Scotty’s Little Soldiers – The story of Joanna and Mark Every

Mark Every, 42, lives in Marham, North Norfolk, with his two-year-old son, Joseph. He lost his wife Joanna to cancer six months ago.

Joanna and Mark met while they were both serving in the Royal Air Force at Marham, North Norfolk, in 2002. She was 21 years old and joining her first operational Squadron in the RAF, while he had travelled all over the world as a military engineer.

They were sent to many countries together including Afghanistan, and in 2009 he proposed. They were married in Rutland near Peterborough, and a couple of years later Joanna fell pregnant with their first child.

Joanna suffered an injury during childbirth, a fourth degree tear that left her incontinent within five days of giving birth. Joseph was born on June 22, 2011, but Joanna remained unwell and had difficulties with movement. In 2013 they received worse news – she has been diagnosed with rectal cancer and had to be treated with intensive chemotherapy.

“She was very stoic (about it), she was young and a strong fighter,” said Mark.

But Joanna received a set back when she suffered major bleeding and in May last year it was discovered the cancer had spread to her lungs.

She didn’t have a chance to prepare anything before her death. During her last few weeks Mark, Joanna and Joseph enjoyed one last celebration – Joanna’s birthday and Joseph’s Christening, and had one last day out together at Silverstone Grand Prix with Joanna in a wheelchair last June. She passed away two weeks later on July 11 at the age of 32.

Mark: “If she did know (she was going to die) she didn’t let me know.”

Joanna saw her son on the Sunday for the last time before she died on the Thursday. At that time Mark says she wasn’t very strong.

“She gave him a hug. She was lucid enough to speak and say goodbye to him before I took him home. The end came quickly, she was doing really well but when she started going downhill it happened really fast.”

Mark says he has found it difficult to adjust to life as a single dad and learning how to cope with his toddler’s grief.

“Joseph has certain signs of regression with his speech. It went back to how it was when his mum was alive. Where he had vocabulary it kind of stopped, which was picked up as a sign of bereavement but overall he’s coping as best a toddler could,” said Mark.

“For him, he’s only two and you have no idea really what’s going on in his mind but he just knows we don’t go to hospital to see mummy anymore.”

Mark says the one day he’s nervous about is Mothers’ Day, as it will be their first year without Joanna and more difficult than Christmas and birthdays when there is other family around.

“It’s a sad day for my little one, I feel more pain for him than myself,” he said. “Whether that will overwhelm him or he’ll understand, I don’t know.”

He says the nursery will make Mothers’ Day cards but he doesn’t know what else they will do yet.

He received a boost late last year with the offer of help from a charity set up to help children who have lost a mum or dad serving in the armed forces, called Scotty’s Little Soldiers.

The charity’s founder Nikki Scott got in touch with Mark after he advertised for babysitting help. Joseph has now been made a member of Scotty’s, and can take part in activities and weekends away organized by the charity to offer support in the grieving process.

“With Scotty’s it’s all about putting a smile back on the kids’ faces. We want to try and get him involved now with activities and it would be nice to take him away and get him involved in group activities,” said Mark.

For more information about Scotty’s Little Soldiers, please visit http://www.scottyslittlesoldiers.co.uk/ or call 01553 763000.