HEARTFELT tributes have poured in for a courageous Greenock woman who lost her battle with cancer just after Christmas.

Joyce Demelas passed away at Inverclyde Royal Hospital on December 27 aged just 57.

The grandmother-of-four was first diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and bravely fought the illness for two years.

Despite her own struggles, Joyce continued to be a source of support and fundraising champion for others.

Joyce's funeral was held on Monday.

Her children Gioia, Gianluca and Sofia spoke to the Tele about their mum and said that above all else, she was a strong woman with a heart of gold.

Sofia said: "My mum was fiery and spontaneous and had a fantastic sense of humour.

"She had such an amazing bond with her grandchildren and was so funny, warm and kind."

In May 2018, after a mammogram and a biopsy, Joyce had a mastectomy and started a course of chemotherapy but had to stop as she suffered a very bad reaction and developed sepsis.

Brave Joyce then started on a course of radiotherapy at the Beatson and when the treatment finished she enjoyed a holiday in Italy with her family.

While abroad, she developed a cough and after a scan on her return the cancer was found to have spread to behind her collarbone.

A 17-week course of chemotherapy followed.

In 2020, Joyce learned that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes - but she continued to fight.

Gioia said: "She fought so hard but she never got a clean break.

"She was clear of cancer very briefly and even rang the bell at the Beatson.

"Shortly after that she found lumps on her collarbone and sadly it was downhill for her from there.

"My dad was completely devoted to my mum.

"He cared for her intensely until her last breath."

Joyce grew up in Gourock and went to Moorfoot Primary before going on to Gourock High.

She married Gianni in Gourock on 14 December 1984 and the loving couple went on to have three children - Gioia, Sofia and Gianluca.

She leaves behind her four grandchildren - Saul, Violet, Laurie and Santino.

Sofia says her mum was an animal person and horses were her passion.

She even worked as a horse dentist for a number of years.

Another one of Joyce's passions was helping others.

Even when she was fighting cancer, she continued to support others in their journey and raised thousands of pounds for good causes.

In 2019, she held a ladies day which generated £3,800, and even starred in the Breast Cancer Model Show which helped raise £140,000 for the cause.

Joyce was also nominated for a Greenock Telegraph Community Champion Award in 2020 - an honour which daughter Gioia says she was incredibly proud of.

Gioia added: "My mum had a lot of time for people.

"She would give the last pound from her pocket to help someone and was always fundraising.

"She had friends who were going through breast cancer and provided an amazing support network for them.

"She was still able to reach out to people and offer help and support while she was fighting herself."

In the last month of her life, Joyce spent two weeks in Ardgowan Hospice, being cared for by the team, and got home for Christmas on December 15.

Joyce's daughter-in-law Philomena set up a JustGiving page to say thank-you to the hospice - and donations have already surpassed £7,500.

Gianluca says the dedication of the team at the hospice helped make his mum's last few weeks easier.

He added: "We cannot express in words just how much the hospice helped our mum.

"It completely changed her whole life and turned her around in those final weeks.

"We asked people not to send flowers and set up the fundraiser instead.

"We're overwhelmed by the amount raised.

"It just shows how much mum meant to people and how this community comes together."

The Demelas family have pledged to continue to help the hospice and will top up the final donation raised through JustGiving.

Gioia says as well as her fundraising legacy, her mum would want to be remembered for her insistence that people go to the doctor to get checked out.

She added: "She was also talking about the importance of going for regular check-ups and urging people to go to the doctor if there's anything they're worried about.

"She would definitely want that attitude to live on."

People from all over Inverclyde have paid tribute to Joyce on social media.

Friend Gaynor Lochhead, who has herself battled cancer, said Joyce was her 'champion' throughout her journey.

She said: "My heart breaks that a beautiful and fierce light has dimmed though her legacy lives on. Part of you will live on in my memories of you and the impact you had on others.

Evelyn McNeil added: "The world has lost a true diamond of a woman. She was a true inspiration to us all and took us all on her journey with her. She lit up every room she walked into."

Sam McQuillian said: "Joyce was such a wonderful woman who was full of life and would light up any room she walked into with her smile. I know she is no longer in pain and is at peace but I know she will be missed by loads of people."

Another friend, Pauline Macpherson, said: "You fought with such courage to the end and you will be dearly missed by us all."