A couple from Harrogate who have been told they are living on borrowed time are to marry before it is too late.
Father-of-two Paul Bull was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer in January and told he has three to six months to live if chemotherapy doesn’t work. Now he is to marry his long-term partner in a simple ceremony in Harrogate, before he becomes too ill to walk down the aisle.
“We want to get the most out of the time we have left, to do as much as we can together,” said 40-year-old Paul, who has a 10-month-old baby Emily with fiancée Kirsty Taylor.
“Cancer certainly puts your priorities in perspective. I’m determined to live life to the full right now. Every morning that I wake up is a bonus.”
Paul, who has another daughter, nine-year-old Olivia from a previous relationship, first started to feel unwell in November last year.
At first he thought pains were from a stomach bug and, when he was admitted to hospital, from a hernia and stomach ulcers. But the pain worsened over Christmas and doctors operated, finding two tumours. Within three months, he lost five stone. And the cancer had spread.
“I already knew it wasn’t going to be good news,” he said. “When they told me, I only asked how long I had. They said three to six months, or one to two years with chemo.
“But they don’t know that for definite. I’m determined to prove them wrong.”
Paul and Kirsty, who have been together for six years, had their first date on May 1. Now that anniversary is to become their wedding day.
“We always talked about getting married, but it was something far off in the future,” said Kirsty, who works at Foremost School. “It was something we were going to do ‘one day’. Then one day he just said let’s do it, before it’s too late. It wasn’t the most romantic of proposals, we were just stood in the kitchen, and he said ‘what are we waiting for?’. But now’s the time, before he gets too poorly. Then we have a chance of having a one year anniversary.”
The couple are to have a small ceremony at Harrogate Register Office on May 1, joined by family and friends.
“It’s no frills, no fuss,” said Kirsty, 33. “What’s important is that we are committing to each other.
“You think you have all the time in the world together. We don’t. That time together is what’s important now.”
Paul, a former Rossett School student, is taking lots of pictures and videos to be shared with his daughters when they grow older, writing little notes for them. But he is determined to stay positive for his family.
“You can sit and wallow in it, or get on,” he said. “We are grateful for every day. We’ve been given a chance to make the most of right now.”
And one of biggest gifts the family has been given, alongside the “fantastic” help from staff on Littondale Ward, is the support of Macmillan Cancer Support. Paul was a self-employed printer and, too ill to work, he was worried about how to support his family.
While in hospital he was introduced to Phil Bremner, Macmillan welfare and benefits adviser based at Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, who has helped him find financial support as well as a £300 grant to buy clothes to fit his slimmer frame.
“I didn’t know I could claim for anything before I was introduced to Phil,” said Paul. “Without his support, I would have really struggled to provide for my family and keep a roof over their heads. I can’t thank him enough.
“He managed to cut through the red tape that seems to exist around benefits and sorted it all out for me by the time I was out of hospital.”
Now, the couple want to raise awareness of the work that Macmillan do in helping patients like Paul with a serious or terminal illness.
“Macmillan have been brilliant,” said Kirsty.
“If this article gives someone else a fighting chance, helps them get diagnosed earlier or the care they need, or a bit of hope, it’s worth it.”
Macmillan’s charity appeal
Macmillan Cancer Support’s Phil Bremner has helped 143 cancer patients in Harrogate access more than £421,000 in benefits since his role was introduced in November. Macmillan has now launched a fundraising appeal to generate £108,000 – enough to cover the cost of the role for a further three years. To donate text HGTD99 to 70070, with the amount, or visit www.justgiving.com/harrogatetakeoverday.