BEFORE her fiance Greg Gilbert was diagnosed with cancer, Stacey Heale didn’t use Facebook and didn’t really know what Instagram and Twitter were.

Following his diagnosis with stage-four bowel cancer, which had spread to his lungs, she quickly educated herself and went on to launch a crowdfunding appeal for lifesaving treatment via social media.

It went on to be one of the fastest ever to reach its target on Gofundme, with £100,000 being donated in less than 48 hours.

That campaign went on to raise more than double the original target, with funds continuing to come in.

And Stacey has gone from being someone who didn’t feel comfortable with sharing personal information about herself and thinking no one would be interested, to having Facebook posts liked and shared hundreds of times, being interviewed for newspapers, on television and in magazines, launching her own website and now becoming the Daily Echo’s latest columnist.

Greg, frontman of indie band Delays, was diagnosed with cancer in November 2016.

“I’m a massive control freak and so much control had been taken away by the diagnosis,” says Stacey, a course leader in fashion at Solent University who is currently a full-time carer and mum.

“That’s part of why I started the fundraising campaign. I felt like I had to get some control back. You’re laying yourself bare, but for me, that’s been a necessity,” she says.

“I’ve always been very open with friends, but not on social media. But after Greg’s diagnosis, we both felt a huge need to tell people. We couldn’t bear the thought of people talking to us and not knowing what had happened.

“I’d find myself posting something and it getting 400 likes and 200 comments. People were saying ‘keep writing, I look forward to it’.

“A lot of the time, I posted while I was in hospital with Greg when he was having chemo. He’d be out of it for hours and I’d have nothing to do. Posting something on Facebook became a bit like a diary entry.”

The couple were used to Greg being recognised, especially in Southampton. Greg was even asked for his autograph when they were on their first date!

But being recognised was a new experience for Stacey.

“Last Christmas Eve we were out shopping with the girls and the fundraising campaign had had a lot of press and it was so weird.People were stopping us every 30 seconds, crying, hugging us, or just chatting,” says the mother of Dali, aged three, and Bay, one.

“I’m happy it’s happened, because it means the campaign was successful. And it’s been incredibly supportive.”

Stacey says she has made some amazing connections through opening up to the world.

“It’s been a lovely by-product of a horrible situation,” she says.

“I’ve had such lovely messages. Yesterday I got a present in the post from a stranger who I’ve spoken to a bit over social media and it had a note that said ‘your honesty has changed my life’.

“To have that response from me talking about how I feel is amazing.”

Stacey hopes to inspire others to open up more. As well as sharing her own experiences on her website, Beneath the Weather, she is also providing a platform for others to share their story.

“I can be the vulnerable person who stands up first. I don’t mind that, if it means other people feel more relaxed about doing it.”

And she is keen to reach a wider audience through her new Daily Echo column.

“When we launched the fundraising campaign for Greg, one of the big things for me was the feeling that the city came together for us. All of these venues in Southampton put on fundraisers for us and we had people like Craig David and the Saints getting behind us and the Echo has been so supportive. It felt like we had all the city behind us.

“I love having a local paper and it’s great to be part of it.”

Stacey will be writing about the day-to-day life of a mum of two young children, dealing with cancer in the family and the ‘mundaneness and craziness’ of life, from trips to hospital to her girls running riot in clothes shops.

“I’m humbled that people are interested in our situation, as we bumble along with our kids and our dog.

“I feel that the writing I’m doing now is my best work, and it’s strange to be doing that when Greg is so gravely ill. Some friends have asked how I feel about that.

“We’ve been dealt this hand and I can’t control that. I can only control how I react to it.

“Some days I am in bed crying but I try to be more positive. I still want to be part of the world.”