IT was the heartbreaking tale that struck a chord with hundreds of Daily Echo readers.

Friends of 20-year-old Brianne Jones vowed to send her on a European tour after she was diagnosed with cancer and given only months to live.

Generous Echo readers donated some of the cash, helping her make the most of what little time she had left. But Brianne, of Shell Court, Marchwood, has now lost her brave battle for life, leaving her friends and family devastated.

She was diagnosed on October 3 last year – the day before her 20th birthday.

Despite staying out of the sun she had developed a malignant melanoma – the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

As the disease spread she began to suffer from agonising stomach pains and also noticed lumps appearing on various parts of her body.

Eventually she was given a scan which revealed that her abdomen contained a tumour the size of a rugby ball.

Three months ago the former hairdresser claimed that NHS staff had been too slow to detect the cancer and revealed that she was planning to sue Southampton General Hospital.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust was approached by the Daily Echo at the time but made no response to her allegations.

Instead it issued a short statement saying it would continue to provide her with any support, advice and assistance that she needed during her ongoing treatment.

Brianne’s nightmare began in 2006 after a freckle on her ear turned into a mole, which began to bleed and had to be removed.

Last year she developed a range of alarming symptoms, including lumps in her arm, thigh and breast. But her illness was not diagnosed until the autumn. By then it was too late.

Given only a short time to live the former Applemore College student vowed to pack a lifetime of fun into just a few months.

She visited Thruxton motor racing circuit, enjoyed a wild day out at a Hampshire funfair and got the tattoos she wanted.

But the best was yet to come. Gemma Warder and some of her other friends launched a fundraising campaign and netted enough cash to give her a European holiday.

Speaking at the time Gemma, of Holbury, said: “Brianne’s diagnosis hit us all really hard.

“She’ll never get to do so many of the things the rest of us take for granted but she’s very strong emotionally and we try to stay strong in front of her. We will do all our crying when she’s not here.”

Brianne’s condition deteriorated in the past few weeks and she died in a hospice, surrounded by friends and family.

Last night it was unclear whether her planned legal action against the NHS would still go ahead.