Lucy Crossley had just landed her dream job and was saving up to get married to fiance Liam when she first noticed something was wrong.
The then 27-year-old, from Leeds, had just begun a new career with a lingerie company when she suddenly developed a maddening itch all over her body but could find no rash or bites.
‘She was in London training for her new job and called me to tell me about it,’ said Liam, recalling the events of June 2013. ‘She was not one to make a fuss, so I knew it must be bad.’
After dropping in to a medical centre, Lucy was told she might have scabies – a contagious condition caused by mites – and was given some lotion.
However, the symptoms continued and got so bad she was making herself bleed from scratching.
A further visit to her own GP produced little in the way of relief – the 27-year-old prescribed a course of antihistamines in case it was an allergy.
The real cause of the itching, however, was far more terrifying than either she, or personal trainer, Liam could imagine.
Lucy had a tumour growing in a bile duct in her liver that would eventually take another four months to diagnose. By which time it was too late.
‘The moment they told us she had cancer, she broke down,’ continued Liam, now 30.
‘It was such a huge shock. I tried my best not to cry, too – I wanted to be strong for her.’
Bile duct cancer
Bile duct cancer was once very rare but is now on the rise. In 2013, 1,965 people were diagnosed with the condition compared to just 40 cases a year in 1968.
Once typically seen in those over 60, children are being diagnosed as young as 12. But scientists are yet to find out why.
Irritation and itching of the skin are common symptoms but the disease often remains silent until the sufferer turns yellow with jaundice.
By the time Lucy was diagnosed, in October 2013, her only option was chemotherapy – something she was confident would work.
She and Liam got married a year later – when she was midway through a course of treatment – and Liam still treasures memories of the day.
‘She didn’t even look ill. She was the most beautiful bride. She didn’t feel as if there was anything wrong with her,’ he said.
However, she was back in hospital two days before Christmas after fainting because of internal bleeding caused by the tumour squeezing a vein in her liver.
Two days after Valentine’s Day last year, Lucy was back in hospital to have a vein bypassed, but never woke up from the anaesthetic, dying, aged only 29, on February 20.
‘No one can really empathise – but I wouldn’t want people to feel the way I feel,’ Liam said, a year on,
‘I just want greater awareness of this disease and to prevent any more people suffering the way Lucy and I did.’