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Brave Jen's two-year battle

WHEN pretty 22-year-old Jen Goodridge walked into the doctor's surgery she had her whole life in front of her.

jen

WHEN pretty 22-year-old Jen Goodridge walked into the doctor's surgery she had her whole life in front of her. When she left, it had been shattered, turned upside down.

And when most young brides-tobe plan their weddings, it is a whirlwind of giggles, trying on dresses, selecting flowers and a cake. Jen's only concern was about booking a date which fitted around her chemotherapy. She wanted to still have her hair when she walked down the aisle.

These are the heartbreaking stories of cancer that the statistics cannot tell - the human cost.

Speaking from their Amersham home, Jen's family and widower Tony, 28, describe Jen's brave two-year battle with the disease.

They are comforted by the happy memories they shared in the short amount of time they had together.

"I was delighted to see from the cards, messages andFacebook comments they all shared the same opinion of her as I had, that she was a smiley, capable young woman, who was always concerned about others and full of fun," mum Judy says.

While brother David, 22, nods and laughingly interjects: "She was a shopaholic too, you should see her collection of shoes!"

Husband Tony, 28, adds: "Obviously she was very pretty, that was the initial attraction, but when I got to know her she was just this wonderfully smiley, bubbly girl who I adored."

Jen was first diagnosed with cervical cancer in August 2008, while at university in Surrey. After an initial round of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she was cleared to return to work in the spring of the following year.

But in September last year, things got worse. After complaining of back pain, doctors said the cancer had returned and more treatment would be needed. Tony, who first met Jen at a party, had by this point moved down to Surrey to be with her, and, speaking about the time, marvels at his then girlfriend's strength.

"She was just so brave and so determined to beat it, despite all the pain she was going through - she just fought and kept her head up."

When the couple were told Jen's cancer was terminal, the pair immediately decided to get married, booking a date the following January so she could recover from her latest round of treatment and ensure she had hair for the wedding. They even managed a honeymoon in New York.

But by June this year Jen had deteriorated dramatically. The tumour was pressing against her spine, causing her to lose the use of her legs.

Then the infection spread to her lungs.

On August 23, the doctors told Jen there was nothing more they could do.

"That was the hardest day for me," Tony adds sadly.

She passed away on August 31 and all the family are keen to praise the care Jen received.

But Tony admits he is angry that the age to receive a compulsory letter from the NHS inviting you in for a smear test is 25 in England, yet 20 in the rest of the UK - Jen died at 24.

"I've written to the Health Secretary (Andrew Lansley) and

I've had a file back but I still don't understand why it's not 20 like the rest of the UK, it's impossible to say it could have saved her, but it may have."

The funeral took place at Chilterns Crematorium just over two weeks later and featured two of her favourite songs - Scissor Sisters' I Don't Feel Like Dancing and Savage Garden's Truly Madly Deeply.

Judy adds: "She asked for donations to go to Jo's Cervical Cancer Trust as that's who she turned to for advice when she was first diagnosed. She always said she wanted us to raise awareness when she died."

Tony, who still finds himself reaching for his phone to text her, agrees: "Definitely, if you'd asked me three years ago whether I thought Jen would get cancer I would have said no way, she was so young - but it doesn't just happen to older people."

And finally Judy adds: "Something positive has to come from Jen's death, if speaking out saves one life it will have been worth it - that's what Jen would have wanted."

 

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Jack Abell
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