AT THE tender age of 21, the worries of most young women barely stretch beyond what they’ll be wearing on their next night out.
So imagine receiving the news that, just as you feel your life is beginning, it could be over in a matter of months.
The prospect might seem horrifying for most carefree 20-somethings, but that was the harsh reality Laura Bacon-Smith was faced with when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in March 2010.
Her hepatic epithelioid hemangio endothelioma - a form of cancer affecting the lungs, liver and blood - is so rare it is found in just five people worldwide every year.
The help of treatment from Sheffield’s Weston Park Hospital and an upbeat attitude, however, has seen the young woman defy the odds and live three years beyond medics’ prediction.
Refusing to allow her life to become a waiting game she has gone on to get hitched to her long-term partner and is now taking her first foray into the world of business.
Despite her amazing story, the day her life was turned upside down is still fresh in her mind.
She had been enjoying a normal day at work when she collapsed and was rushed to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital. What was initially thought to be appendicitis soon became more serious as doctors carried out a series of tests to determine what was wrong.
“I just remember being in so much pain,” recalls Laura.
It took three biopsies and a move to Royal Hallamshire Hospital to reach the diagnosis.
Laura, now 24, said: “The doctors told me I probably had six months. My first reaction was to laugh. It sounds strange but I had almost prepared myself for cancer.
“My dad died from it when I was eight, and my mum’s sister had it as well, so I expected to get it at some point in my life.
“I just didn’t think it would be so early, and I definitely did not think it would be terminal. I just assumed I’d get better.
“My family were devastated.”
With the nature of the disease making it impossible to operate, Laura underwent an intense course of chemotherapy at Weston Park Hospital. It was the hospital’s Art Therapy project which inspired a new-found love of craft-making which she would turn to during her darkest hours.
She says the knowledge she could have only months to live did not cause her to attempt to cram in all the things she had never done.
The only exception was her wedding to partner Laura Smith, 23, at Sheffield Town Hall five months after her diagnosis. It is a day she describes as ‘the best of my life’.
“All I ever wanted in my life was to be happy, and being with her forever made me happy,” she said.
In the years which followed Laura, who lives in Gleadless, underwent a second cycle of life-extending chemotherapy at the end of last year.
Again it was creating crafts - crochet, jewellery, patchwork and home accessories - which helped her through. Soon, the compliments came rolling in and she realised she had developed a real talent for the hobby.
“I started to think I’m actually quite good at this, I had a knack for it,” said Laura. “I’d definitely recommend Art Therapy to anyone.”
At the end of the treatment Laura decided to use whatever time she had left to use her skills to set up her own business - and her company Make Me A Wish was born.
She set about creating enough stock to sell, and approached the owner of Bird’s Yard, the new shop for independent Sheffield retailers in Chapel Walk, to sell her goods.
Laura said: “I’ve had two rounds of chemotherapy but nothing seems to stop the cancer from growing.
“Yet I’m still here, defying all the odds.”
Make Me A Wish, which also has a website, donates a percentage of profits from each item sold to Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity.
“It’s called Make Me A Wish because Weston Park helped my wish come true by letting me live longer,” said Laura,
* Visit the website Make me a wish to view Laura’s collection, or visit the lower ground floor of Bird’s Yard.