When a couple marry, it’s an exciting time as they look forward to a long life together.
But behind the happiness of Mark and Kelly Robson’s wedding was a heartbreaking reason why they decided to bring forward the date of their big day.
The couple got married at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham after receiving the devastating news that Mark has terminal bowel cancer.
Mark and Kelly, who have three children, are now making the most of the time they have left and living every day as if it is their last together.
It was around March last year when Mark, 35, started to get stomach pains.
His GP suspected he might have Crohn’s disease. He was told that, at his age, bowel cancer wasn’t something they were concerned about. He spent a few days in hospital, but nothing was picked up.
But in September Mark began to feel increasingly unwell and started vomiting. Then one morning, he woke up and was in so much pain that he couldn’t move.
After various tests and X-rays, he went for a CT scan – which is when a tumour was found.
‘They said it’s possibly cancer, but it’s definitely a tumour,’ Mark says.
He had surgery to remove a section of his intestine where the tumour was attached. It was blocking the passage so nothing was getting through his system – which is why he was constantly being sick and couldn’t keep his food down.
As a result, he then had a stoma fitted.
Within 10 days Mark, from Stamshaw in Portsmouth, was able to leave hospital. He then went back to work in a call centre at SSE in Havant.
‘I had recovered,’ he says.
‘They took my stitches out. The stoma wasn’t an issue. For me, it just made life easier.’
Mark was booked in for a course of chemotherapy at the end of November. But before that, he and Kelly were called back to hospital where they received some devastating news.
Surgeons had taken a piece of Mark’s intestine and sent it off for testing. It was then that they found his illness was incurable as the cancer had mutated – which is extremely rare.
‘Then it was classified as cancer. They said it had gone from manageable to incurable,’ Mark says.
‘They said that life expectancy depended on the reaction to the chemotherapy.
‘I was quite calm. I was expecting them to say that it was a lot worse than they thought.’
Kelly, 30, says it was a lot to take in.
‘I panicked,’ she says.
‘If it was just me and I didn’t have the kids, it would have been easier to deal with. I had to leave the room when we heard. I just had a meltdown. I was a wreck.’
Mark adds: ‘The concern for me was about what’s going to happen with Kelly and the kids after I’ve gone. What was important to me was making sure that life insurance and everything is in place.
‘The way I see it, you can’t change it. I want to go through the chemotherapy and have as much time as possible.’
After Mark found out the cancer was terminal, he began vomiting again and was sent back to hospital.
He began to have seizures and suffered kidney failure. He was given medication to stop his seizures.
But it was at that point that Mark and Kelly, who have been together for 14 years, decided to bring forward their wedding plans.
Despite having been engaged for many years, their three children and a mortgage had meant that, financially, a wedding just wasn’t on the cards.
‘After the seizures it was like a reality check. This thing can kill me whenever it wants,’ Mark adds.
So the pair decided to tie the knot at the QA Hospital in a small ceremony surrounded by very close family and friends, with a wedding reception still planned for next month.
On December 15, they dressed up and gathered together at the hospital chapel. Children Skye, nine, Heath, seven, and Logan, five, were given time off school to witness their parents’ marriage.
The ceremony was largely organised by hospital staff.
‘They were brilliant,’ Mark says.
‘For what it was, it was a lovely event. It was important to us. We couldn’t wait. It was important for us to get married having been engaged for so long.’
Kelly adds: ‘It was good, but it was weird walking through the hospital in a wedding dress with people looking at you.’
But the most challenging part of the whole ordeal has been having to break the news to their three children. Five-year-old Logan doesn’t really understand and just knows his daddy is unwell.
For now, Mark will continue with chemotherapy, both on the NHS and privately.
‘For me, it’s just about enjoying every day,’ Mark says.
‘You get your ups and downs. The financial side of things is sorted out now, so we don’t have to worry about that.
‘It’s just about enjoying life now.’