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Tributes paid to Queen Elizabeth Hospital nurse and Swaffham's 'Mrs Cricket' after cancer battle

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A North Pickenham family has paid tribute to the "Mrs Cricket" of Swaffham, and a former nurse at Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, who sadly lost her battle with cancer last week.

Sharon Payne, who has been described as the "life and soul" of Swaffham Cricket Club, died at the age of 50 on Friday having been diagnosed with Mesothelioma in 1998.

Her husband Michael said: "She had been in and out of hospital over the last few months but, unsurprisingly for Sharon, she had really turned it around before cruelly suffering a stroke the week before she passed away. It was just too much, even for Sharon.”

Sharon and her two boys Jasper and Alec at Jasper's Graduation ceremony. Picture: SUBMITTED
Sharon and her two boys Jasper and Alec at Jasper's Graduation ceremony. Picture: SUBMITTED

Mesothelimona is a type of cancer directly associated with exposure to asbestos, and having been told she only had six months to survive, she went on to live for 22 more years.

Mr Payne said: "Sharon was a fighter and would not give up, she was determined to see her boys graduate.

"Over the years Sharon went through a lot of treatments, initially she went for chemotherapy at St Bartholomew’s Hospital for more than two years, followed by visits to many other hospitals for various treatments from radiotherapy to immunotherapy.

"Sharon was not a complainer, and if something was not right, she would not sit and moan about it, she would change it."

She fully immersed herself into Swaffham Cricket Club where her two sons Jasper, 23, and Alec, 25, are captains of the Saturday and Sunday first teams respectively.

Over time, Sharon took on many roles at the club, which included being the child welfare officer, the fixtures secretary and the youth coordinator.

Moreover, she was the club's official scorer, something she was also able to offer the Norfolk over 70s cricket team, which subsequently saw her travel to places across the country including Hampshire and Sussex. Sharon would also score winter indoor matches in Lynn.

Mr Payne, who lived five doors away from his future wife as a child growing up in North Pickenham, said: "She was that type of person who likes sorting things out. When she got her heart into something, there was no stopping her.

"She started helping in the youth section at the cricket club, then took on more and more roles. Anything that was left over, she would take on, and she was constantly on the phone sorting things out."

In recognition to her dedication to the club, Sharon was nominated for the England and Wales Cricket Board NatWest OSCAs awards ceremony at Lord's Cricket Ground, commonly known as the 'Home of Cricket', in 2017.

She was nominated for the 'Heartbeat of the Club' category.

The NatWest OSCAs were established in 2003 to reward the valued contribution of volunteers to cricket, and Sharon was "pipped to the post" in the 2017 national final having emerged as the regional winner.

A nomination form from the time said: "Sharon has tirelessly volunteered for the club for a number of years in many roles."

The family said she was also heavily involved with Swaffham's Rugby Club, and was very much one for the community side of the cricket club to shine through.

Mr Payne said: "She liked fairness and everyone having a go regardless of ability. We talk about being inclusive as the heart of the club.

"It's obviously nice to win but everyone gets a go; that's the main drive and what Sharon firmly believed in."

In her last week, Sharon received treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital's Shouldham Ward, and spent two days at Norfolk Hospice's Tapping House in Hillington.

After attending schools in North Pickenham, Necton and Swaffham, she then completed her A Levels before starting her nursing training. After she had qualified, Sharon began working on the Terrington Ward at the QEH.

Having met Michael in North Pickenham, the couple were married in 1991 and moved to Sutton Bridge.

Following her diagnosis, the family returned to live in North Pickenham in 1998 where their sons grew up.

"She was a wonderful lady who was liked by everybody," Mr Payne said.

"Sharon was very well known in the cricket community and no matter where we travelled to play cricket there was always somebody she needed to talk to but not just about the cricket though, Sharon was a good listener and easy to talk to so people would open up to her."

She was also a member of the Anglia Asbestos Disease Support Group, and enjoyed their monthly meetings at Postwick village hall, which is next to Norwich cricket ground.

Among the many clubs and individuals who paid tributes were Dereham Cricket Club, Acle Cricket Club, Norfolk Cricket, Sheringham Cricket Club and Swaffham Football Club chairman Brendan Holmes, who all said their thoughts are with the family and the cricket club at this time.

The post by Acle Cricket Club said: "All of us here at Acle are extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Swaffham Cricket scorer Sharon Payne.

"An enthusiastic, welcoming and kind lady who will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with her family, friends and everyone at Swaffham. RIP"

Born at Lynn's hospital, she would have been 51 next month.

"Sharon embodied incredible bravery and compassion throughout her life; she was a beautiful woman who will be sorely missed by all who had the pleasure to have known her," Mr Payne said.

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