Smil­ing to the end

Our time to­gether will be short...but we’ll make it sweet

Chat - - Content - By Sarah Fisher, 34, from Heysham, Lan­cashire

As Dave and I watched our dogs play­ing in the field, our eyes met. It was April 2010 and we’d gone for a latenight walk un­der the stars.

‘It’s beau­ti­ful,’ I smiled, gaz­ing up at the sky.

We were both sin­gle, both had dogs that needed ex­er­cise.

The per­fect ex­cuse to spend time to­gether.

Soon our walks were get­ting longer. And my feel­ings for Dave, then 25, were get­ting stronger.

Then, one day, Dave turned up at my house.

‘We have to give this a try,’ he said. ‘I re­ally like you.’ ‘Me too!’ I replied. I quickly knew that Dave was The One. But I knew some­thing else, too. That we might not have long to­gether.

You see, Dave had been born with cys­tic fi­bro­sis (CF).

See­ing us get­ting close, his brother, Scott, then 21, had taken me aside.

‘He can’t have chil­dren,’ he’d said bluntly. ‘He has CF.’

I’d never heard of it, and Scott reeled off a list of ter­ri­fy­ing facts.

He was just worried, didn’t want to see his big brother get hurt. But it’d been a shock. I went home, read a lot more about it on­line, and what I dis­cov­ered re­duced me to tears.

CF is a ge­netic con­di­tion caus­ing thick, sticky mu­cus to build up on the lungs, di­ges­tive sys­tem and other or­gans.

The con­di­tion leaves 98 per cent of male suf­fer­ers in­fer­tile.

And life ex­pectancy is only to the mid-30s.

Hor­ri­fy­ing.

But I knew it didn’t make a dif­fer­ence to my feel­ings.

Dave was funny, kind and con­sid­er­ate.

As a sin­gle mum to Tyler, then 9, Har­ley, 4, and Corey, 13 months, Dave’s in­fer­til­ity didn’t bother me.

And his brav­ery in fight­ing this ter­ri­ble ill­ness only made me love him more.

Still, I didn’t tell Dave what I knew, I wanted him to tell me in his own time.

But, soon af­ter, he started push­ing me away.

He’d tell me he was prac­tis­ing with his band, but I’d see posts from other mem­bers on Face­book, show­ing they were out with their girl­friends.

Not with Dave.

I knew it was because of his CF that he was try­ing to pro­tect me.

‘I know you’re ill,’ I blurted out one day when we’d been to­gether two months. ‘Scott told me.’

I told Dave I was al­ready in love with him.

‘It doesn’t change any­thing,’ I promised.

‘I love you, too,’ Dave said, hold­ing me. Fi­nally, he let me into his heart.

That July, we moved in to­gether and Dave was amaz­ing with the boys.

His fight with CF be­came our fight.

His mum, Karen, 62, who’d been Dave’s carer, taught me to do his phys­io­ther­apy.

Sev­eral times a day, I’d do his ‘ch­est per­cus­sion’, pat­ting his ch­est, back and sides for 40 min­utes to help clear his lungs of mu­cus.

He re­lied on a neb­u­liser – an in­haler that de­liv­ers an­tibi­otics straight to his lungs.

Plus he needed al­most 50 tablets a day to help him di­gest food and keep his res­pi­ra­tory symp­tom in check.

Yet he never moaned.

The fol­low­ing sum­mer, Dave was hit by a com­mon cold.

A nor­mal person has a lung func­tion of around 85 per cent. Dave never had that – but af­ter the in­fec­tion, although his lung func­tion plum­meted from 43 to 23 per cent, he never lost his sense of hu­mour.

And in De­cem­ber 2011, he pro­posed.

‘I want to marry you be­fore I croak it,’ he joked.

Ro­man­tic!

So, in July 2014, we mar­ried in the most won­der­ful wed­ding cer­e­mony.

‘In sick­ness and in health,’ I vowed, gulp­ing back tears.

Af­ter, we made the most of ev­ery mo­ment.

But in Fe­bru­ary 2017, Dave was struck down by two un­treat­able in­fec­tions – each in­fec­tion scars his lungs ir­repara­bly.

By that Septem­ber, his lung

His brav­ery fight­ing this only made me love him more

func­tion dropped to its low­est ever – just 17 per cent.

He strug­gled to climb stairs, talked in a croaky whis­per.

We couldn’t kiss, ei­ther, as it left Dave breath­less.

‘Well, you’ve al­ways taken my breath away,’ I joked.

I tried to fol­low Dave’s lead and keep smil­ing, but when the doc­tor told us Dave only had six to 18 months left, I was floored.

He was so weak, even a cold could kill him.

Worse, he wasn’t el­i­gi­ble for a lung trans­plant because he had an un­treat­able in­fec­tion and his body would re­ject them straight away. ‘We’re not ready,’ I wept. Truth was, I’d never be ready to lose Dave.

He’d al­ready started writ­ing a bucket list: go to a film pre­miere, visit a spa, watch his beloved Hud­der­s­field Town play at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium.

Now, we be­came more de­ter­mined to fin­ish it.

With Dave too ill to work, and me his full-time carer, we were strug­gling for money.

So I set up a fundrais­ing page aim­ing to raise £8,000, and peo­ple were so gen­er­ous. Slowly, we ticked things off. Got all dressed up for the UK pre­miere of Lo­gan Lucky in Le­ices­ter Square, Lon­don.

Plus Dis­ney­land Paris with Tyler, now 16, Har­ley, 11, and Corey, 8... And Wem­b­ley. But Dave’s time is run­ning out. His eyes are tired, grey. And I know we won’t get round to ev­ery­thing on his list.

Even think­ing about life with­out Dave leaves me bro­ken.

But he doesn’t want sym­pa­thy. He wants to do a sky­dive, go glamp­ing, see the North­ern Lights...

The items left on his list keep him fight­ing.

So as long as he doesn’t give up, I won’t ei­ther.

Even with a death sen­tence hang­ing over us, we’re de­ter­mined to keep smil­ing.

Un­til the very end.

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