Tributes paid to "beautiful" and "loving" Ipswich woman Tess Duffy, who has died of cancer aged 24
PUBLISHED: 14:05 28 July 2016 | UPDATED: 14:05 28 July 2016
The family of a 24-year-old woman from Ipswich who has died of cancer have paid tribute to her "strength" and "bravery" as she was determined to live life to the full despite the devastating diagnosis.
Tess Duffy did not know she carried a faulty gene that greatly increases the risk of getting breast cancer until she was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 20.
The former Ipswich High School for Girls and Northgate Sixth Form pupil underwent eight months of treatment and was on the road to recovery, but just a year a half later she was told that she had developed liver cancer.
She fought the disease for another two years but on June 21 she suffered a seizure and went for critical care at Ipswich Hospital. Tess died just three days later at St Elizabeth Hospice.
Describing Tess, her family said: “She was beautiful, fun and loving.
“She would laugh at anything and that is one of things we are really missing right now because you could just say anything to her and she would laugh.
“Her friends were really, really important to her, she had millions of friends as we found out at her funeral.
“She wanted to be treated as normal, she didn’t want sympathy and she didn’t want people to feel sorry for her.
“The main point to get across with Tess is she never battled cancer, she just got on with her life. We have had hospital appointments with her where we have been there all day and anybody else would be absolutely shattered but she would come back, hair extensions in, make up on, and out she goes.
“Her ending came way before she ever expected. We never, ever spoke about death because that wasn’t part of her living.
“Tess always said she got her strength from us, but actually we got our strength from her.”
Tess, who leaves behind two siblings aged 17 and 14, was in the second year of a psychology degree at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge when she was first diagnosed with breast cancer.
In spite of going through intensive chemotherapy, Tess returned to her studies and finished her degree the following year achieving a 2:1 grade.
Tess most recently worked as a shift manager at The Cricketers pub in Ipswich, and her family said she would often return to work after a chemotherapy session because she “absolutely loved” the job.
“A lot of her work colleagues didn’t know she had cancer, there’s a very selective few that knew, and the reason for that is she said she never wanted to be treated differently,” Tess’ family added.
“We think that’s probably what kept her going, the fact that nobody felt sorry for her because she would have hated that.”
Family members commended the “amazing” support they had received from Tess’ friends since her death.
Tess inherited a mutated version of the BRCA2 gene, similar to that of American actress Angelina Jolie and former Liberty X star Michelle Heaton, from her father’s side.
Today the family are speaking out about Tess’ story to encourage young people to learn about their family’s medical history in the hope that it will help others get diagnosis and treatment early.
“Tess didn’t know she had this gene,” the family added. “If she knew what signs to look out for then things could have been very different.”
What is the BRCA2 gene?
BRCA1 and BRCA2 are protein-producing genes that work to protect people from cancer by correcting damage that can occur in DNA.
Everyone has two copies of the genes in their bodies, one which is inherited from the father and one from the mother.
If an individual has a mutation in either the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene then they have a greater risk of getting breast or ovarian cancer.
People who have a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer can have a genetic test for mutated BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
In 2013 Angelina Jolie discovered that she carries a faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene. Later that year she had a double mastectomy to minimise the risk of developing cancer.
In 2012 Michelle Heaton had both her breasts removed as well as her ovaries and womb after finding out she has a mutated BRCA2 gene.
These high-profile cases have raised awareness of the genes and highlighted the benefits of genetic testing and preventive surgery.