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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

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Family tributes to brave Barrow mum

THE family of a mum who died after fighting three different types of cancer say they have been inspired by her unbelievable strength and courage.

Clare Hutchinson lost her 13-year battle on Monday morning, at her childhood home in Kirkstone Crescent, Barrow.

The 41-year-old, who lived in Sandringham Close before moving in with her parents for the last nine months of her life, was discharged from hospital the day before.

Ms Hutchinson was taken into Furness General with pneumonia around three weeks ago, as the effects of an aggressive brain tumour and leukaemia took their toll on her body.

It marked the end of an incredible fight for a woman who also fended off bowel cancer three times.

Yesterday her mum, Lorraine Sturgeon, 61, and dad, Paul Sturgeon, 62, paid tribute to their daughter.

Mr Sturgeon said: “She was unbelievable – absolutely inspirational. She never ever complained, she never asked, ‘why me?’, her attitude was incredible.

“The medical staff called her bizarre – she never conformed to any of the norms.

“She just had a zest for life, and such a strength of character.”

Ms Hutchinson was diagnosed with bowel cancer on September 13, 1999, aged 29.

It was a very complicated strain of the disease, and doctors at Furness General Hospital were not hopeful she could recover.

But, having been told there was a new type of surgery that could save her life, her family arranged for her to go to Hope Hospital, now Salford Royal, to be operated on by a pioneering specialist.

The procedure worked and Ms Hutchinson went into recovery – but two years later, the cancer came back.

Again, the brave mum underwent surgery, and it was then that polyps were discovered on her bowels.

They were benign at the time, but later became cancerous.

By that time, Ms Hutchinson was dealing with a far more serious illness.

In January 2007, she was diagnosed with an inoperable tumour, deep-seated in her brain, and was told she had three months to live.

But she began taking herbal remedies ordered from the internet, and continuous scans revealed the tumour was not growing.

Mr Sturgeon said: “The way Clare battled things, we started thinking, ‘maybe she can beat this’.

“It got to six months, and then nine months, and I started to think maybe the doctors were wrong.”

But in early 2010, Ms Hutchinson began having minor fits, and the doctors revealed that the tumour had grown significantly.

A biopsy showed the tumour was cancer in its most aggressive form, and she was told to go and enjoy her final few months with her family.

But having been told that surgery, followed by a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, would give her up to 20 months, Ms Hutchinson decided she wanted more time.

She underwent a seven-and-a-half-hour craniotomy, for which she was awake while doctors operated on her brain.

Because of the form the tumour had taken, with tendrils reaching into various parts of her brain, they were only able to remove 40 per cent of it.

Ms Hutchinson got through six weeks of combined chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and started another six months of chemotherapy in early 2011.

But after two months, her blood count became too low for her to be treated.

And after a summer of being constantly monitored to see if it had improved, she underwent another biopsy in August 2011.

On September 13, exactly 12 years after her first diagnosis, Ms Hutchinson was told she had acute myeloid leukaemia.

Her treatment for the tumour put on hold, she began intensive chemotherapy at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

Mr Sturgeon said: “They didn’t want to treat her, knowing she had only months to live because of the brain tumour, but we knew better about Clare by that point.

“She asked how long she would have, and they said about a week, but she wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.”

Ms Hutchinson finished her leukemia treatment in February this year.

She had been waiting for her blood count to return to normal to allow her to resume treatment for her brain tumour when she fell ill for the last time. Her funeral was due to take place today at the Holy Family church in Barrow.

The former Thorncliffe School pupil and hairdresser was well known within the town, and especially for the 10 years she spent working at Ken Riley’s in Crellin Street.

Mr Sturgeon said: “We’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people getting in touch with us – I’ve lost track of all the cards and I’ve had so many messages on Facebook – from people I don’t even know.

“You can’t walk through town without being stopped by someone who knows her. Everyone describes her smile.

“When the GP came to certify her death, as she was going out of the door, she said, ‘Every time I’m having a bad day, I think of your Clare’.

“That sums her up completely – she was an inspiration to everyone.”

Mr and Mrs Sturgeon said their daughter’s determination was strengthened by the birth of her first granddaughter.

Millie-Mae was born to Ms Hutchinson’s 19-year-old son, Jamie, a year ago on Monday.

Mr Sturgeon said: “Having a granddaughter just kept her going. I think that’s what made her last the last 12 months.

“She was desperately looking forward to her first birthday.”

It is not just in her beloved son and her granddaughter that Ms Hutchinson leaves her legacy.

Her twin brother, Graham, says his life has been changed completely by what his sister went through.

A former Sellafield worker, he decided to live his dream of becoming a pilot, selling his house to fund the training he had never been able to afford. Mr Sturgeon Jnr, who has now been working for British Airways for six years, said: “When she became ill, I did a lot of thinking, and I just realised that life really is too short not to do the things you want to do. I was so inspired by Clare I just thought, ‘I’m going to do it’.”

Money raised at Ms Hutchinson’s funeral will be donated to the funds for Duncan House, where her parents stayed during her treatment in Blackpool.

The house was opened by Barrow woman, Liz Cassells, to provide accommodation for Cumbrian families with relatives being treated for leukaemia.

Having spent every day of the last 13 years supporting her throughout her ordeal, Miss Hutchinson’s family now face a future without the inspirational woman they say changed so many people’s outlooks on life.

Mr Sturgeon Snr said: “It’s a massive, massive void.

“We’ll be totally lost without her.”

Have your say

What a truly incredibly sad story, she had Unbelievable courage and to think people moan about such trivial little things like the weather puts life into perspective.She is at peace now thats the only consolation.

Posted by john grainger on 19 May 2012 at 09:28

Paul and Lorraine, Claire was so brave for so long and she had the best support from both of you. My heartfelt sympathy to you and the rest of the family, love Margaret

Posted by Margaret Braithwaite (nee Leake) on 19 May 2012 at 00:18

View all 6 comments on this article

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