Diagnosed with a brain tumour the size of a peach and told he could die in a couple of years, Richard Preston and his partner Wendy decided it was time to live.
After the initial shock, instead of wallowing in self-pity they decided to embrace the precious time they had left together and face life with a smile.
The couple, who have been together 25 years, have now got married and begun travelling the the world in style.
They met at Brunel University where Wendy was studying mechanical engineering and Richard was studying applied computer systems.
They bumped into each other as they were signing up to join the ice skating society.
Wendy, 43, says: ‘The next day I was trying to ice skate backwards. Richard came up to me and said, “would you like someone to look out for you?” And he has done ever since.’
They have been through a rough year but, upon meeting them, the first thing you notice is their easy smiles, their frequent laughter and the unmistakable glow of newly-weds. In short, you realise how happy they are.
Richard, 45, of Harkness Drive, Waterlooville, says: ‘I’m sometimes seen as being a little bit cold-hearted. But the way I see it is, if you can’t think of a solution to something why keep thinking about it?
‘There is no way to fix this, so why waste time on it? That’s my opinion of my diagnosis.’
The diagnosis came a year ago after Richard began suffering from headaches. Glasses did not fix the problem and a CT scan revealed a large brain tumour.
Richard was given a choice – have a biopsy to test what it was or take the whole thing out straight away.
‘I made the decision that they should take out as much as they could,’ says Richard.
‘But I wasn’t worried at any point. Even when I was lying on the bathroom floor because I had fainted. I was embarrassed and annoyed with myself more than anything’.
The operation to remove the tumour, at Southampton General Hospital, took five-and-a-half-hours.
Richard says: ‘It was a really high-risk operation but the tumour was in a relatively easy place for them to get to. It was in the front.
‘If it had been at the back, it would have been a different story.
‘I had 37 staples and I now have three titanium screws (in his skull). But my eyesight is still perfect and I don’t think I’ve lost any function – though I’m not as quick as I was.’
Richard has glioblastoma multiforme – an aggressive tumour which, doctors say, will come back.
‘There are four categories of cancer and mine is the worst one,’ says Richard matter-of-factly.
‘It could have been in my head forever and something just accelerated the speed at which it grew.
‘The doctor said, “we have bad news – you now have only two to five years to live”.
‘And, because I don’t swear, I just said “fluff!”’
‘No-one has ever lived more than five years with this condition.’
Eleven months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy have followed. And a lot of fun.
Just a month after the operation the couple – keen sci-fi fans – joined their friends at a Dr Who convention with Richard in a wheelchair.
Richard says: ‘My opinion has always been you get married if you’re going to have children.
‘Because neither of us wanted to, there was no incentive to do it.
‘But I know most ladies would like to get married. I made a wild assumption that Wendy would too.
‘We were just walking around Gunwharf discussing my condition a bit and I said, because of this, would she like to get married?
‘And she said YES very quickly!’
The couple pulled out all the stops and got married on March 1 at the luxurious De Vere New Place Hotel, near Southampton.
They created a fabulous day filled with fun and love.
Their honeymoon was a luxury 24-day cruise around the Mediterranean, taking in Venice, Dubrovnik, Istanbul, Athens, Florence, Naples, Corfu, Monte Carlo and Barcelona.
Wendy says: ‘We’ve never made particularly long-term plans for anything. There were places we’d wanted to visit and thought we’d go to in 20 years’ time.
‘But we realised we needed to start fitting them in now!’
This July they have another cruise planned for The Baltic. Wendy says: ‘We are best friends. We have lots of common interests. We’ve been told we can’t go outside Europe but there may come a point when we know the end is coming close and we just say sod the doctors, we’re going to Peru.’
She adds: ‘I find it difficult to understand how people manage to break up so much. We talk about anything.
‘There isn’t enough time to waste being morose. It’s an old cliche, but you’ve just got to get on with it.
‘We don’t want to spend time being sad. We’ve got to live 20 years in two. That doesn’t allow time to be downbeat.
‘If something goes wrong, let it slide. Just be happy, make this time enjoyable.’
Brain tumour research
The charity Brain Tumour Research helps fund an annual £1m programme of research at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Portsmouth, the UK’s largest laboratory-based brain tumour research team.
Under the guidance of leading neuro-oncologist Professor Geoff Pilkington, the team are conducting a range of investigations into this devastating disease with the aim of improving survival rates and quality of life for patients, eventually leading to a cure.
Runners in last month’s Great South Run raise thousands of pounds which will help set up other research teams.
Sue Farrington Smith, chief executive at Brain Tumour Research, says: ‘We are tremendously grateful to all those supporting us through the Great South Run.
‘The funds raised are crucial to our mission of raising £7m a year in order to establish and fund more dedicated research centres like the one in Portsmouth.’
She adds: ‘Despite the advances in science and the growing opportunities for neurological investigation, brain tumours receive just one per cent of the national cancer research spend – at this rate, it could take another 100 years to find a cure.
‘The charity is urgently calling for more fundraisers to help raise the millions needed to fund what researchers are calling ‘the last battleground against cancer.’
Go to braintumourresearch.org.