge we had got off on the right foot in our home,” said Matthew.
The couple tied the knot in June in front of 150 friends and family at Aston Hall, near Sheffield.
“Chelsea enjoyed the wedding day but she was really struggling with pain at that point,” said Matthew. “She put on a brave face and looked stunning. She had to keep going for rests, but we spaced out the day a little so it was as relaxing as it could be for her.”
Chelsea, who grew up in Killamarsh, and lost her own mum to cancer as a child, was pregnant with Willow when she first started to suffer repeated dizzy spells.
Medics originally put her symptoms down to a side effect of pregnancy, but then a blood test revealed Chelsea had a dangerously low iron count. A scan found cancer in her stomach, and further scans following Willow’s birth revealed it had spread to her liver.
She agreed to take part in a clinical test to contain or reduce the size of the tumours, and the treatment was promising until her last trial scan, which showed the tumour in her liver had suddenly grown.
Over time, the cancer spread to her bones.
At her weakest point she was admitted to specialist cancer centre The Christie Hospital in Manchester, and she died three weeks after her wedding day. Matthew, who is making memory boxes about Chelsea for Willow, so she will know what her mum was like, said: “It’s been really difficult but I’ve had no time to wallow.
“I’ve got to get up every morning to look after Willow, who is a positive focus.
“But I’ll always think about what might have been if the cancer was detected earlier, and what we would be doing if she was still here now.”
More than 300 people attended Chelsea’s funeral, including family, friends and colleagues from Irwin Mitchell, where Chelsea worked as a legal clerk from the age of 17.
Workmates will be taking part in the Great Yorkshire Run on Sunday to raise money for the The Christie Hospital.
Visit www.justgiving.com/leonard1 to sponsor them.