A teacher died after being diagnosed with cervical cancer just days after she was called for her first routine smear test – at the age of 25.
Tragic Gemma Marsh passed away just six months after she was told she had the crippling disease.
She was called to her local GP in Wolverhampton having just turned the minimum age for a cervical screening in November last year.
But just days after the test the pretty primary school teacher was told her results showed abnormalities and she was asked to attend a hospital appointment.
Three days later, just before she was due to be examined, Gemma received a phone call saying a surgeon wanted to speak to her.
She then went to Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital where she was given the devastating news that she had a tumour.
Over the next few months Gemma underwent intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions.
But on May 17 doctors told her there was nothing more they could do because the cancer had spread to her liver and stomach.
She died ten days later on May 27 at home surrounded by her friends and family.
Her devastated parents Shan and Darren Marsh yesterday (Fri) called for the screening age to be lowered to save future lives.
Legislation was changed in 2003 to mean regular smear tests are only given to women aged 25 and over.
They also revealed Gemma had compared her plight to that of Big Brother star Jade Goody – who died from the same disease in 2009, aged 27.
The government came under pressure to lower the age of cervical cancer tests after the death of the reality TV star.
Darren, a 47-year-old van driver, said: “I think they should lower the age to stop this happening to other people.
“Doctors said she could not have known it was there inside her before the smear test.
“She compared herself to Jade Goody in the way she reacted to the treatment.
“She was always bubbly and chatty, even during her treatment.
“Gemma was able to get on with everybody, I think because she listened to people.
“She always wanted to be a teacher. She set her heart on it.
“We are all devastated.”
Heartbroken Mum Shan, 48, added: “Gemma suspected something wasn’t right when she went to hospital the first time.
“We were met by a gynaecologist and a MacMillan nurse and they told her she had a tumour.
“She was devastated. She was just asking what was going to happen, whether she was going to die.
“She kept asking doctors why. She asked them could she have changed anything in her life to avoid it.
“There were lots of tears, and as the treatment followed, she was devastated as her hair started to fall out just before Christmas.
“I think she roughly knew when she was going to die but there was that slight chance treatment would give her some extra years.
“She didn’t cry, because she didn’t want us to get upset, and that gave her the strength to carry on.”
Gemma had landed her dream job as a teacher at Great Bridge Primary School, in the West Midlands., and was looking forward to moving in with boyfriend Alex Lees, 32.
Headteacher Liz Regan said Gemma had brought a ‘fizz and sparkle’ to the job and her death had hit staff and pupils ‘unbelievably hard’.
Parent Shoana Knight, whose daughter went to Miss Marsh’s school, added: “She was a fantastic teacher who touched many hearts.
“It was a total shock to hear of the awful news a few months ago and even more of a shock to hear she had lost her battle against that horrid disease last week.
“My heart goes out to all her family and friends and to all the children at Great Bridge Primary School, life is so cruel such a young age to be taken away.”
The school will be closing on Monday and Tuesday next week as a mark of respect.
Gemma’s funeral is on Tuesday.