We spent £20k on memories for kids as I was going to die… instead I got better!
The 37-year-old dinner lady and her partner Anthony got married and blew their savings on THREE luxury family holidays.
Lisa even planned her own funeral and wrote goodbye letters for her daughters to open after she died.
But three years after the diagnosis, Lisa’s death sentence was lifted — as her cancer unexpectedly disappeared.
She says: “I’d been saying goodbye and preparing for the end. It was heartbreaking to tell my daughters Mummy was going to die.
“I was very young when I lost my mother. The thought of them growing up without me was devastating.
“Telling them I wasn’t going anywhere was the best moment of my life.”
Happy memories … family holiday in Turkey in 2010
When Lisa got a chesty cough she put it down to smoking ten a day. Only when it failed to shift in 2009 did she visit her GP.
Lisa had already beaten cervical cancer, having a hysterectomy. But now she was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer (SCLC) — unrelated to her earlier illness and rare in a woman her age.
It’s 94 per cent death rate is one of cancer’s highest.
“It was the last thing I expected to hear,” she says. “The room was spinning when they explained it was the most aggressive type.”
She says. “Cancer had already threatened to take me from my daughters. Now it was back to finish the job.”
Lisa’s biggest fear was that her girls, Chloe and Georgia — then 13 and eight — would not remember her.
She says: “I hated the thought of my kids having their childhood without a mother, like I had. I was only five when she took her own life after battling depression. I only had one photo of my mum.
“Then, when I was 13, my dad died of a heart attack. I was raised by my wonderful older siblings.
“They gave me a great childhood but I still missed having a mum. I was distraught to think my children would forget me.
“I didn’t want history to repeat itself so I vowed to create as many wonderful memories for my daughters as possible.”
Knowing she would lose her hair during treatment, Lisa organised a sponsored head shave on her 34th birthday, raising £4,000 for The Christie Hospital in Manchester, where she was being treated.
After her long, dark locks had been shorn, her daughters watched proudly as their father, now 43, proposed.
Lisa says: “We’d always planned on getting married but everything else came first. Now we didn’t know when the end would come, so decided to marry as quickly as possible, in just six weeks’ time, using our savings.”
Arranging the big day with more than 200 guests kept her daughters positive, while Lisa endured chemotherapy with the hope of extending her life. Treatment was briefly suspended for her big day.
She says: “I wore a wig because I wanted the girls to see me as any other bride, not a cancer patient.
“I wanted them to treasure the pictures and enjoy looking at them when I was gone, not feel sad.”
Hundreds of photos were taken and Lisa says: “It was a bittersweet day but I made sure I was smiling in all of them. That’s how I wanted them to remember me.”
Her treatment ended in September 2009 and the Willow Foundation for seriously ill patients arranged for the family to spend a weekend in London, watch a West End show and go on the London Eye.
She says: “It was fabulous but upsetting because we were there purely because I was dying.
“The girls loved visiting the landmarks and it gave me comfort to know it was a weekend they’d never forget.”
Months later, in January 2010, Lisa and Anthony, from Oldham, flew to Lanzarote on a belated honeymoon — again taking the girls with them.
“We splashed out on a luxury villa using our wedding present money and savings.
“It was impossible to forget about the cancer but seeing the girls play in the sea and play on the beach was fantastic.
“Again, I knew they were memories they would never forget and I wanted to create more.”
As she edged closer to the end, Lisa asked her consultant if there was any chance she could be a “miracle” recovery story.
She says: “I’d read that a tiny percentage of SCLC patients survived. He looked me in the eye and shook his head and said, ‘Sorry’.”
Terrified, Lisa booked another holiday to Bulgaria in May 2010, costing £4,000. With Anthony working as an electrician and Lisa unable to work, money was tight.
But the couple vowed to blow what little they had left making memories for the girls.
Lisa says: “You don’t care about money when you are dying, just your family spending time together.
“I didn’t want their memories of me to be in hospital. I wanted them to be happy, carefree memories.”
They spent more money on meals with friends and days out with the girls — before splashing out another £6,000 on a five-star, all-inclusive break in Turkey in September, 2010.
Lisa says: “It was the trip of a lifetime. I knew they’d never forget it.”
By the time she returned home, Lisa had already lived past the 18-month prognosis.
She continued to have check-ups every three months without any change in the outlook.
Lisa bought guardian angel figurines for her daughters.
She wrote goodbye letters to them and her husband, telling them how much she loved them and assuring them she would always watch over them.
She tucked them away with instructions to be opened after her death. Lisa says: “I wanted them to know I would always be with them, regardless.”
But her words were to come true in a way she could never have imagined. In April this year — three years after her original diagnosis — she went for a routine biopsy — and was given the astonishing news that her tumour had shrunk so much the doctors couldn’t find it.
“My mouth fell wide open,” she recalls. “I couldn’t believe it. The doctors couldn’t either. My death sentence had been lifted.
“Nobody could predict this would happen. Everyone at The Christie Hospital was amazing. I can’t thank them enough.
“I can’t believe how lucky I am. I was just laughing and said to my husband, ‘Thank goodness we still have a few quid left, because I’m not dying’.
“The funny thing is, I never really felt ill apart from when I was having treatment. It was the chemotherapy that made me feel sick and tired.”
Later, she revealed the good news to her daughters.
She says: “They asked for the letters I wrote when I was dying but I said no. It was too painful.
“My youngest said if I wasn’t dying, they didn’t need an ‘I’m sorry I died’ card any more.
“I burst out laughing. Typical of kids to put things so bluntly. I’m still laughing because I feel so lucky. Only six per cent of SCLC patients survive.
“When my daughters were born, I promised them I would always be there — and I intend to keep that promise. I’ve beaten cancer twice now.
“Anthony was made redundant recently so we could have done with the money now. But I don’t regret what we did.
“Being told I was dying taught me how short life can be — it needs to be lived.”
The bucket list
Villa in Lanzarote………………£2,000
Hotel in Bulgaria………………..£3,000
5* all inclusive in Turkey……..£6,000