Helen Westwood has spoken about what husband David’s cancer survival has meant to her in a bid to change the way the disease is viewed.
The couple, who grew up near each other in South Wales, lost touch after Helen moved away at 18 to go to University and David returned to Scotland where he was living and working in the air traffic industry.
Years went by, and in 2010, shortly before David was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma, the pair reconnected through Facebook.
David was diagnosed after visiting his doctor, concerned about a lump in his upper thigh. He underwent chemotherapy and a stem cell treatment, and Helen kept in touch throughout, speaking on the phone and even visiting David to give him support during one of his stays at the Beatson.
Helen said: “Our friendship blossomed and developed into a relationship. By this time David had been through his treatment and he was in remission.
“It was a long-distance relationship as I was living in Cheltenham at this time. One day I just thought to myself, what am I doing? I’m down here living on my own in my flat but the love of my life is living in Scotland. Life’s too short.
“I put my flat on the market, quit my job, packed all my belongings into a van and headed up to be with David. It was the easiest and quickest decision I’ve ever made. It was really out of character for me to make a spontaneous decision, but I just knew in my heart it was the right thing to do.
“David proposed and of course I said yes straight away. We started planning a huge wedding back in Wales where most of our family and friends were still living.”
However, two months into wedding planning, a similar lump appeared in the same position. Following a visit to the GP, David was told his cancer had returned resulting in another course of chemotherapy, followed by a month of daily radiotherapy sessions.
The couple opted for a smaller wedding with just 5 guests and married just six weeks later in a local hotel, planning honeymoon mini-breaks in between David's chemotherapy treatment.
Helen said: “Thankfully David has been in remission for four years and we have a lovely life together. We’re both retired now, and I look after him, keeping him well fed on healthy home cooked meals and lots of love.
“If David’s cancer hadn’t been detected early, he could have had a very different outcome, so it really shows how important it is to get checked out if you have any symptoms you’re worried about.
“Cancer has changed both of our lives, but it’s ended up being a change for the better. I’m with the man I should have been with my whole life and I couldn’t be happier. Cancer has a way of showing you what’s really important. For me that meant packing up my whole life and moving to another country to be with the man I love.
“Cancer doesn’t change a person and it shouldn’t change how you feel about someone. It’s just something that’s happened to them, but they’re still the same person. For David and I it’s brought us so much closer together and I’m so glad I was able to be there for him through that difficult time.”
David added: “I’m incredibly lucky to have Helen. She’s so supportive and is always there to make sure I’m OK. I’m really fortunate.
“To anyone who has experienced a change in their health or noticed something isn’t quite right, go and get it checked out. Don’t be a fool and bury your head in the sand or you could regret it. Just think about your loved ones and what they would want you to do.”