First Dates romance:
“We’re so in love – we won’t let cancer control us”
Lucy Docherty felt instantly inspired by the courageousness of contestant Julian Fiano as she watched him on TV show First Dates revealing he had terminal cancer. In fact, she found herself so drawn to him that she decided to seek him out on social media.
The pair hit it off instantly and they’ve now set up home together, and Lucy is supporting Julian through his gruelling cancer treatment. Despite uncertainty over his future, they are even considering starting a family, using sperm frozen after his diagnosis.
Lucy says, “I found Julian so inspiring on the show and something compelled me to reach out. I’m normally shy, so it was completely out of character. Now, two years on, we are so in love. Julian’s illness may be part of our lives, but we won’t let cancer control us. Most people with his diagnosis don’t live past 18 months, but he is full of life.
“While we don’t know what the future holds, we’re making every day count. We’ve discussed trying for a baby and
I’m hoping we’ll marry too.” Lucy spotted Julian, 33, on First Dates in December 2018. An avid fan of the show, she loved tuning in every Tuesday to watch as singletons were matched for a dinner date. But despite Julian’s date not wanting to see him again, Lucy felt a powerful attraction.
“Although Julian told his date he’d been given 12 months to live, he seemed so upbeat,” she says. “But I wasn’t just attracted to his courage, it was also his deep brown eyes and cheeky smile! I longed to know more about him.”
Determined, Lucy found Julian on Facebook. And when she gave him a “wave”, he messaged back, asking how she was. Over the next few weeks, the pair chatted on Messenger every day and, in January, they met for dinner.
Lucy, 31, says, “I was so nervous, but it felt like we’d known each other forever. He told me that while he’d liked the girl he’d been paired up with on the show and there had been a friendly spark, she said she didn’t want to see him again.
“We chatted about my hospital job, assisting in operating theatres and about music. We both love Motown and cheesy ’80s hits!”
Over dinner, Lucy also discovered more about Julian’s cancer battle. In 2016 he’d been working as a youth sports coach when he was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour and given 12 months to live. While he’d defied his prognosis, his cancer would always be considered terminal.
She says, “Julian had survived three operations to shrink the tumour, but it kept growing back.
“I was shocked, but he was so laid-back about it that it didn’t seem such a big deal. I knew he was open to talking about it, but we didn’t dwell because I wanted to get to know
the man behind the illness. That night, we kissed.”
Determined to take things slowly, the couple stuck to keeping in touch over messenger for the next few months. Then, in May, the couple enjoyed a holiday to the Isle of Wight, but Lucy admits her friends were nervous she’d be heartbroken.
She recalls, “One friend bluntly asked, ‘What if you fall in love with Julian, then he dies?’ Of course the thought was at the back of my mind, and Julian was concerned too. He explained that our relationship wouldn’t be straightforward and that we’d have ups and downs. He also told me that his medication sometimes affected his mood, and he wanted to feel sure I could cope if he did die, but
I’d never clicked like this with anyone. Ultimately, I chose to live for the day. None of us can predict what’s around the corner, after all. I knew we’d face challenging times, but I told Julian I’d fallen for him and that we’d cope together.”
When lockdown hit last year, Julian moved into Lucy’s house in Suffolk. Determined to help, she attends his medical appointments and has supported him through three rounds of chemotherapy.
She now regularly drives him 90 miles to London’s
Royal Marsden Hospital, where they hope a trial treatment of immunotherapy, a type of cancer treatment that helps your immune system fight cancer, might shrink the tumour.
“The chemo was tough,” recalls Lucy. “Julian lost his hair and it made him vomit. It caused nerve damage to his left foot too, which makes walking difficult. But I cooked for him and kept our house clean.
“Immunotherapy has fewer
❛ IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO PREDICT WHAT’S IN STORE – JULIAN WAS GIVEN AN EXPIRY DATE FIVE YEARS AGO BUT IS STILL LIVING LIFE TO THE FULL ❜
side effects, but I’m still there for Julian whenever he needs to vent. We both have darker days, but we are very open and when things are tough, we hug it out. We constantly laugh and tease one another too!”
Julian has shielded throughout the pandemic and his treatment means he can’t yet have the COVID19 vaccine, but the couple recently had some good news.
“For the first time, Julian’s tumour has stopped growing,” says Lucy. “When his consultant told us, we cried. His cancer is still classed as terminal, but it was an amazing moment and it’s possible Julian could live for years like this.”
For now, the couple refuse to live in fear. They are planning a trip to Iceland later this year, and Lucy teases Julian about wanting a proposal. She says, “He needs to put a ring on my finger! I’d love us to get married. We’ve talked a lot about having a family too.
“Julian had his sperm frozen before he started chemo, but it’s a massive decision. We’d be going into it knowing there’s a strong possibility I might become a single mum, so we have to consider whether that would be fair on our child.
“It’s impossible to predict what’s in store, though – Julian was given an expiry date five years ago, but he’s still living a full life. Why should cancer stop him planning a future?
He’s taught me that life is for living and we’re determined to make every second count.”
STRENGTH & HOPE
Julian says, “Cancer has made me see what really matters in life. I appreciate every second I have with Lucy and know it’s the little things that are important, like going for a drive, then enjoying a coffee together and sitting in comfortable silence while we look at the view.
“The reason I went on First Dates was because a friend mentioned it and I thought why not. I didn’t expect to find love, it was more to have an experience and try something different.
“Lucy’s my strength and hope, and the key to me wanting to keep on fighting to the end. I’m feeling more positive now though and hopefully over time we’ll see the tumour shrinking and even cured. We’re both optimistic about the future.”
By Sophie Barton
● If you are affected by cancer, find out how Macmillan can offer support at macmillan.org.uk