- Emma Gilhespy went to the doctor after noticing an ulcer on her tongue
- Underwent a biopsy and was later diagnosed with tongue cancer
- Had surgery and chemotherapy treatment but the cancer had spread
- In July the 28-year-old was given the news the condition was incurable
- She married her sweetheart, RAF serviceman Michael in November
- Ceremony was held at St John’s Hospice in Lancaster in November at 11am
- But by 11pm that evening, Mrs Gilhespy had sadly passed away
- Now her family are desperate to raise awareness of tongue cancer
A young mother battling tongue cancer died just 12 hours after marrying the love of her life.
Emma Gilhespy tied the knot with her sweetheart, RAF servicemen Michael, on November 20 in the chapel of St Johns Hospice in Lancaster at 11am.
But sadly by 11pm that evening, Mrs Gilhespy had passed away, just a month from her 29th birthday.
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Emma Gilhespy with her husband Michael, and her five-year-old son, Callum, left. The couple married just 12 hours before she died after battling tongue cancer
In November, the couple were then given the sudden news that she may not survive more than 24 hours and brought her wedding to fiance Michael forward
Now her heartbroken family want to raise awareness of tongue cancer, which cruelly took her life and left her five-year-old son Callum without his mother this Christmas.
Mrs Gilhespy first noticed something was wrong last December when she felt an ulcer on her tongue which would not go away.
Her mother Debbie Grice, 56, explained: ‘In the end she went to the doctor and was referred for a biopsy last December.
The couple married at the chapel in St John’s Hospice in Lancaster after Mrs Gilhespy’s condition took a turn for the worse
‘On January 6, she went to get the results. She went on her own with Callum as we weren’t expecting anything major but she was told it was tongue cancer.’
The 28-year-old then underwent two operations in a bid to fight to disease including surgery to remove part of her tongue in February.
But despite intensive radiotherapy, the family was given the devastating news in July that her cancer was incurable.
Mrs Grice, a domestic supervisor for the NHS, who is married to Emma’s father David, said: ‘We were told the cancer had gone but that they would give her radiotherapy for six weeks to make sure none was left.
‘Four weeks into the radiotherapy the skin on her neck started weeping and needed to be drained.
‘They kept draining it and said it was clear, but in July they thought it might be infected.
‘We were then old the cancer had spread to her liver, lungs, neck and pelvis.’
The family were then stunned by just how quickly her illness progressed and just two sessions into a course of chemotherapy, consultants decided to stop the treatment as it was not working.
In November, they were then given the sudden news that she may not survive more than 24 hours and brought her wedding to fiance Michael forward.
Mrs Gilhespy, pictured after the wedding ceremony toasting her marriage to her sweetheart Michael, who is an RAF serviceman
Non-smoker Mrs Gilhespy, pictured, wass among the very small number of people who are diagnosed with a form a mouth cancer
Mrs Grice said: ‘When they said that we were gobsmacked. I don’t think anyone wanted to believe what was happening.
‘We had been going to hold the wedding in the hospice on November 28, but it was brought forward to the 20th. Emma didn’t want to get married then, she wanted to hang on.
A RARE CANCER OF THE MOUTH
Tongue cancer is a rare type of cancer that develops on either on the tongue or on its base.
Symptoms of this type of cancer include a red or white patch on the tongue or an ulcer or soft spot, which will not go away, a sore throat, pain when swallowing and numbness in the mouth.
It is not known what causes this type of cancer, but heavy drinking and smoking are said to be factors that put people at risk of developing the disease.
Treatment of tongue cancer can include radiotherapy, chemotherapy or surgery or a combination of these treatments. Surgery can also include having all or part of the tongue removed.
According to statistics from Cancer Research UK, 55 per cent of women and 44 per cent of men will live for five years or more after being diagnosed with the condition.
‘I had bought a wedding dress for the day but she didn’t want to wear it, she wanted to save it. Instead we dressed her in it in her coffin.’
Non-smoker Mrs Gilhespy, who trained as a care worker, is among a very small number of people who suffer from a form of mouth cancer each year.
Her mother added: ‘I still don’t believe it has happened sometimes. It’s hard to believe because she was doing so well. It is very unusual because it’s something that usually affects heavy smokers and drinkers, and she lived a healthy lifestyle.
‘Emma always said she wanted people to be more aware of tongue cancer and how people should have regular dental checks.’
Her husband Michael says that his wife never complained throughout her illness and remained positive until the end.
He explained: ‘Getting married was something we had talked about doing in the future. We had talked about buying a house and having children.
‘We had planned it all for when she was better. She really wanted to go to Venice, and we were also planning to go to Lapland.
‘We had our whole lives ahead of us.
‘I was with her when she died, and I will never forget that.’