Teaching assistant from West Earlham loses brave cancer fight

The devastated family of an 'inspirational' woman who lost her brave fight with cancer have described her as one of the most courageous people anyone could wish to meet.

Lorraine Hedges, 40, a mother-of-two, died at her St Mildred's Road home in West Earlham with her husband Adrian by her side on Monday, July 25 – three years after first being diagnosed with breast cancer.

But such was Mrs Hedges' bravery that just four days before her death she was completing paperwork and helping children on the last day of term at Hethersett Junior School where she had been a teaching assistant for four years.

The former Blyth Jex School pupil, a mother to Emily, 18, and Grace, nine, never wanted to let anyone down and despite having to be injected with morphine every half an hour for her pain, also attended the leaving meal of a work colleague at the Queen's Head pub in Hethersett.

Despite her illness, which by the end had spread to her head, liver and kidneys, she competed in the Race for Life at the Norfolk Showground twice, including in May this year where she finished the 5k course in a time of 1hr 20mins, walking the course behind her wheelchair.

Members of her family, including mother, Angela, 62, brother Shaun, 38, his wife Claire, also 38, children Megan, 14, and Olivia, 11, as well as sister Amy, 24, gathered at Mrs Hedges' mother's house in Crome Road, Norwich, to remember her.

Shaun, speaking on behalf of Mrs Hedges' family, which also included sister Heidi, 36, said: 'She was a strong, brave woman who was always there for other people even through all this.

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'There was a lot of stuff she kept away from her family and friends to try to protect everyone. She lived for her family and friends.'

Shaun, a police officer based at Bowthorpe who lives at New Catton, said her concern for others can be summed up in a note she wrote before she died which covered funeral arrangements so others did not have to worry about making plans.

Part of the note read: 'Don't be sad, it's only my body that's gone; my spirit will be with you always. Be happy.'

Mr Hedges, originally from London, first met Lorraine after he got a job at Busseys where her brother Shaun used to work, and married her in Antigua in 2000. He now works as an estimator in the body shop at Robinson's in Norwich and is currently staying with family in Kent.

Mrs Hedges, right, who was a keen runner and knitter who liked Cliff Richard and attended the Rod Stewart concert at Carrow Road in June, spent a number of years working in shops after leaving school.

She worked at Sewell's bakery in Unthank Road, Norwich before spells at the Co-op on Hall Road, Plumstead Road and then the Fiveways where she worked as a manageress.

While she was working Mrs Hedges also attended Easton College where she trained to be a teaching assistant, even completing work for her level 3 NVQ while she was in hospital being treated for cancer.

Her world had been turned upside down in July 2008 when she found a small lump in her right breast.

Shaun said: 'She found a lump on her breast and went to the doctors and straight away was diagnosed with an aggressive tumour in her lymph gland as well.'

The diagnosis of breast cancer was confirmed and after having a mastectomy she underwent a two-week course of radiotherapy and chemotherapy before being offered a trial of the drug herceptin which is used to treat breast cancer.

She responded well to treatment and by last June received the news she had gone into remission. But her joy was to be short lived and just weeks later received a letter stating that abnormalities in her blood tests meant she would have to have more tests.

But before she could have the tests she collapsed at home and was rushed into hospital where what was first feared to be a stroke turned out to be a tumour behind her left eye.

The proximity to her eye, and the risk of going blind, meant an operation to remove it was not possible and she was given further drugs, but the disease later spread to her lungs and liver and last month all treatment was stopped.

Members of the family, who plan to complete various charity events to raise money for and awareness about cancer, have urged others to get themselves checked out for signs of the disease straight away.

The funeral service will be held at St Faith's Crematorium on Wednesday, August 10. Family flowers only please, but donations, if desired, may be given to Breast Cancer Care or Big C and sent c/o Ivan Fisher independent Funeral Home, Norton House, 17 Park Drive, Hethersett, NR9 3EN. People attending the funeral are also asked to wear bright colours.