TO look at Sarah Shotton you would think that she had it all with a loving family and beautiful house in the heart of rural Northumberland.
Yet the 47-year-old is living under the shadow of terminal cancer and may only have little more than a year to live.
Mrs Shotton has been diagnosed with secondary breast cancer that has spread to her liver and she also has a rare form of ovarian cancer.
Now the mother-of-two has the heartbreaking task of discussing plans for her funeral and intends to eventually make memory boxes for her loved ones. But the former school worker refuses to feel sorry for herself and enjoys life with husband, Martin, 48, director of a construction business, and their two sons, James, 21, and William, 15.
Mrs Shotton, of Longhorsley, Northumberland, said: “My outlook to life is completely different to what it used to be.
“I was always a half-empty kind of person as I’d look at the negative aspect of things and worry. I lived on stress and would live life at 100mph.
“Now I meditate every day and I’m thankful for everything that I have. There are days when I wobble, but the rest of the time I have a normal life.
“I feel well and I don’t feel a victim. Some people with cancer live to die but I keep telling my kids I’m going to ‘bug the life out of them’ until I’m 90.”
Mrs Shotton was diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer in 2009 and made a good recovery following a full mastectomy and chemotherapy sessions.
However, in September last year she was given the devastating news that she had developed clear cell ovarian cancer, a rare form of the illness.
After subsequent tests and examinations into the illness it was also identified that her breast cancer had spread to her liver and her condition was serious.
Doctors have told the keen artist that they cannot cure the cancer, but they are unable to say how long she can stave off the illness. Although there are cases of patients with a similar diagnosis living up to five years the prognosis tends to be between a year and 18 months.
Mrs Shotton said: “I had no symptoms of the cancer other than weight loss, so it came as a shock.
“It is scary but I’m mentally in a good place. I’m really living life and I’ve planned some holidays for this year.
“It is very bad luck that I’ve got ovarian cancer but had I not then the tumours on my liver wouldn’t have been picked up and, if left untreated, people only survive about eight months, so I see it as a blessing.”
One of the most difficult aspects for Mrs Shotton is knowing that she will have to leave her family sooner than she would have expected.
Her eldest son, James, has autism and she is doing her best to encourage him to become as independent as possible.
“I’m very close to my family and we’ve gone through difficult times. I know my husband is worried but he has always been my rock,” Mrs Shotton said.
“My eldest son doesn’t really understand, but he gives me hugs and makes me laugh and I love the moments I have with my youngest son.
“It’s really nice to watch my children grow and I’m making sure they are becoming more independent.”
Mrs Shotton has chemotherapy once a week at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care and a recent scan revealed that her cancer has not spread elsewhere.
HELP ON THE WAY
LATER this year a new cancer centre is set to open in the North East to help those with the illness and their families.
Maggie’s Centre at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital will be a place where patients and their families can turn for emotional support and practical advice.
The £3m premises opposite the Northern Centre for Cancer Care is set to open in the late spring.
Services will include workshops on nutrition and relaxation, tai-chi, benefits advice, stress management and one-to-one psychotherapy.
Mrs Shotton said: "A Maggie’s Centre in the North East is so important. It will be a less clinical and more informal place than a hospital and somewhere people can go for emotional support."