Saved by a death sen­tence

wendy Dou­gal, 43, from North shields, was eat­ing her­self into an early grave…until some dev­as­tat­ing news hit home

Pick Me Up! - - CONTENTS -

As our lit­tle dog Lexie scam­pered through the park, my hus­band David and I tried to keep up.

It was spring 2016, and we loved be­ing out in the fresh air. But our daily walks were be­com­ing a chal­lenge.

With each painstak­ing step, ev­ery joint in my body ached. Be­side me, David, 45, was also pant­ing and wheez­ing.

‘Nei­ther of us are in the best shape, are we?’ I sighed.

‘Don’t worry about it, love,’ he winked.

Typ­i­cal David. He never moaned – even though he was cop­ing with a deadly heart con­di­tion.

He had trans­po­si­tion of the greater ar­ter­ies, which meant blood wasn’t pumped around his body cor­rectly.

When we’d first met in 2007, he’d played down the fact he’d nearly died as a baby.

Sadly, there was no cure for his con­di­tion and, over the years, he’d de­te­ri­o­rated and had needed a pace­maker fit­ted.

But he never let any of it hold him back. He was full of life, crack­ing jokes and mak­ing friends wher­ever he went.

But I felt ashamed that he was strug­gling with health prob­lems when I’d brought my own is­sues on my­self. At 5ft 7in and weigh­ing 23st, I was dan­ger­ously over­weight. I’d been steadily pil­ing on the pounds since my school days, when I’d turned to com­fort eat­ing af­ter be­ing bul­lied.

Al­though I’d es­caped my tor­men­tors af­ter leav­ing school, old habits were hard to break. Ev­ery night af­ter work, I’d binge on bis­cuits and glasses of white wine.

I’d been a curvy size-22 when David and I had got mar­ried. And, since then, I’d kept gain­ing weight until I barely even recog­nised my­self.

David didn’t seem to no­tice, though.

‘You look beau­ti­ful,’ he’d whis­per, wrap­ping his arms around me.

Or try­ing to...

Still, I pushed my weight con­cerns aside in June 2016, when David went for his an­nual heart checkup at the Free­man Hos­pi­tal, New­cas­tle-upon-tyne.

Re­cently, he’d been feel­ing in­creas­ingly tired and had even stopped com­ing for walks with Lexie and me.

Af­ter his checkup ap­point­ment, he phoned from the hos­pi­tal.

‘They’re keep­ing me in for tests,’ he said.

Pan­ick­ing, I rushed to the hos­pi­tal with a bag of clothes for him – and got the shock of my life.

He was ly­ing in a bed, hooked up to ma­chines.

‘David’s con­di­tion has dras­ti­cally de­te­ri­o­rated since his last checkup,’ the doctor ex­plained. ‘His lungs are weak and he’s in heart fail­ure.’ ‘Please do what you can for him!’ I begged.

The doc­tors put him on oxy­gen and tried dif­fer­ent med­i­ca­tions. We hoped that he’d be el­i­gi­ble for a heart trans­plant.

But, in July 2016 af­ter five weeks in hos­pi­tal, we were ush­ered into the con­sul­tant’s of­fice.

‘There’s noth­ing more we can do for you, David,’ the doctor said, ex­plain­ing that his lungs were too frag­ile for a trans­plant op­er­a­tion.

He wouldn’t make it through surgery. Dev­as­tat­ing.

We’d never ex­pected it to come to this.

The doctor couldn’t say for sure how long David had left.

‘It could be months,’ he warned us.


He was only 45. How could this be hap­pen­ing?

When David was dis­charged later that day, with med­i­ca­tion and an oxy­gen can­is­ter, we went home feel­ing numb.

Nei­ther of us had cried yet but, as we sat on the sofa to­gether, re­al­ity hit.

We fell into each other’s arms, sob­bing and promis­ing to cher­ish ev­ery mo­ment that we had left to­gether.

‘I’ll be here for you,’ I vowed. David gave up his job as Manag­ing Direc­tor of his fam­ily’s sheet-metal firm, and I gave up my call-cen­tre job to be his full-time carer.

He was so weak, I had to help him get dressed and washed, and to sup­port him as he strug­gled around the house.

I wouldn’t have had it any other way, of course, but the stress made me turn to com­fort eat­ing even more than nor­mal.

Take­aways, huge por­tions of creamy pasta or pie and chips, all washed down with wine… eat­ing was the only way for me to for­get, mo­men­tar­ily, that David was dy­ing.

I piled on more weight and, by Septem­ber 2016, I was a size-30 and in ter­ri­ble shape.

Wheez­ing and pant­ing, I could barely even climb up

Ev­ery night af­ter work, I’d binge on bis­cuits and glasses of white wine

the stairs in our house.

One night, David passed out in his arm­chair.

For an aw­ful mo­ment, I thought that he was dead.

Thank­fully, he came round, but I was guilt-stricken.

What if he’d fallen over up­stairs? I’d have strug­gled to reach him. How can I take care of David when I can’t take care of my­self?

It was a wake-up call. ‘Enough’s enough,’ I told David. ‘I need to slim down.’

‘I’ll sup­port you,’ he promised me.

At first, I de­vised my own diet at home but, af­ter a few months, I’d barely lost any­thing.

So I de­cided to join Weight Watch­ers in Jan­uary 2017. At my first meeting, I stepped self­con­sciously onto the scales and gasped.

I weighed a whop­ping 26st 3lb.

But ev­ery­one there was so kind, wel­com­ing.

‘I’m do­ing this for my hus­band,’ I said, feel­ing emo­tional. It was the mo­ti­va­tion that I needed to keep go­ing. I re­duced my por­tion sizes, ditched take­aways, fill­ing up my plate with steamed veg­eta­bles in­stead. I also quit the booze.

Within a week, I’d lost 13lb. I vowed to keep go­ing and stuck faith­fully to the Weight Watch­ers points sys­tem.

I was des­per­ate to hit my tar­get weight of 12st while David was still with us. I wanted to make him proud. We didn’t know how much longer he had left.

Yet in­cred­i­bly, six months on, he was whoop­ing with pride, as I dis­cov­ered I’d lost 7st, and was down to a size-20.

‘I think you need some new clothes,’ David smiled. I didn’t just look dif­fer­ent. I felt like a new per­son, too. I joined a gym and took Lexie out for hour-long walks ev­ery day.

Her lit­tle legs could barely keep up with me! In­cred­i­bly, my suc­cess seemed to spur David on. De­spite the doctor’s ter­ri­fy­ing di­ag­no­sis, he was still with us in De­cem­ber 2017 for a won­der­ful Christ­mas to­gether.

‘Nice out­fit!’ he winked as I slipped into a size-18, red

Santa num­ber.

It’ll be too big for me this Christ­mas.

Since last De­cem­ber, the weight has kept drop­ping and I’m now 13st 13lb.

Best of all, my gor­geous hubby’s still de­fy­ing the odds.

I can’t wait for us to spend an­other Christ­mas to­gether.

I’m go­ing to be good, though. I don’t want to undo all my hard work.

I’ve lost a stag­ger­ing

12st 4lb, have even started my own Weight Watch­ers group in Monkseaton, North Ty­ne­side.

I’ve got an­other

1st 13lb to go be­fore I hit my tar­get weight of 12st.

‘I’ve done this for you, love,’ I tell David.

Be­cause while a trim fig­ure and trendy wardrobe is fab, the fact I can look af­ter my hus­band is what counts.

David is now 47, and we’ve no idea how long he has left. But we refuse to dwell on that.

I’m fit again now, and we’ll enjoy ev­ery mo­ment to­gether – for as long as we can.

Look­ing af­ter David is my pri­or­ity

then I was a size-30, weighed 26st 3lb NOW Trim and trendy at 13st 13lb

It’ll be too big this year!

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