THEIR smiles said it all...

Clutching a posy of pink roses and white lilies, Susan Rumney revelled in the moment as she and her new husband Jay Clark posed for wedding photos before the altar of St Kentigern’s Church in Aspatria on a bright autumn morning last November.

It was a truly happy day.

But behind the smiles there was sadness for everyone knew that 26-year-old mum Susan was nearing the end of her life. Weeks earlier, she was diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer.

She died on March 20 this year.

This week, as health chiefs launched a campaign to encourage more women to take up cervical smear screening, Jay courageously shared their story in the hope of saving others from a similar tragedy.

New figures show that cervical smear test take-up rates are at a 20 year low.

Experts believe some women may avoid the test through embarrassment.

In the UK, all women between the ages of 25 and 49 are invited for screening every three years, while for those aged between 50 and 64 it is every five years. The test takes just five minutes but can saves lives by detecting abnormal cells which if treated can prevent cancer.

“Women offered this test shouldn’t be scared, or embarrassed,” said Jay, from Northside, Workingon.

“You only get one life. I lost my best friend to this disease. Women who are offered a smear test should have one. No family should go through what we’ve gone through.”

Susan was offered a smear test but did not have one because she was pregnant, said Jay.

“If they’d been able to start treatment sooner, they could have kept Susan’s cancer at bay for longer. She’d still have been here now. Susan and I were planning to get married. When she got the diagnosis we had to move things forward.”

The couple married while Susan was an in-patient at Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital. They were surrounded by family and friends, including her children Grayson, one, Lexie, three, and Mackenzie, nine. Jay also has a son Leo, now 12.

“Susan cried,” recalled Jay. “And I nearly cried.”

A week later, thanks to a fundraising by her sister Lisa, 25, the couple had the kind of classy wedding day Susan had always dreamed of, its pomp and ceremony combining to show the world their love and commitment.

In her tiara and wedding dress, she looked every inch the bride and arrived in a stylish, horse-drawn carriage, escorted by her father John.

The church was packed. “It meant everything to her,” said Jay. “She always said she’d marry before she hit 40. She got her wish - and I married my perfect person.

“She was my wife and my best friend, all in one. We could not have asked for a better day. She was treated like a princess.

“People all over Cumbria knew our story. I was very grateful for what everybody did, but on the day I was more concerned about making sure Susan got everything she wanted.

“My concentration was on trying to keep her hopes up.It was the best day of our lives.”

The couple met through Facebook. “She was a bit of a joker, and had a big heart,” said Jay. “She loved the kids; and she loved me. You couldn’t ask for a better lass. She was one of the biggest hearted people you could meet. She’d give you her last pound; her last penny. She helped everyone. Susan was always happy; always smiling.”

He spoke poignantly their last days together.

“I was at the hospital in the Monday morning to see Susan and was there till the afternoon. She was talking and having a laugh. We were both taking the mickey out of her sister. Susan was still laughing as I went home.

“I told her: “See you tomorrow.

“I got back to Workington, and then got a call telling me to go back to the hospital. I didn’t know what had happened. She’d stopped talking.

“She lasted three days, until the Wednesday morning. She managed to find the strength to touch my face, and then she passed away in my arms. She’d looked into my eyes and then stopped breathing. She was letting me know she was going.”

Jay added: “I’d say to every woman: if you’re offered a cervical smear test, do it. Nobody should have to leave their family behind. Don’t pass up the chance of a test.”

Jay’s plea was supported by Penrith man Tony ‘Joe’ Butterworth, whose wife Nicki died last April, eight years after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer.