Remembering Sophie Edwards
PUBLISHED: 00:16 24 December 2011 | UPDATED: 20:28 20 February 2013
Sophie Edwards began the searingly honest journal she kept as she battled terminal cancer
I am 16, soon to be 17, never to be 18.
With this single sentence, Sophie Edwards began the searingly honest journal she kept as she battled terminal cancer. This remarkable young woman, from St Martins, near Oswestry, knew she would soon lose her unequal struggle and, as she so heartbreakingly predicted, she never did get to see her 18th birthday.
Her nearest and dearest, and indeed everyone touched by her story, vowed to make sure her special anniversary did not pass by unnoticed.
The guest of honour might have been absent, but more than 300 people gathered together at Oswestrys Lion Quays venue to raise a glass and more than 7,000 in lasting tribute to Sophies life.
Every penny was for a Shropshire-based childrens cancer trust, the Hayley Higginson Trust.
Among those who turned out to mark the birthday were Sophies amazing parents Neil and Debbie, still reeling from the loss of their beloved daughter in March 2011 but determined all the same to do what they can to help other families going through the same horrendous ordeal.
Said Neil: It was a very emotional night for us. As I told everyone on the night, it is easy for us to talk about and remember Sophie with her friends; the hardest thing is living without her.
Sophie was diagnosed with a particularly virulent sarcoma while still at school at Rhyn Park.
From the start the doctor told her it was going to be a battle, but she was up for it and she fought all the way, said Neil. She was given the all-clear just before Christmas 2010 but within three months it had returned and had spread to her spine. She was fighting to the end but it was not to be.
The youngster so touched the local community that thousands of pounds was raised to fund a dream holiday to Florida, and other magical days. Neils employer Kronospan were incredible, giving Neil the precious time he craved with his daughter. The amazing teenager even organised her own funeral at St Martins parish church, which was attended by more than 500 people.
During her ordeal she had befriended fellow Salopian, Hayley Higginson, from Telford. Hayley tragically lost her own fight for life in 2010, but the Trust set up in her name helped fund special days out for Sophie and also introduced her to Optima Hair specialist Pete Murtha, who created specialist wigs for Sophie after she lost her hair during chemotherapy.
Among those attending the 18th birthday night were Hayleys parents Andy and Lisa.
Organiser Linda McGowan, from St Martins, arranged Joey Smouts BRB Big Band, DJ Jez Layton and local guest performers, and the grand charity auction. Pride of place at the event went to a beautiful portrait of Sophie.
Said Linda: It was an amazing night. Everyone pulled together and wanted to do something to mark this special event. The tickets for the night sold out in two weeks; we could have sold out twice over.
Sophies family hope the money raised on the night will support other families, and are particularly keen to help fund the purchase of a caravan in north Wales where families can retreat when they need some time out together.
The Hayley Higginson Trust aims to provide advice and guidance to the families of young cancer patients; provide specialist hair systems to children suffering hair loss due to chemotherapy treatment; and create happy experiences for cancer stricken children and their families. The Trust works in partnership with the Lingen Davies Childrens Cancer Unit on Ward 16 at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, where the fight for life and a healthy future first begins for young cancer sufferers locally. It is also supported by Birmingham Childrens Hospital
and Optima Hair Specialists.
Anyone who wishes to make a donation to the Hayley Higginson Trust can call 01952 402833 or visit www.thehayleyhigginsontrust.org