Dream 20,000 wedding in New Zealand for mother-of-five with terminal cancer after she was told she has just months to live
Sharon Heazle and new husband Mark married in an emotional service in New ZealandThe couple, plus their five children, then visited LA and Florida's Disney World for Christmas
The family, from Norwich, pooled together 20,000 for the dream getawaySharon, 42, has terminal cancer and may only have months to live
18:25 GMT, 30 December 2012
A brave mother-of-five with terminal cancer has celebrated her dream wedding after discovering she may only have months to live.
Sharon Heazle and new husband Mark said their vows in an emotional ceremony attended by close friends and family next to a waterfall in New Zealand.
The wedding was part of a 20,000 dream round-the-world trip with their five children.
The family jetted off to Hong Kong before carrying on to Los Angeles and Walt Disney World in Florida to celebrate Christmas and bring in the New Year.
Sharon, 42, and Mark, 32, pooled together enough money for the memorable getaway by using their savings, selling belongings on eBay and kind donations from loved ones.
Sharon Heazle poses with her new husband Mark Heazle and their children (from left to right) Georgia, 13, Keira, 15, Albie, four, Orla, three, and Ellie, 16, at their wedding in New Zealand
The pair, from Norwich, insisted it was worth every penny for what could be their last holiday as a family.
Sharon, who had her three eldest daughters during a previous relationship, said: “It was the most magical day – one of the happiest moments of my life.
'We've created a memory my family will cherish forever.
'This trip is a massive deal for us and very expensive. We even used the kids' savings we'd set aside for university or a first car. But I'm convinced it's worth it.
'What I hate most about this cancer is what it could do to my family.
'A few weeks ago my older girls went to see their real father and one said, 'we've been talking about when it happens, and if maybe we'll go live with dad.'
'It was devastating. I was happy they were talking about it, but thought, 'oh my God, my youngest two are not only going to lose me but they might lose their sisters too'.
'My youngest don't even know I have cancer yet – it would only upset them.
'So for me this trip is not only a lasting memory for them to hold on to, but the wedding was also intended to reaffirm our commitment as a family.'
Sharon, pictured with husband Mark, has terminal cancer and doctors have said she may only have months to live
Sharon was diagnosed with cancer this spring. She has the same rare type of incurable tumours that killed Apple boss Steve Jobs – neuro endocrine tumours, known as NETs.
It started with a tumour in her bowel. More have developed in other parts of her body including her liver. And Sharon recently discovered the cancer has spread to her bones.
The sad turn of events prompted doctors to give her anywhere between a few years and just months to live.
So serious is her condition, Sharon was unable to purchase any travel insurance for her trip but it didn't take long to decide it was worth the risk.
Sharon, a former assistant director of a housing association, said: 'Finding out I had cancer was horrifying. It was the worst moment of my life.
'When I finally told my older daughters one of them said 'so you might not be here to see your grandchildren' I burst into tears.
'The cancer is a permanent cloud over my head. But at least I've got the opportunity to show my family how much I love them.'
Sharon and Mark wed at the Centennial Gardens in Napier, on New Zealand's North Island.
Sharon wore a strapless ivory gown and older girls Ellie, 16, Keira, 15, and Georgia, 13, were in teal blue dresses.
Mark and Albie, four, were in matching cream-coloured suits, while youngest Orla, three, looked adorable in mini version of her sisters' outfits.
Brave Sharon added: 'Mark and I said our vows promising to be supportive through all that lies ahead.
'We pledged to be there for our children and they said vows promising to love and support each other.
Mother-of-five Sharon raised the 20,000 needed for her dream wedding and family holiday by using savings, selling belongings on eBay and gifts from loved ones
'I surprised Mark with a reading about my love for him which brought him to tears. It expressed my gratitude for all he's done for me and the kids.
'We married in front of a beautiful cliff face with a crashing waterfall nearby – it was perfect.'
They celebrated with dinner at a local restaurant joined by Mark's parents and a few relatives and friends.
As one of five kids growing up in the tiny village of Ketton, Rutland County, Sharon always wanted to see the world.
She spent her first pay-packet from Barclays bank on a last-minute trip to Ibiza, at 17.
It was at the bank she met her previous husband Darren Perks. But the couple split in 2005 after a decade together.
Despite their struggles, Sharon managed to gain a psychology degree and an MBA through the Open University, all while holding down a full-time job in senior management at Melton Mowbray Council in Leicestershire.
And that's where she met Mark – a handsome young sports development worker.
She said: 'I thought he was cute, but never in my wildest dreams did I think anything would happen as he is ten years younger than me.
'We first spoke at a work Christmas party in 2006. We clicked and ended up sharing a cheeky kiss.
'Soon afterwards, Mark asked me out and I was hesitant – I had my girls and work to think of. But he persisted and eventually I agreed to meet him at the pub. We were dating soon afterwards.
'My girlfriends would tease me about my 'toy boy' and I'd say they were just jealous.
NETs AND THE POTENTIAL TREATMENT
Neuroendocrine tumours, also known as NETs, are rare.
NETs are cancers of the neuroendocrine system which incorporate glands
that produce insulin, adrenalin and the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin.
can appear all over the body.
Neuroendocrine tumours occur most commonly in the digestive system but can occur in other parts of the body.
They can be non-cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant).
NETs are silent killers. Most don’t have any symptoms until the cancer is critically advanced.
been a huge and unexplained increase in the incidence of NET cancers in
recent years, of up to 500 per cent, according to some research papers.
A team of
guerrilla fundraisers have launched a global campaign, called
iCancer, to fund research into a potential treatment for the cancer that
killed Steve Jobs.
The potential therapy, a cancer-busting virus, can’t be tested for lack of 2million.
virus’ creator, Prof Magnus Essand of Uppsala University, says the
2million will bring the virus to the point where a big pharmaceuticals
company can take it over, test it, patent it, bring it to full-scale
development and make a profit.
it is thought that the potential treatment, which has been successfully
applied to NETs in mice, could have wider applications for other cancer
'In the end, Mark turned out to be the man of my dreams.
'He has taken on so much. Mark's only 32 and now he's got five kids and a wife with cancer.
'I've thought about what will happen when I'm gone, and I'm sure Mark will find someone. I can't stand the thought of it, but I want him to be happy.'
Mark, who now works for South Norfolk Council, moved in with Sharon in the summer of 2007 after admitting he not only wanted to be part of her kids' lives, but to have more children.
He proposed to Sharon on a weekend getaway in Rome that November – the day before Sharon found out she was pregnant with Albie.
Sharon said: 'It was really sweet. He got a ring out in the Sistine Chapel. You're not even supposed to speak in there.'
But life quickly got too busy for wedding planning.
Sharon fell pregnant with Orla just two months after giving birth to Albie.
Then in the autumn of 2010 Sharon's health started failing.
She explained: 'After Orla, I started feeling unusually emotional. At first I put it down to post-pregnancy hormones.
'But then there were more symptoms. I started gaining weight and by November of last year I had put on three stone. I got spots on my chest and back.
'The clincher was when I started to develop facial hair and my bones started to weaken – my knees got so bad I had to crawl up the stairs.'
Sharon was diagnosed with Cushing's Syndrome – her adrenal glands were producing too much cortisol, effecting the functioning of her organs and bone strength.
Doctors made plans to remove Sharon's adrenal glands, hopeful it would return things back to normal.
But in February things took a turn for the worse as doctors found evidence of tumours in Sharon's liver.
At the beginning of March her fears were confirmed when she was told they were cancerous.
In August more tumours were discovered including the primary one in her bowel.
Sharon said: 'I was shocked. It was like being punched in the face.
'I thought they'd tell me I needed to start chemotherapy, but it turned out there is no cure.
'All they can do is monitor the progression of the cancer with regular scans, and manage any pain. Eventually the cancer will take over, and that will be the end.
'Mark's been a lifesaver. He tries not to get upset in front of me.
'There was one time he broke down at an appointment where I learned the cancer had spread to my bones. Mark got really upset in the waiting room after.'
Mark, who also has two part-time jobs to bring in extra money, does many of the household chores. And the older girls help their mum when they can.
Mark added: 'Sharon's illness has turned my world upside down.
'At times it is difficult not to despair at the unfairness of it all – seeing the woman you love in pain, physically and emotionally, and I just try my best to make her life as happy as possible.'
Sharon has planned to write some memoirs for her kids, and put together photo albums.
She is also going to raise funds for a campaign called iCancer – in honour of Steve Jobs – raising money for the development of a NETs treatment that would allow sufferers to live a normal life while tumours are held at bay.