A mum-of-two diagnosed with terminal cancer is writing Christmas and birthday cards for her children to open at future milestones when she is no longer around.
Laura Atkinson is desperate to stay alive to take her son Dylan, three, for his first day at school in September next year.
The 37-year-old was given the devastating news she had stage four ocular uveal melanoma in 2014 after she went for a routine eye test.
Despite having an operation to remove the tumour even while she was pregnant with Dylan, Laura’s cancer spread to her liver.
Laura is undergoing pioneering treatment at Spire Southampton Hospital to hopefully give her more time with Dylan, her daughter Faye, six, and her husband Keith, 46.
The mum, from Warrington, Cheshire, said: "I just want to take my son to his first day at school.
"I want to get as close to September next year as I can.
"I’m hoping this is the treatment that will give me the biggest chunk of time.
"Without it I won’t make it till Easter. If I make it to September than everything after that is bonus time with my children.
"While I’m still able to I want to make mind memories and do nice things that they can remember."
Laura is fundraising £80,000 on GoFundMe for the final two cycles of the pioneering treatment, which costs £40,000 per cycle, after funding two herself.
She has already prepared her will and is beginning to plan how she can still be part of her kids’ lives even when she’s no longer around.
Laura said: "When it comes to when I’m out of options, that is when I want to do the memory bears and write cards for birthdays and Christmas.
"I have to think about what will happen when I’m not there.
"When I was initially diagnosed, it was completely blind siding.
"I wasn’t having symptoms, so it totally came out of the blue."
Despite having emergency surgery while she was pregnant, Laura was given the devastating news shortly before Dylan’s birth that the tumour would likely return.
To add to the nightmare, her son Dylan had to have open heart surgery only two weeks after being born.
She said: "It was one nightmare after another.
"I was convincing myself that he’d got it because of me.
"I felt like the unluckiest person in the world."
Dylan made a full recovery and is now a happy and healthy child.
But in August 2017, while on a family holiday, Laura was called in by doctors following a routine scan and exploratory surgery and was given the shattering news that there was nothing more they could do.
She said: "It was just an awful moment.
"I was devastated. I knew in my gut that it was cancer. It was just horrendous.
"It’s indescribable. I was never naive to think it would come back but I never thought it would come back so quickly."
Laura said that since she was given the news, she’s focused on trying to spend as much time as possible with her family.
But she hasn’t revealed the full nature of her condition to her kids so that she can protect them.
She said: "We took the kids to Disneyland Paris which was something Faye was desperate to do.
"While I was feeling OK in February we went. It was amazing. She loved it which was the aim of that kind of memory making.
"Dylan is too young to understand but I talk to Faye about it.
"I say I have something growing in my tummy. She doesn’t know the ultimate ending, she doesn’t need to know that yet."
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Despite her anger, Laura hopes that her children will understand how hard she has fought to stay alive.
She said: "I was really angry at the start – not for me, but for the kids.
"I was so angry that this was happening to them, I don’t understand why that has to happen to them.
"It’s a terrible thing that will happen to them.
"I never wanted to go, that is what I hope they understand. I don’t want them to be angry with me.
"I just hope they won’t be cross and that this was never the way I wanted it to turn out.
"I thought I’d be stood by their side for the next 40 or 50 years, and would never leave them so young."
Click here for more information about Laura’s fundraising campaign.
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