Jun 13, 2023

Tributes paid to South Shields mum

Billie-Joe Graham sadly passed away two days before she was due to begin treatment, aged 49

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Tributes have been paid to a devoted mum-of-four who tragically died just 12 days after being diagnosed with cancer.

Billie-Joe Graham had recently become a grandmother when she received the devastating news that she had terminal stomach cancer which had spread to her liver. She sadly passed away two days before she was due to begin treatment, aged 49.

The midwife, who continued working up until her passing, was yet to inform her friends and family of her diagnosis. Today her husband paid tribute to his wife, describing as "the most selfless person" who would go out of her way to help others.

Read more: Monkseaton teenager's dream to help other children with cancer made a reality two years after his death

Kenny Graham, from South Shields, said: "She was everything for everybody else but herself. She never wanted anything for herself. She was the most selfless person. We had four kids and it was always the kids first, everything for them, never for her."

Billie-Joe worked as a midwife for South Tyneside Healthcare Trust from 1994. But before her role in the NHS she was working in the Army as a nurse and served on the front line in the Gulf War.

Upon her return to the UK 30 years ago, Billie-Joe met Kenny during a visit to the North East from her hometown of Hull. They married in 1997 and went on to have four children - Toby, 17, Neevie, 25, Jai, 27, and Zak, 29 - as well as a granddaughter, aged two.

In celebration of her upcoming 50th birthday and 25th wedding anniversary in July 2022, Billie-Joe and Kenny had planned to travel to see the Northern Lights, which she had always dreamed of seeing. But unfortunately they never got chance to go.

She passed away on April 10, 2022, following her diagnosis 12 days earlier on March 29. She had visited the doctor with stomach pains, which she thought could have been gallstones.

Kenny, 53, said: "She didn't feel well on the Saturday and I just knew something wasn't right. An ambulance came and the paramedics carried her out. Her last words were 'I love you' which she shouted to the kids as she was getting carried down stairs."

He added: "Billie didn't tell any of her friends or family when she was diagnosed with cancer because she didn't want anyone to know. They kind of knew, they suspected it, but she never told anyone, which was really sad because a lot of people never really got the chance to say goodbye.

"We didn't tell the kids that she had terminal cancer, we just told them she had cancer. She was due to start treatment on the Monday and then she was taken into hospital on the Saturday night, 12 days after being diagnosed. She wasn't even on the sick from work."

Billie-Joe passed away with her family by her side, including her parents who travelled from Hull to be with their daughter. The family have been left heartbroken by their loss and Kenny is now hoping to continue his wife's legacy of helping others by fundraising for Cancer Research and families in need.

Kenny, who works as a deputy headteacher at Monkwearmouth Academy, in Sunderland, had originally planned to set up a charity in Billie-Joe's name. But after feeling that he's not ready to take that step, he has joined forces with the friends he plays football with twice a week and entered a charity football match in support of a teenager who had to have his leg amputated after being diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, last year.

Kenny said: "We wanted to have somewhere where we could raise some money for her and we could put that towards Cancer Research or a needy family.

"There's a group of lads that I play football with twice a week and we were going to organise our own charity match. But one of the parents from the school contacted me and she runs a charity family fun day, where it's the same sort of theme - they raise money for Cancer Research and families who are struggling."

The charity football match is part of a family fun day which has been organised by Vici Peebles, a mum who lost her son Kieran to neuroblastoma in 2007, aged eight. In memory of what would have been Kieran's 21st birthday, Vici started a charity fun day to raise money for Cancer Research and a child living with cancer.

Now the annual event raises money for a different child every year. The event will take place at Monkwearmouth School on June 24, where there will be adult and youth football tournaments, as well as a bouncy castle, food, beer tent, a tombola, and a cake stall.

And participating is a great way for Kenny to pay tribute to Billie-Joe, who always went out of her way to help others.

Kenny added: "She was just the most caring person. She would go out of her way for people, particularly those who had nothing. She would try and get them prams, cots, toys for Christmas, food hampers, clothes. We'd be running round on Christmas Eve dropping food hampers off."

To donate to Kenny's fundraiser in memory of Billie-Joe, visit his GoFundMe page here.

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