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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 April, 2005, 11:53 GMT 12:53 UK
Cancer mother's legacy to family
Helen Harcombe with daughter Ffion
Helen Harcombe gave instructions on how she wants Ffion brought up
A mother who died from breast cancer is helping to bring up her daughter - with a manual of advice she had written in the final stages of her illness.

Helen Harcombe, from Porth in the Rhondda, left instructions for raising seven-year-old Ffion.

It includes advice for husband Anthony on everything from school uniforms, hair, Christmas presents and bedding.

Mrs Harcombe's mother Diane Raybould said the three-page list brought the spirit of her daughter back.

Mrs Harcombe, who was 28, died shortly after Christmas 2004. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, nine months after finding a lump in her right breast.

Her family said she had been initially told she was a "low-risk patient" because she was just 26.

She had undergone a mastectomy, but by last year the cancer spread to her liver and she was told she had six months to live.

During those months, she decided to start writing the list of instructions detailing how she wanted Ffion brought up and gave it to her parents to give to her husband after her death.

Some of the 'To Do list'
Uniform bought every September. Check hair for nits regularly. Bath and hair every other night, AT LEAST. No child of mine to be smelly.
Make sure you serve food with veg/peas. Get fruit down her. Don't let her live out of cans, noodles and toast etc.
At Christmas time don't forget the smaller things like stocking fillers to make it look more and fill up the stocking - chocolates, bobbles, clips, make up, fun stuff etc.
Bedding should be changed once a fortnight, more if sweaty.
Flowers to me at least Mothers' Day, my birthday, Ffion's birthday, our anniversary, Christmas etc (in between would be nice!)
Keep in touch with Fi's godparents and my friends and especially Mam and Dad or ... I'll haunt you!
"After Helen had passed away, obviously there was a lot of sadness, a lot of grief, but the 'to do list', or the 'mummy list' was basically a focal point," said Ms Raybould.

"It brought the spirit back, because that embodied Helen, the way that she would have been - 'you don't do that - no daughter of mine does this' or 'you won't do that - I want my daughter to be brought up this way'.

"It did bring a smile to a lot of people's faces and the pointers I am sure will be with us forever probably."

Ms Raybould said it was also important to have left something for Ffion.

"It does show that even though her mother was going through a difficult illness, that the focus was on the family and on her," she said.

Jill Templeman, a family support team leader for Marie Curie Cancer Care in Wales, said the list was "a lovely and invaluable thing".

"We do encourage and try to support families to be open and prepare for death in lots of different ways with memory boxes and photo projects," she said.

"I think what it does is leave a continual bond for those that are left behind.

"It must have been very therapeutic for Helen and Anthony in doing this for Ffion."

Cancer specialist Baroness Ilora Finlay, professor of palliative medicine and vice dean in the School of Medicine at Cardiff University, said Mrs Harcombe had left "a tremendous legacy".

"Helen died tragically young, leaving a young daughter and I really hope for her daughter that that list and that letter will become indeed more treasured with time," she said.


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