A young woman died from cervical cancer just four months after her wedding, having been repeatedly told she was too young for a smear test.
Dawn Weston was 24 when she visited her doctor excruciating back pain in December 2012 – but was denied the simple procedure because she was under the minimum age of 25.
It took weeks of repeated visits to her GP before she was eventually given the test, which confirmed she did have cancer.
Dawn Weston, with husband Dan, was repeatedly told she was ‘too young’ to have a smear test. She died from cervical cancer in May aged just 26
Mrs Weston immediately began chemotherapy, which left her tired, bloated and without hair. ‘But nothing could take away her smile,’ said Mr Weston
Mrs Weston had initially put the pain down to standing all day as a hairdresser, but when she came home crying in agony, her fiancé Dan insisted she see a doctor.
By the time she was eventually diagnosed – having insisted on a test – a course of treatment was only briefly successful and she was told last December that the cancer was terminal.
The couple, desperate to marry before it was too late, moved their July wedding to January, planning their dream wedding in just five weeks.
Four months later, on May 22, Miss Weston passed away aged just 26, surrounded by family and friends.
Her devastated widower is now campaigning for the cervical screening limit to be lowered, to help prevent other young women suffering in the same way.
He said: ‘When Dawn began complaining of crippling back pain in 2013, she went to the doctors, but she was never offered a smear test as at 24 she was too young.
‘Before she was diagnosed, she was crying she was in so much pain with her back.
‘It took weeks before she had a smear test and by then it was too late.’
In November, the couple were told her caner was terminal and she had just weeks to live. They married within five weeks, on January 3rd – three days before Mrs Weston began chemotherapy
Mrs Weston had wanted to get married before she started chemotherapy so she could keep her hair and some colour in her cheeks. Her husband said: ‘It was a perfect day, I am so thankful I was able to fulfil Dawn’s last wish of becoming my wife’
While back pain is a symptom of advanced cervical cancer, Mrs Weston had none of the other common symptoms such as unusual bleeding.
While the disease is the most common cancer in women under 35, it is so rare in those under 25 that screening for it is not offered to women until they are 25.
Within days of having the test in February 2013, Mrs Weston was contacted after the results came back highlighting abnormalities.
Mr Weston, 28, said: ‘Her results were abnormal and she had to go for another examination, treatment then biopsy.’
Within the week, she had been given the devastating diagnosis and all summer she underwent treatment, including radiotherapy and brachytherapy.
In September, the couple were overjoyed when she was given the all-clear – and went on holiday to Majorca to celebrate a fresh start.
But at a routine-check-up in November, they were horrified to be told the cancer had returned – this time in an aggressive form – and had spread to Mrs Weston’s abdomen.
Mrs Weston, a hairdresser, had initially blamed her back pain on standing all day at work
Mr Weston said: ‘Our futures had been on pause while she was battling cancer, so as soon as the results came back clear, we’d been so happy.
‘Things finally seemed to be on the up.
‘So when the three month scan it showed that the cancer was back in her abdomen, I was distraught and struggled to find the words to speak.
‘It was aggressive but Dawn, as always, was so brave.’
The couple – who had already booked a wedding for July – decided to bring the big day forward to as soon as possible.’
‘Dawn wanted to get married before she started gruelling rounds of chemotherapy so she could keep her hair and some colour in her cheeks.
‘We had just five weeks to plan the wedding but we recruited our mothers, Marie and Isobel, who sorted it all for us.
‘Before we knew it they had booked the hotel and the church.
‘It was a perfect day, I am so thankful I was able to fulfil Dawn’s last wish of becoming my wife.’
After their wedding on January, 3, the couple had three days of enjoying being Mr and Mrs Weston before it was back to their devastating reality and Dawn began intense chemotherapy.
Her devastated widower is now campaigning for the cervical screening limit to be lowered, to help prevent other young women suffering in the same way
‘Her beautiful hair started coming out in clumps and her face became bloated,’ said Mr Weston. ‘But nothing could take away her smile.’
As Dawn’s condition deteriorated she went into the local hospice – St Wilfrid’s, in East Sussex.
Her husband said: ‘I would just lie with her and hold her hand.
‘Then one day I came home and found a letter for a routine smear test – just a little too late, to say the least.’
As her dying wish, Mrs Weston had asked for her husband not to be there until the end.
Instead, he said his goodbyes the night before she passed away and ‘our mums lay with her until she took her last breath’.
Three months on, her family are now petitioning to change the law so that women under the age of 25 are able to have routine smear tests.
‘It was one of Dawn’s dying wishes that we try and get the age limit lowered to help other young women,’ said Mr Weston.
‘She wished she had a smear test earlier and even though lowering the age wouldn’t help her, she was keen to try and help others.
‘That was the type of person she was, completely selfless and caring. She wanted us to try and change the law and that’s what we’ve been doing ever since.
‘She just wanted something positive to come out of her terminal diagnosis.’
So far, the campaign has raised £20,300.
For information on how to donate to Dawn’s Page, visit http://www.justgiving.com/Marie-Weston1