Charity aims to ensure that Faye’s death was not in vain

Faye  Knowles Chapman
Faye Knowles Chapman

Faye Knowles-Chapman, who grew up in Lightcliffe, died in March in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary after being diagnosed with the disease when she was 24.

Before treatment started, she faced a long battle to persuade doctors to take her illness seriously and refer her for tests.

Dancer Faye Knowles Chapman

Dancer Faye Knowles Chapman

While she was seriously ill, she joined the calls for the age limit for smear tests to be lowered and now her family and friends are continuing the campaign in her memory through the Faye Knowles-Chapman Foundation.

A charity night was held at Old Pond pub, Hove Edge, on Friday and future fundraising events are being planned for later in the year.

Faye’s mum, Eileen, who works at the Old Pond, said: “Faye was a lively, articulate, beautiful young woman. She was passionate about dancing and started at around the age of four at the Dorothy Stevens School. She loved her job working as a dancer and choreographer on cruise ships with the Fred Olsen line.

“Faye travelled all over the world but loved coming home to Lightcliffe when she was on leave.

Faye Knowles Chapman with her parents Eileen and Richard

Faye Knowles Chapman with her parents Eileen and Richard

“Because she was a dancer and was usually fit and healthy, she knew her own body and couldn’t believe it when doctors were telling her there was nothing wrong. She had pain in her abdomen and swelling which she knew was not normal.” Faye, who attended Calder High School in Mytholmroyd, had to wait for four months before doctors eventually referred her for a smear test because it was felt she was too young to need one. When cancer was finally diagnosed, she had major surgery to remove her cervix and was given the all-clear six weeks later.

“When she got the diagnosis of cancer, in some ways it was a relief because she knew her condition was being taken seriously. She had the surgery and was given the all-clear. The doctors told her she could go back to work and we began to hope for the best.”

But three months later Faye was again ill with abdomen pain and was eventually sent home from the cruise ship where she was working. In November 2011 she was told the cancer had returned, that her condition was incurable and that she had around a year to live.

Faye came back to Lightcliffe to live with her parents, Eileen and dad Richard, who was fighting his own battle with cancer. Faye and her mum had a memorable last holiday together in New York - a place Faye had always wanted to visit.

“It was very hard not to feel bitter. Faye felt her future had been taken away from her. And we all felt that all the delays in getting a diagnosis had contributed to the way the illness progressed,” said Eileen.

Writing about her ordeal and the heartache of being given the all-clear only for the cancer to return, Faye said: “I feel very fortunate to have spent ten years living my dream, seeing and performing all over the world but this has very quickly been taken away from me.

“The realisation that I would never have my own home or my own family was extremely hard to accept.”

Faye’s funeral was attended by more than 300 people and the four liners in the Fred Olsen fleet held simultaneous memorial services for her.

“It was very touching to see how many friends Faye had and how popular she was. She led a very full life and made the most of every minute.

“Through the charity we want to try and stop other families going through what we’ve been through.”

The Faye Knowles Chapman Foundation will work to educate young women on the importance of cervical screening and will petition for the age of screening to be lowered.

Eileen said: “I’m sure cost will be given as a reason why there cannot be screening for younger women but when you compare it with the cost of cancer treatment it makes sense.

“It is awful to think of other young women being struck down with such a cruel, hidden disease.”