The parents of a 19-year-old student thought to be one of the youngest women in Britain to die from breast cancer spoke today of the "devastating" moment their daughter lost her final battle.
Sarah Louise McKie was diagnosed with breast cancer in August last year. Up until three weeks ago she believed she had been controlling the disease which had also claimed the lives of her grandmother and great-grandmother.
But the cancer had spread to her brain.
"That was the beginning of the end," said her father Malcolm, speaking from the family home in Haworth, West Yorkshire. "It was a devastating blow because we knew how hard she had fought.
"Last week Sarah came to see her mother. They had a cry and she said to her mum: "I want it to end"."
But he added: "I like to think that the worst day of my life has gone. The second is going to be tomorrow at her funeral. It’s unbelievable. She seemed to be going to well this year.
"From January she seemed to be going so well. She knew she hadn’t beaten it but it was being controlled. She said: "I know I won’t get a long life" but she was thinking of 30-40 years. And she thought the same as I did. The more controlled it is the longer you have to wait for a cure.
"I know it’s rare but I would say that she’s been lucky she had 18 bloody good years out of 19."
Sarah spent her last evening at home in bed with her mother before being taken to Airedale General Hospital in Steeton.
Mr McKie, 51, and his 48-year-old wife, gave doctors permission to remove the breathing tube which was keeping their daughter alive when her terminal condition became evident.
Today experts in the field described her death as "very, very rare".
Dr Stephen Duffy, of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, said: "It’s extremely unusual to have a death from breast cancer at that age. Even to get breast cancer at that age the chances are one in one million to die from it.
"It’s absolutely devastating for her family. I had a look at list of national statistics and from the years 1990-92 there wasn’t a single death from breast cancer in that age group. It’s safe to say this is one of the youngest deaths from the disease."
"We do know that there are genetic components in breast cancer. But even taking that into account this is an extremely rare events and I’m absolutely amazed."
She underwent six courses of chemotherapy and in November, after the tumour had receded, had both breasts removed.
"Sarah had great courage," said Mr McKie, a warehouse manager. "She was an amazingly warm and positive person. And she was a great support to me during her mother’s recovery from a stroke," he added.
Sarah recently changed her university course so she could live at home. The Sheffield Hallam University undergraduate was planning to return to Huddersfield University in September to train as a teacher.
On the evening before she died, Mrs McKie slept with Sarah in her bed - something she had not done since she was a little girl.
When Sarah later failed to regain consciousness, she was taken to Airedale hospital, where she died.
Sarah’s funeral will take place tomorrow.