It was two days before her youngest daughter’s wedding when Sheffield woman Jaqui Copley received the devastating news that would change their lives forever.
The 56-year-old was diagnosed with a rare and incurable bone marrow cancer that had left her in both physical and emotional pain.
But for Alison’s big day, Jaqui pulled on her heels and danced the night away with a big smile on her face.
And to mark Mother’s Day on Sunday, Jaqui and her daughters Alison, aged 27, and 28-year-old Nicola, all from Ecclesall, are making time to look back on a turbulent year and toast a hopefully more positive one to come.
Businesswoman Jaqui says: “I can’t put in to words how I felt at the time as it was such a whirlwind of emotions. Despite my physical and emotional pain, I just wanted to stay strong for Alison and enjoy the special day beside family and friends.
“I put my heels on and danced the night away, trying my best to put on a brave face. Although I told my eldest daughter all about the diagnosis after the wedding, I decided it was only fair not to tell Alison until after her honeymoon.”
Jaqui had started to experience extreme rib pain in March last year and visited her GP before being referred to Sheffield’s Weston Park Hospital for a scan in July.
A couple of days later she was diagnosed with myeloma, for which there is currently no cure. The disease is a cancer arising from plasma cells, a type of white blood cell made in the bone marrow.
Weston Park has played a significant role in Jaqui’s treatment – which is particularly poignant as she had enthusiastically raised funds for the cancer hospital’s charity the year before her tragic diagnosis.
Jaqui, who runs fashion distribution business The Elite Group, had bravely taken to the stage at Sheffield’s City Hall as part of a fundraising stand-up comedy event called Funny Business in aid of Weston Park Hospital – and won the top prize.
She says she had no previous connections with the hospital until her own diagnosis, but says she has always known how lucky Sheffield residents are to have such a specialised hospital on their doorsteps.
Jaqui says: “I have nothing but praise for Weston Park Hospital and the haematology team at the nearby Royal Hallamshire Hospital for the exceptional level of care they have provided since day one.
“It’s funny in a way that I knew the importance of having specialised cancer services on our doorsteps a year ago when I chose to support Funny Business.
“Now, what I want more than anything is for people across our region to recognise the vital work carried out at Weston Park Hospital on a daily basis and to do what they can to help cancer sufferers like me.”
The self-confessed workaholic has undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments on a clinical trial, before undergoing a stem cell operation last month at the Royal Hallamshire.
She has therefore handed over the reigns of her business to Nicola.
Nicola says: “The last few months have been a real rollercoaster ride for all of us.
“Although currently there isn’t a cure for mum’s cancer type, we can at least do everything in our power to help fund pioneering research, treatment and care for those requiring the services of this specialised facility. It’s times like this that you truly realise what’s important in life and for us, that’s family and spending time together whenever possible.”
The three women are now planning to hold a tea party for the cancer hospital charity’s Time for Tea fundraising initiative, which runs throughout May.
Time for Tea is an excuse to put the kettle on and catch up with friends over a cuppa and cake, while raising money for a worthwhile cause.
Charity fundraiser Sarah Cross says: “We are extremely grateful to Jaqui and her girls for choosing to host one of the very first tea parties of the year and are encouraging others to do the same.
“Mother’s Day will undoubtedly be very poignant for Jaqui, Nicola and Alison, but also a perfect opportunity to reflect, whilst saying a big thank you to the hospital for the fantastic support they have received over a brew and biscuit.”
n Sign up for Time for Tea at www.timeforteaparty.com or call 0114 2265370.