A 44-year-old policewoman has lost her battle with cancer - just two months after being diagnosed with the disease.

Communications operator Carole McNally died on Wednesday after doctors diagnosed terminal bowel cancer in the middle of December.

Her sudden death has left her family and friends and reeling with shock.

She had been told she had 12 to 18 months to live two weeks ago.

Carole's mother, Christine Ashcroft, from Shawforth, said: "We're all devastated. Carole went into Fairfield Hospital in Bury for tests in December because she hadn't been feeling too well for some time, but had just got on with it because that's the sort of person she was.

"She just loved life. She was always cheerful, a larger-than-life character with so many friends. None of us can believe she's gone.

"Carole was very clever and could have pursued any career, but joining the police was all she ever wanted to do since she was little."

Carole, who grew up in Whitworth, was discharged from Fairfield before Christmas, but was admitted to North Manchester General Hospital at the start of January.

She was soon transferred to Manchester's Christie Hospital when doctors realised the gravity of her condition, which had spread to the liver.

Mrs Ashcroft said: "It was too late to stop it, but none of us ever thought she would go so soon.

"Only the week before last, doctors told Carole and her husband that she had 12 to 18 months to live. But she suddenly went down hill, it was all so fast."

Carole's husband of 12 years, Stephen McNally, has been trying to come to terms with the news, as are his two daughters Kate, 22, and Hannah, 20, who were devoted to their stepmum.

Mr McNally, 51, an AA patrolman from Bury, said: "She was just the most bubbly person, who would do anything to help anyone.

"Once she'd decided to do something, there was no stopping her, and she raised a lot of money for charity.

"She would always see the bright side of things, and was full of laughter.

"She was always so fit and active, her sudden death has left us all in shock.

"But I'm glad that at least her suffering was short.

"It would have been terrible to see her in pain for a long time."

During her final days at Christie's, Carole was visited by friends and colleagues from Burnley police, where she joined aged 18 after two years in the cadets.

Burnley Superintendent Neil Smith, who had known Carole for 25 years, paid tribute to her as a committed officer as well as a warm, caring friend.

He said: "Carole was completely dedicated, and was so friendly and popular.

"She was a real character, a no-nonsense person and an invaluable member of the communications team.

"She was always prepared to help other people, and her colleagues are devastated by her death."

Carole will also be missed by friends on the indoor rowing circuit.

After taking up the sport in 2003 to improve her fitness, she soon began winning gold medals in international and national championships.

In October 2005 she broke the world record by rowing non-stop for 100km, and has raised more than £3,000 for Manchester Children's Hospitals through the sport.

Carole also leaves her father Ken, brother Neil Ashcroft and sister Sue Jubb.

Her funeral service will begin at 1.40pm on Thursday at Rochdale Crematorium in Bury Road.