Photo gallery: Norfolk mum’s plea after daughter dies at just 30 from bowel cancer
10:26 30 January 2014
A woman whose daughter’s life was cut short by bowel cancer is hoping to give others a fighting chance by raising awareness of the disease.
Alexandra Dann’s long, and largely undiagnosed, battle with bowel cancer came to an end on December 14 when she died with her family and fiancé by her side.
The 30-year-old, who grew up in Wood Norton, near Fakenham, had first started to become ill with the condition back in March last year – yet it took 184 days before she was diagnosed.
Described as fun-loving and full of life, her family saw the former Fakenham High School and Fakenham College pupil’s health deteriorate to the point where she was struggling to walk.
The Leeds University graduate was diagnosed with bowel cancer in September. Her parents Di and William Dann, sister Adela and fiancé Matt Dolan were then given the devastating news in October that the illness was terminal as the disease had spread to her brain.
Mrs Dann, who now lives in Thursford, paid tribute to the great bravery with which her elder daughter bore her illness and called on others, including medical professionals, to take the symptoms of bowel cancer seriously.
Mrs Dann, who stepped down as Holt’s town clerk due to her daughter’s ill health, said: “Ali certainly packed more into her short life than a lot of people would into a full life. She was full of life, very focused, very caring and it’s a great loss for a lot of people.”
She added: “It’s unusual for young people to be diagnosed with bowel cancer but with young people, cancer is so much more vicious and Ali’s oncologist said she had treated six young people with bowel cancer this year – that’s just in one hospital in one city.
“We want to get the message out that people should be alert to the condition. If you feel that something is not right, you must persevere, be brave and deal with it urgently.”
Over the six months from when she first approached her doctor to her eventual diagnosis, Alex had lost a lot of weight, had gone to the accident and emergency department, been seen by a paramedic and had called the doctor for a home visit.
Her mum said she was fit, healthy and ate properly and she loved cycling and walking.
Together with her fiancé Matt, whom she had planned to marry in November last year but was too ill for the wedding, she spent a year working in Argentina and travelling in South America from July 2011 to July 2012.
The former Swaffham Sacred Heart Convent School pupil, who had survived a car crash and internal injuries when she was seven years old, had lived in Oxford for the last six years where she most recently worked as a marketing executive for Opus Energy.
She was admitted to the city’s John Radcliffe Hospital on the day of her diagnosis before she was transferred to the Churchill Cancer Hospital.
Alex was then moved to the Sir Michael Sobell Hospice, where she stayed for nearly eight weeks before she died.
Mrs Dann, whose younger daughter, Adela, 27, lives in Peterborough, said: “We would all say that we miss most her smile and her loveliness.
“We cannot begin to imagine her pain and we all tried to make the most of our final precious weeks, days and hours together.
“Ali described us as her ‘crew’ and we found opportunities to laugh together.
“Throughout this time Ali remained concerned and caring for us too and greeted nurses with her cheery smile.
“There is a legacy and a lesson to be learnt.
“Donations given in Ali’s memory will go towards the charity Beating Bowel Cancer to benefit others and allow them to be given a fighting chance. Ali was denied that fighting chance because of the late diagnosis.
“Ali’s wish is that young people and the medical profession should be better informed about bowel cancer and it is hoped that all monies raised will be used to do this.”
Donations to Beating Bowel Cancer can be made through www.justgiving.com/alexandradann.