Northern Ireland

Breast cancer: Terminally-ill mother prepares her young family for her death

Lennox family Image copyright Laura Lennox
Image caption Laura Lennox was 34 when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer

Organising her own funeral is not something that 36-year-old Laura Lennox ever thought she would have to do.

But the mother-of-four, who received a devastating cancer diagnosis earlier this year, is actively preparing her young family for her death.

She is mother to Caileb, 13, Noah, nine, Brooke, eight, and Jesse, 15 months.

Mrs Lennox, from Cullybackey, County Antrim, has been thinking of creative ways for her children to feel close to her, long after she is gone.

Image copyright Laura Lennox
Image caption Mrs Lennox has prepared memory boxes for each of her children and kept a journal for them to read
Image copyright Laura Lennox
Image caption As well as the memory boxes, Mrs Lennox has planned her own funeral

She has made memory boxes for each of them and kept a journal for them to pore over.

Mrs Lennox was 34 and pregnant with her youngest child when she was told she had breast cancer.

Initial worries centred around the wellbeing of her unborn baby, who was born by emergency C-section at 30 weeks.

"He was a little sleeping beauty after all of my chemotherapy," she said.

"He was safe because I had a reduced dose of the treatment, but it was decided that he had to come out early.

"Little Jesse was 3lb when he was born and his lungs were underdeveloped, but he fought to full health.

Image copyright Laura Lennox
Image caption Jesse Lennox was born prematurely by emergency C-section

"I completed my treatment and life returned to pretty much normal."

But after fighting off the disease once, it was to return in January this year.

The cancer has now spread to Mrs Lennox's lungs, and her prognosis is not good.

"I am preparing to die," she told BBC News NI.

'Devastated'

"It may sound morbid and I try not to make things too sad, but I believe it's important that the children know I won't be around forever.

"During my first round of treatment, I explained to them that I was sick and had to take medicine, but when it returned I knew I had to be more honest about the future.

"I've always been the type of mother who wants to protect her kids and to hide them from anything too upsetting.

"But now they know I won't be around to see them grown up and that I'm not going to get better.

"Obviously I was devastated when I got the news - it's not something any mother would want, but life can be taken away from you by cancer at any age.

Image copyright Laura Lennox
Image caption Mrs Lennox has also urged any woman who notices any change in her body to get to the doctor straight away

"I don't have long left, but the kids get to go through some of the sadness they have ahead with me there to comfort them."

As well as the memory boxes and leaving each child advice for the future, Mrs Lennox has been planning her funeral.

"I've sorted the grave, chosen my own coffin, written my eulogy and chosen the readings and hymns," she said.

"It's a strange experience, but my husband Alistair, 42, will have the four kids to look after when I'm gone, he doesn't need the stress of organising the funeral too."

Mrs Lennox said she will make her final preparations in the coming days and then put it all to the side in order to spend the time she has left with her family.

'Humbled'

"Christmas is my favourite time of year, so although I may not be there this year, we are going to make decorations together to hang around the house," she said.

Describing her situation now, she said: "We've been humbled by the support we've received from friends, family and neighbours.

"I am happy, I am comfortable and I am content loving my family and my friends.

"I'm getting on with things as best I can and appreciating every day."

Mrs Lennox has also urged any woman who notices any change in her body to get to the doctor straight away and to check themselves regularly for anything out of the ordinary.

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