The tragic death of a young woman from sarcoma cancer has prompted her mother to pay tribute to her daughter and also to raise awareness of this rare – but aggressive – disease.
Louise Barber was 31 when she died on November 12, just five months after being diagnosed.
Ten weeks before the diagnosis, on March 16, she had given birth to her second son, Benjamin.
Her mother Jill Moore explained: ‘The first sign of sarcoma was a small lump in a lower abdominal muscle after the birth of Benjamin. At first she thought it was probably a bit of muscle damage due to the strain of pregnancy.
‘However, it became increasingly painful and larger. She mentioned it at her post natal and was referred to the hospital.
‘As sarcoma is very rare [one per cent of all cancers] it was not immediately diagnosed, but was monitored over a period of five weeks. It was picked up on an MRI. Louise was given the shattering news that it was sarcoma on June 16.
‘It is crucial for sarcoma to be caught in its very early stages if there is to be a chance of any recovery or remission.
‘Louise was sent to The Christie Hospital in Manchester for specialist treatment, sadly, the sarcoma was at a very advanced stage and was also extremely aggressive.
‘Louise began an intensive course of chemotherapy in the hope that the sarcoma would slow down or stop and she could enjoy a period of remission.
‘Unfortunately, two weeks after the fourth session of chemotherapy, Louise’s condition became more serious and she was admitted to hospital where she was given the devastating news it had spread to her brain and there was no more that could be done for her.’
She moved back home and spent two weeks with her husband and children. Her sister Sophie moved in and helped.
Louise was admitted to the island’s hospice on November 6, ‘where she had the most wonderful care by very special nurses in an absolutely amazing and beautiful place,’ said Jill.
They even managed to host an early Christmas celebration on November 8, attended by Louise’s work colleagues.
Four days later, she died.
Jill is keen to use their experience to help others. She said: ‘Sarcoma affects young people and appears in the soft tissues of the body bone and blood. It is a silent but deadly form of cancer.
‘There needs to be more awareness like there is for breast, bowel, lung and testicular cancers. More research is needed if we are to stop tragic outcomes like Louise’s.’
Louise’s life may have been cruelly cut short, but it was full of adventure.
Educated at Rushen Primary and Castle Rushen High School, Louise battled with dyslexia, but never allowed it to get in her way with her academic studies and she was both artistic and creative.
She loved her sports and won the victrix ludorum at both schools. Netball was another of her sporting outlets and she was an accomplished darts player with Port St Mary’s the Albert Ladies. She enjoyed football with the island’s youth team as well as discus throwing, and was a Rushen Twirler from the age of four, the last 10 years as a trainer.
After leaving school, Louise worked as a dental nurse at Port Erin Dental Practice for two years, and then, wanting to work with children, she undertook the two year CACHE Diploma in Childcare and Education at the Isle of Man College.
She took up a position at Ashley Hill School where her talented and caring approach made a great impact on the lives and education journey of many young children.
Louise met the love of her life, Chris, seven years ago.
Together they travelled the world enjoying many adventures, escapades and experiences.
When visiting Japan they climbed to the top of Mount Fuji, and also experienced two big earthquakes – seven-plus on the Richter scale – when the road rippled and the buildings swayed!
She swam with dolphins and even kissed the nose of one. They climbed Mount Vesuvius, travelled across America and visited many more exciting places.
In 2010, while on holiday in Egypt, Chris proposed to Louise at Luxor on the banks of the River Nile, but she had to wait an extra eight days to tell family and friends as they were stranded in Cairo due to the ash cloud from the erupting Icelandic volcano.
They married in February 2011 in the ice chapel Swedish Lapland on a day when the temperature outside was a balmy minus 26c, while inside the chapel, it was minus 5c. In contrast, for their honeymoon they visited Mexico.
Their first son, Oliver Henry, was born on July 6, 2012, and Benjamin William followed in March.
Jill said: ‘Short as it has been, it has been a fantastic life. Louise has been a wonderful daughter, sister, wife, mother and friend and for that we are all eternally grateful.
‘Louise’s acceptance of her fate and her dignified courage as she battled this demon over the last six months has been astounding.
She has held us all together in the face of adversity. Throughout all this horrendous ordeal, Louise remained upbeat and positive, her courage, dignity and determination not to let it beat her was truly inspirational.
‘She never complained even though she was in considerable pain and discomfort, her strength of character never faltered.
‘Her true inner beauty, her courage and selflessness will be her legacy to us all, and, her sons, Oliver and Benjamin will always know what a wonderful, loving and much loved brave lady their mother has been.’