In 2008 Helen Morwenna died aged 31 of cervical cancer, following a series of smear tests that came back normal and a long battle with the disease.
Born on the 4th September 1977, Helen enjoyed a very happy, active and healthy childhood. She was spirited, brave and kind. For her 18th birthday, she asked to do a tandem jump from an airplane, and having persuaded her mum and brother James to do it too, set about raising over £1000 for the local children’s hospice.
After a year of travelling and working in Australia and four years at university, where she met her future husband, Richard, she got a job working for an IT company in Henley-on-Thames. She loved every minute of her life with Richard, who adored her, she loved her job and her many friends, who remember her for ‘her radiant smile’. At ages 21, 24 and 27 she attended her smear tests, and each came back with clear and normal results.
At age 27 she went to her GP with worrying symptoms. The GP was dismissive, so Helen didn't return until a few months later, now with even more worrying symptoms. This time Helen insisted upon having an appointment with a consultant gynaecologist, but even this failed to lead to an urgent diagnosis, with only minor surgery scheduled for 4 months later.
In September 2006, nearly 2 years after she first went to the GP, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, stage 2b. Daily radiotherapy and weekly chemotherapy held the cancer at bay for nearly a year, and it looked as though she was in remission. However, days after her wedding to Richard in December 2007, a large tumour was found in her pelvis.
Helen underwent surgery and further aggressive chemotherapy, remaining positive and upbeat, just as she had throughout all 27 months of grueling treatment. But the cancer was too advanced, and she was told just before her 31st birthday that she had a few weeks to live. She passed away on November 13th 2008 surrounded by her loving family.
By developing new drugs specifically designed to target cervical cancer, we hope to change the ending of stories like Helen’s and give women like her a better chance of living.