The husband and best friends of a mum who died within a week of being diagnosed with leukaemia have paid tribute to a woman who had a “zest for life and who would do anything for anybody”.
And on Sunday, a group of around 20 friends pulled together to keep the memory of Natalie Heap (38) alive.
Natalie, who grew up in Read, will be remembered for her dedication to her three children and for her friendly and loyal nature.
The former Burnley College student had moved to Weymouth with her partner Christopher seven years ago, having previously lived in Barrowford. She had also worked in retail in Pendle, and at The Walton Arms, in Altham.
Throughout her life, she had remained fit and healthy, and had always enjoyed socialising and shopping. Her funeral was packed with friends and family from up and down the country.
Paying tribute former Park High School student and sale manager Christopher (48), who married Natalie five years ago, said: “She had had a few aches and pains at the end of November, but nothing crazy. She went to hospital and within a week she had gone. It was just so fast.
“She was really fit, had so many friends, and was a fantastic mother to our three girls Mia (2), Jessica (8) and Olivia (10). She had a zest for life and would do anything for anybody. Her mother had gone through cancer last year, and she took her to hospital every day. When we moved down to Weymouth we had a house built near the beach - it was a fantastic life and we had nailed it.”
Growing up, Natalie attended St Wilfrid’s High School, in Blackburn, where she was best friends with Jennie Gardiner and Sarah Rushton.
Despite Natalie moving away, the trio had always kept in touch and would regularly make the five-hour trip to see one another.
Jennie (38), a beauty therapist and mum-of-two, said: “Natalie was fun, she was very loyal to us, and she never let us down.
“She was always there at the end of the phone, and if we needed her she would get in the car and come up. Distance was never an issue for her.
“We had so much fun, the three of us, growing up together and going on holidays.
“When we were at high school we used to go horse riding in Fence at the weekends, and we just loved going out and socialising.
“I expected her to be there for the rest of my life - it has just been so quick.”
Another close friend Katy Higginson (36), of Higham, was on her way to see Natalie when she received the phone call saying she had died.
The mum-of-three said: “She was a very devoted mum, who spent all of her time with her kids.
“She was a really lovely person, and this has just been such a shock. She was 38, in good health, with three young children - it just shouldn’t happen.
“Everything was going right for her as well, which just makes it even worse.”
It is hoped more fund-raising events for Natalie will be organised in the near future.