ROWENA Darby has just one wish — to live long enough to see her little boy start school.
The 33-year-old mum-of-one has been diagnosed with terminal cancer — and told she has less than two years to live.
But rather than wallowing in self-pity, Mrs Darby is determined to leave her son, three-year-old Freddie, something to remember her by and has made him dozens of birthday and Christmas cards so he knows just how much he was loved by his mother.
She has even made a card for his graduation and wedding days.
Mrs Darby, who lives with husband Phil and Freddie in Turton, said: “I’d love more than anything to see Freddie’s first day at school in September next year. The longer I’m here, the more likely he’ll remember me.
“Freddie knows that I get treatment and go to hospital but he doesn’t know anything else because he’s too young.
“I have a permanent colostomy bag now and he knows that mummy goes for her medicine.
“I’ve always have more good days than I have bad days from the treatment which is good. I feel a bit groggy some days but you’ve just got to get on with it.
“I don’t care what they do to me, anything to keep me going as long as possible, and the more likely Freddie will remember me.
“I know a lot of people in my situation create a bucket list but I just want to be a mum and do normal stuff with my son. There is nowhere I want to go — I just want to have a normal life with no regrets.
“Every cancer is different so my doctor said he would not be surprised if I was here next year, but he would be if I was here the year after. It’s progressing reasonably slowly at the moment, thankfully.”
It was when Mrs Darby fell pregnant with Freddie in 2010 that she first started suffering symptoms of rectal cancer.
She said: “I started getting 24 hour pain in my abdomen and eventually in March, 2011 I had a colonoscopy which found nothing.
“I wasn’t losing any weight or anything — I felt fine in myself apart from the pains. I had another colonoscopy in May and they found it.
“I knew before then that there was very little else it could have been. They told me it was so big it had grown through the bowel wall and my lymph nodes were inflamed. It could have been in there for years.”
In October, 2011 Mrs Derby began five weeks of radiotherapy to shrink the tumour before having an operation at the Royal Bolton Hospital to remove it — along with part of her bowel and some of her lymph nodes.
She said: “They got everything out and said that there were four lymph nodes with cancer in them.
“I started six months of chemo in January, 2012 as a preventative measure, but at that time I was rushed into hospital with bowel spasms where my small bowel had got caught on a small growth on my right ovary.
“I had another operation in April, 2012 and they took out everything — I had a full hysterectomy, my bowels and full lining of my abdomen were all removed.
“They also flushed chemo through my abdomen after the operation while I was under to get rid of any little cells.”
Despite this radical preventative measure, a scan showed the cancer was still spreading.
Mrs Darby said: “My emotions were all over the place at this time. They kept saying that they could possibly cure it, and then they’d find something else. But after this op they couldn’t confirm that it had gone because the edges of what they had removed had cancer cells on it.
“In August last year they did a scan and said it was in my lungs and liver and it was terminal. The growths are still very small so they wanted to put me through chemo, but they weren’t hopeful because I hadn’t responded to it the first time.”
But the inspirational mum, who is on long-term sick from her job as an actuary, has started making her own bracelets in hospital while she has her treatment to pay for trips around the country with her family.
She said: “I started making bracelets after going to a craft fair with my mum. I was bored in hospital when having my treatment.
“I took this kit in and made all these bracelets in under an hour and I worked out that I could sell them for £10 each. I got all the material for it and made a website and set it into a little business, Roda Handmade, and I use the money to take Freddie on holidays.”
More recently Mrs Darby had Mistletoe Therapy in Aberdeen, where she had injections in her stomach to induce a fever to prevent the cancer from growing.
She said: “Diet and lifestyle are really important. I believe my current diet, which is recognised as effective for children with epilepsy and Multiple Sclerosis sufferers, is slowing the cancer down.”
Mrs Darby adds that despite everything that has happened, she feels “privileged” that she can prepare for her death.
She said: “When it gets closer to the time where I won’t be here I’m going to get a big photo book and put all the emails I’ve written for Freddie in there for when he gets older.
“I’m privileged that I can prepare for my death — if I was in a car crash there would be none of these memories for Freddie.
“When I die it’s going to be awful for my family but at least they know it’s going to happen and because of this we’ve had the best quality time together beforehand.”
To view or purchase any of her bracelets, visit: rodahandmade.co.uk.