Published: 06:00, 01 February 2021
A 27-year-old mum given months to live after a shock cancer diagnosis is hoping to make precious memories with her children.
Mum-of-three Tiffany Dean, from Herne Bay, went into hospital a few days before Christmas after blood tests showed she had unusually high calcium levels.
But scans soon revealed a mass in her liver, which doctors confirmed is cholangiocarcinoma - a cancer of the bile duct.
Tiffany and husband Sean later received the devastating news that the cancer is inoperable.
And on January 13, they were dealt a further blow when they were told the mum has between a few months and a year to live.
Now, friends are raising money to help Tiffany fulfil her ambition of arranging lasting keepsakes for her three young children - including gifts to store away for their future birthdays and weddings, and having professional photos taken of the family.
Sean, 32, said: "It's hard to say we've come to terms with the fact that Tiffany's going to pass away, but we've accepted that that is the only way things are going to go. Although it doesn't make it any easier.
"There's a sense of loss already.
"The first two or three weeks, I couldn't do anything but cry, and the same with Tiffany.
"It's not that I'm not emotional about the situation now. I think because I've had to speak about it so many times, it doesn't make me crack every single time.
"My heart's going to break.
"My heart's already broken. I feel like I'm losing a part of myself."
The couple, who live in Queens Gardens, had initially hoped Tiffany would have more time.
"We'd done some research and it looked between two and four years for this sort of cancer," said Sean.
"But the oncologist said from the size of it, it looks like Tiffany's had it for 18 months to two years already."
The mum had been feeling ill for several months, but had not realised her sickness was a sign of something so serious.
"This kind of cancer hides very well in young people," said Sean. "The body fights and fights, so you don't really see the changes in yourself. Then all of a sudden it drops off a cliff."
Just days after receiving the heart-wrenching prognosis, Tiffany fell gravely ill.
She was admitted to the Pilgrims Hospice with dangerously high calcium levels - a condition known as hypercalcemia - which caused her kidneys to fail.
"Everyone was telling us this was most likely the end," said Sean. "But she was fighting and doing everything she could to hold on."
Thankfully, Tiffany pulled through and is now back at home with her family, and is on medication to manage her pain.
"I reckon we've now got anywhere between two months, to six months maximum," said Sean.
"Those calcium levels are going to come back, and there will only be so many times she can fight that off."
Sean describes Tiffany - a former Community College Whitstable pupil who grew up living in Herne Bay, Whitstable and Canterbury - as an "amazing" woman.
"She's so strong," he said. "She's funny, gorgeous, and the best mother I could ever wish for my children.
"I love her to pieces.
"Tiffany sort of saved me.
"I used to work in a pub, and drink all the time. Drinking every day started taking its toll, especially on my mental health.
"Then I met Tiffany."
The pair have now been together for 10 years.
They married in 2015, and have three children together: Henry, seven; Chloe, six; and Jacob, 16 months.
After receiving her diagnosis, Tiffany made a list of things she would like to do with her remaining time.
"She wanted to get Jacob and Chloe christened - she wanted to witness that," said Sean. "And to take Jacob on his first holiday.
"We've been shielding since February, so we've only spent about three weeks outside in the last year.
"Tiffany's not been able to go out and do things with the children because of the pandemic. That's why this is so important."
Some of Tiffany's goals may sadly not be possible, due to the time she has left, and because of the pandemic.
But the family still hope to achieve as many as they can.
Tiffany wishes to leave each of her children a present, for every birthday until they reach 18, along with a gift to be given to them on their wedding days.
The couple also hopes to have professional photographs taken of the family.
"So the kids have something really nice," said Sean. "Before Tiffany looks too poorly."
He adds that time is of the essence, as there is a risk Tiffany could suddenly fall ill again.
Friends of the beloved mum have now launched a fundraiser, to help make sure she can achieve as many of her goals as possible, and to help the family with funeral costs.
To donate, visit the Gofundme page.