Yvonne Lowery was a special kind of person.

Husband Ben said she was fun, caring and determined – the kind of person who lit up a room and left everyone in it with a smile.

Even after losing her leg to a rare form of cancer, she quickly brushed herself off and signed up for the Race For Life – completing it just a few months after getting her first prosthetic limb.

Sadly her cancer would return just over a decade later, and this time it would prove terminal. But thanks to the support of the Eden Valley Hospice, she was able to make the most of the time she had left and leave her family with special memories they will cherish forever.

Ben and Yvonne met in the late 1990s, before the days of online dating websites like Match and Tinder. Instead it was a computer dating service, where users filled out a questionnaire and a computer matched them up, that brought them together – and love quickly blossomed.

“We met on a blind date in Carlisle in April 1998. We moved in together in August that year and were married in March 1999,” said Ben.

“Yvonne always joked that she got me for a knock-down price, because men had to pay £150 but she joined for just £90.”

But Sellafield worker Ben, now 49, said it was worth every penny.

“We had the best part of 20 years together. We were very happy. There were some difficult times but we got through them together. We were a strong couple, very loving and very caring.

“I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It’s difficult now, but I’d much rather have had that strong relationship,” he said.

Yvonne, from Carlisle, and Ben set up home in Dearham, near Maryport, and went on to get a dog, two cats and three rabbits.

She worked as a doctor’s receptionist, although she did dream of becoming a radiographer, starting an access course to get into university.

However she was first diagnosed with cancer soon after, in 2004, and she was forced to put her studies on hold.

Her original cancer was in her leg, behind her right knee. She had surgery to remove it then chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

But the growth came back, and at the end of November 2005 she agreed to have right leg amputated above the knee.

Ben said: “It was very rare - a synovial sarcoma. She’d had pain in her leg for quite a long time, several years. She’d had X-rays but that wouldn’t pick it up. It was behind her knee so there was no swelling.

“They first thought it was a cyst. They operated, but sent it for biopsy. When it came back they said it was this rare type of cancer.

“After the amputation she did amazingly well. One of her personality traits was that she was very determined and almost stubborn at times. She wanted to prove to herself that she could get back on her feet. She did the Race for Life in July 2006, just a few months after getting her first prosthetic. She was last, but she did it. She was just a very inspirational person.”

After the amputation she went back to work as a receptionist at the Silloth GP practice, where she was very popular. However she was plagued with severe migraines as a side effect of her treatment.

More than 10 years after her original cancer diagnosis, she found out it had returned, this time in her lungs.

“She started with a dry cough, but it wasn’t very noticeable at first. As it got worse, doctors thought it could be asthma,” said Ben.

“I didn’t really make the connection but we had always been told that it’s a very unpredictable cancer and if it did come back it could come back as lung cancer. The cough got worse and worse.”

After more tests, she was sent straight to A&E with a suspected blood clot. Once in hospital, doctors found the cancer.

In July 2017 she was given the terrible news - that she had a terminal growth, and this time it was too big to operate.

“We were both devastated. But typical Yvonne, after a couple of days of coming to terms with it, she reverted back to her usual self. She said she wanted to make the most of the time she had. Straight away she was also thinking of others again – about how I would cope,” he said.

Her sister Helen was due to marry, but brought forward the wedding so that Yvonne could be there, and the pair immersed themselves in the planning. The wedding was held in December last year with Yvonne as maid of honour. “It was a wonderful day. Because their parents had both passed away, Yvonne walked her sister down the aisle,” said Ben.

Yvonne decided to have chemotherapy treatment to try and extend her life, but also started to plan for what was to come – which is how she first got in touch with the Carlisle-based hospice.

“She was very practical and pragmatic. She decided almost straight away that she didn’t want to die at home, because she didn’t want me to think of the house as the place she’d died. We made early contact with the Eden Valley Hospice and it turned out to be really good that we did.

“People think it’s a place where you go for your last few days, but it’s not. It’s much more than that,” explained Ben.

He said staff from the hospice came out to the house to suggest improvements to make life easier for her and arranged counselling, for Yvonne, but also for Ben.

After Christmas, her health started to deteriorate. In early February she went back for a scan and was told the treatment was no longer working, and the tumour - between her chest walls and lungs - was starting to grow again. They thought she may have a few months left to live, but by the end of the month she was worsening, and in a lot of pain.

“It was devastating. We were in touch with the GP and hospice almost daily because we couldn’t get on top of her pain,” said Ben.

Hospice staff suggested she go into the inpatient unit, just for a few days, while they found a way to manage the pain.

Ben said: “She went in on February 26. I have to say she was very nervous. I think she knew she was more ill than she was letting on. Within half an hour of arriving she was sitting up bed, being her usual self. Everyone was so welcoming. That nervousness just evaporated.”

Realising she was reaching the end of her life, Ben took time off work to be with Yvonne. Hospice staff allowed him to take her beloved dog Emily through to see her, which made all the difference.

“She was the light of Yvonne’s life. Yvonne was so happy to see her. It really helped,” he said.

On the Wednesday morning, as the Beast from the East snowstorm started to hit Cumbria, Ben got a call from the hospice.

“They told me to pack a bag and go to stay there. They knew I’d struggle to get there through the snow if I left it too long,” he said.

“They let me take Emily and made a special provision that she could stay with me through the night. By the time I got there Yvonne wasn’t really conscious. One of took me into another room and told me she was very close to the end, and wouldn’t be going home. She broke the news in the best possible way. Kind and gentle, but open and honest.”

Ben said being in the hospice made all the difference.

“That night she was quite agitated, but the staff were fantastic. Every time I pressed the buzzer they were there. There was never a time when they said there was nothing they could do. They’d always come up with something. By the morning she was a lot more at peace. For those last 18 hours she was very comfortable and peaceful,” he said.

Yvonne died in the early hours of the Friday morning, on Ben’s birthday, with him and Emily were sleeping next to her.

“She’s always said she wanted to get to my birthday, and she died on March 2. I think she’d held on. She did slip away absolutely at peace and I feel I saw a smile on her face,” he said.

Ben said he still misses her every day, but takes real comfort from the way she died, and will always be thankful to the hospice for that.

“I think the difference between the hospice and an NHS hospital is that they specialise in end of life care and have that extra bit of time. They weren’t just taking care of Yvonne, they were taking care of me too.

“That’s not a criticism of the NHS. They did a fantastic job in trying to extend her life, but the hospice helped her make the most of that time. They worked hand in hand.

“The care that Yvonne received was fantastic. It was the whole service that they provided, right from when we first got in touch. It wasn’t just a bed for her last few days.

“They made the last nine or 10 months much more bearable for her, for me and our extended family,” he added.