THE inspirational courage of a beautiful young bride who died just 29 days after her dream wedding could help save lives.
That is the heartfelt hope of the family of Laura Lesley Shannon-Connolly, whose own life was tragically cut short by a cancer which went undiagnosed until it was too late.
They are determined to honour her memory by raising funds and awareness in her name – especially among younger people.
Laura had complained to doctors of pains for more than two years, but by the time proper tests were done she was found to have stage IV bowel cancer which had spread to her liver.
Despite the bleak news, Laura’s legendary smile was undimmed and she courageously battled the disease – defying the odds to marry her childhood sweetheart in a fairytale wedding.
Mum Lesley Shannon, from Kirkintilloch, said: “We are all lost without our precious and beautiful girl in our lives. Her smile lit up a room. She was such a caring, loving person – always looking out for those round about her, right until the end.
“We want to raise awareness and educate individuals, as well as doctors, what to look out for and to go and get checked out to ensure your health and wellbeing.
“Do not take no for an answer – if you feel something is wrong, get a second opinion. Unfortunately for Laura this was too late.
“If only the appropriate tests had been carried out when Laura initially complained she would still be here with us today.
“We don’t want other families to suffer the heartache and pain we are going through when – if detected in the early stages – your life can be saved.”
Laura was eventually diagnosed with bowel cancer on July 3, 2012, and underwent a gruelling chemotherapy regime at the Beatson Hospital.
The former Oxgang Primary and Kirkintilloch High pupil had been busy planning her wedding to fiance Alan Connolly, with whom she shared a lovely home in Milton of Campsie, when she was given the devastating news.
Mum Lesley said: “The first thing she did was go to Dogs Trust in Glasgow and rescue Beau the dog.
“He looked out for Laura and kept her company on the long days and nights as – due to being so ill – she spent a lot of time in bed, unable to do anything. So Beau looked after his mummy – he was her baby she could never have.
“The cancer then spread to both of Laura’s lungs and into her bones. She tried to hide the pain she suffered day in and day out, but those closest to her know how badly she suffered and what she went through.”
Laura was initially given less than six months to live, but she refused to give in – valiantly fighting on despite the pain and the uncertainty.
She and Alan had been together since they were 12 and they finally tied the knot on March 1, 2013.
Lesley (55) said: “Laura married Alan on March 1, 2013, in Glenskirlie Castle and had the fairytale wedding she and Alan had planned for nearly three years.
“Laura looked so beautiful and a lot of people looking at her probably found it hard to realise she was dying of cancer, but her close family saw and knew what she was really going through.”
Laura passed away 29 days later – more than three months after doctors had predicted. She was 31.
She was buried in Cadder Cemetery on April 10 after a service at St Mary’s Parish Church, Kirkintilloch, attended by hundreds of people.
Lesley said: “We were so proud of our special girl and she will never be forgotten. We are totally lost without Laura. She was our life.
“She was a very hard working girl, caring, loving – just the best person anyone could have been lucky enough to have met.”
Laura worked for the Scottish Association for Mental Health – on its anti-bullying campaign Respectme – and had a passion for fashion and design. She even set up her own fashion website – http://paperdollybird.blogspot.co.uk/ – which has had nearly a quarter of a million hits.
Laura loved people, animals, music and – when she was younger – was a wonderful dancer.
Her family are determined not to let her death be in vain and have organised a number of events to raise funds and awareness.
Laura’s brother Christopher is taking on a charity parachute jump on October 26 to generate funds for Bowel Cancer UK (BCUK). An amazing £2,400 has already been raised. You can donate funds by visiting www.justgiving.com/Christopher-Shannon
And Laura’s godmother – Carolann – recently had all her hair shaved off to support BCUK and its Never Too Young campaign (#never2young).
Lesley said: “People assume only older people over 50 are susceptible to bowel cancer, but I have met so many young people who are dying or receiving treatment and they are all young like Laura. It has to be stopped and is preventable if caught early enough.
“So far a variety of events have been carried out in Laura’s memory and her family and friends will continue to raise money for this campaign, and most of all to raise awareness.”
The family – including Laura’s dad Ewan – have paid tribute to the medical staff at the Beatson who helped her.
Thanks are also given to all who have helped to support the family and their charity crusade, including the Citizens Advice Bureau in Kirkintilloch, where Christopher works.
Wonderful tributes – especially from schoolfriends – have been left on webpage http://lauralesleyshannon-connolly.muchloved.com/frame.aspx?
Visit www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/never-too-young/ for more information or see the factfile on the right.
Factfile - bowel cancer
Bowel Cancer UK’s ‘Never Too Young’ campaign has been launched to raise awareness of bowel cancer in patients under the age of 50.
Every year 2,100 younger people under 50 are diagnosed with bowel cancer in the UK, five per cent of approximately 41,000 people diagnosed annually.
Currently too many younger patients are being diagnosed with the more advanced disease, which makes treatment more difficult.
Many people do not know that it is possible to develop bowel cancer at a younger age as it is relatively rare in the under-50s.
Visit www.bowelcanceruk.org.uk/never-too-young/ for more information.
* Bowel cancer is also referred to as colorectal or colon cancer. Nearly all bowel cancers develop in the large bowel – two-thirds of these are in the colon and one-third in
* The symptoms of bowel (colorectal) cancer can be:
- Bleeding from your bottom and/or blood in your poo
- A change in bowel habit lasting for three weeks or more especially to looser or runny poo
- Unexplained weight loss (although in Laura’s case it was actually weight gain)
- Extreme tiredness for no obvious reason
- A pain or lump in your stomach
* If you are worried about any symptoms that you think might be caused by bowel cancer, make an appointment with your doctor, call the Bowel Cancer UK Information and Support Service on 0800 8 40 35 40 or e-mail
* Just remember you will not be wasting anyone’s time by getting checked out. If it isn’t serious, you’ll put your mind at rest. If it’s bowel cancer, early detection can make all
* More than 90 per cent who are diagnosed at the earliest stage are successfully treated. A trip to your doctor could save your life.
* There is a screening programme for people aged 50-74 in Scotland. They will receive a leaflet explaining the test and a home-testing kit in the post.
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