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Community rallies behind Fife mum who lost her tongue to cancer

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A Fife family say they are overwhelmed by ‘the incredible groundswell of love and support’ they’ve had since a devastating cancer diagnosis.

Mum-of-two Jenny Stark, who lives in Cellardyke with her husband Ally and children Ruaridh, four, and eight-month-old Isla, was diagnosed with mouth cancer in December.

The heartbreaking news came just four weeks after Isla was born.

And Jenny underwent three operations before having her tongue removed in March.

The Church of Scotland fundraising group.

The couple, both in their 30s, are bowled over by the response from a group of trainee Church of Scotland ministers.

They are colleagues of Ally, who is studying Divinity at St Andrews University and on placement at Howe of Fife Parish Church.

The group walked across the Forth Road Bridge and back last Saturday raising £1700 for Maggie’s Dundee.

Love and support from every direction

Having the operation has had a profound impact on Jenny’s ability to eat and speak. She is currently having radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

Ally explains: “News of Jenny’s diagnosis, especially so soon after Isla’s arrival, came as a real shock to us.

The Stark family.

“Initially, I was worried about being able to continue in the immediate term on my calling to ordained ministry.

“We have, however, since experienced the most incredible groundswell of love and support, and from every direction.

“St Andrews University, Howe of Fife Church, the Church’s Faith Nurture Forum, my placement supervisor and those from across many congregations have been incredible.

“Their support has allowed me to continue on this path during this most difficult of times.

iPad to communicate

“The practical support of family and friends has also been so wonderful, and continues to get us through.”

Ally says the maxillofacial team at Ninewells Hospital – and the NHS as a whole – have been ‘amazing’.

Ally and Jenny.

Jenny has an iPad to help her communicate but Ally reveals she hasn’t needed to use it yet because her speech is “remarkable” considering what she’s been through.

He adds Jenny is currently just over a week away from finishing chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She “continues to amaze” the doctors and everyone she meets.

Supporting others

“It’s so affirming to be sharing the road to ministry with such wonderful people. We’re so humbled and in awe of their kindness,” the trainee minister says.

“The amazing sum of money they’ve raised will go towards supporting others through their own difficult journeys.

Maggie’s Dundee.

“I know just how valuable that will be. The centre was such a support for us, especially in their resources for talking to young children about cancer and hospital stays.”

The fundraising was organised by Jillian Storrie, 52, who starts her ministry probation at St John’s Parish Church in Hamilton soon.

“Ally is part of my ministry training network group and I wanted to do something practical to help the family,” she explains.

Fundraisers Jillian and Bill Storrie.

“It was a perfect day. The weather was fantastic. People loved getting together for a chat after not seeing each other for two years, and supporting a great cause.”

Jillian says she relates to Ally’s dilemma over whether to continue with his ambition to become a minister. Her 65-year-old husband Bill was given a life-changing diagnosis in 2020, during her own studies.

“The power of prayer and all the support we receive from the faith community has made all the difference to our lives and gets us through, just like Ally and Jenny.”

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