WHEN Sarah Wharton’s sister-in-law went for a regular smear test, little did she know she was going to be diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Charlene Surtees was only 31 when she lost her fight with the disease in January, leaving behind four children and a devastated extended family.

On Saturday, 35-year-old Sarah, from Calne, had her hair shaved off in Charlene’s memory and raised more than £400 for Cancer Research UK.

The Mallard pub in Lyneham, where Sarah had her precious waist-length hair shorn , was packed with dozens of supporters and well-wishers who had turned out to enjoy a barbecue, stalls and bouncy castle in the sunshine and take part in a raffle in Charlene’s memory.

Sarah said: “Charlene is my inspiration for this.

“It was a very hard thing for me because my hair is very precious to me. I am always messing with my hair and doing different things with it.

“When they did the first cut the first thing I thought is how much lighter it felt.”

When Charlene died earlier this year, Sarah and her family were heartbroken.

Sarah said: “Charlene was diagnosed with cervical cancer about 18 months ago when she went for a regular smear test. “She went on a regular basis and it came out of the blue.

“She had chemotherapy and radiotherapy and she was given the all-clear, but about six months later she went back for a check up and they told her it was terminal. It had spread through all of her body.

“It was quite horrendous. But we had to say strong for my brother, Richard, and the children. “It was devastating. It felt as though your whole world had a huge hole torn out of it.

“I just want to tell other women that they must have their smear tests done to try and prevent this. It’s not the nicest procedure to go through but it could save your life.”

The latest statistics from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) reveal that fewer women in Swindon are responding to their invitations to take a smear test. The percentage of women aged 24 to 49 who took the test to check for cervical cancer fell by 1.5 per cent since 2012, with almost a quarter of the women eligible to take the test failing to respond to invitations to have the screening.

The news has alarmed experts at Public Health England, who have continued to urge women to respond to their invitations for screening.

Richard Winder, deputy director of the NHS Cancer Screening Programmes at Public Health England, said: “Busier lifestyles often make it more of a challenge for women to attend their cervical screening appointments, but regular screening remains the best preventative measure against cervical cancer and we strongly encourage all women to accept the offer for cervical screening when invited.”

As well as fundraising for Cancer Research UK, Sarah also donated her hair to the Little Princess Trust, which makes real-hair wigs for children.

You can still sponsor Sarah online by visiting www.justgiving.com/sarah-wharton2.