A husband was diagnosed with a rare form of incurable cancer just weeks after his wedding day.
Gavin Hawke, 42, had ‘the best day’ of his life when he married his partner Alisha, but their world soon came crashing down.
He was diagnosed with metastatic ependymoma, a rare form of cancer which affects the brain and spinal column – for which there is no cure.
The condition is so rare, especially in people of Gavin’s age, that doctors were unable to give him a prognosis – but said there was nothing they could do to stop it.
Gavin, a yardsman from St Austell, Cornwall, said: “The wedding was one of the best days of my life. It was something I never thought would happen.
“For all my life until I met my wife, I never even wanted to get married and I truly thought that – until I met this fantastic woman and she changed everything.
“She made me realise that I did want to get married, to Alisha – the woman I fell in love with.”
But shortly after the ceremony, the couple’s lives were turned upside down by the devastating diagnosis.
Gavin added: “It was a dramatic change. I couldn’t believe it when I was diagnosed.
“There was no despair, just disbelief.
“Deep down I knew these people were telling me the truth, but you just think in your head that this awful thing that you hear about so often is upon me, and upon us as a family.
“There’s going to be devastation for everybody. We’re all in the same boat now.
“I did six weeks of radiotherapy treatment at Bristol Royal Infirmary but there’s no more they can do for me as things stand.
“There were some horrendous possible outcomes from the radiotherapy which were just as scary as the cancer that I have.
“I could have been left permanently paralysed from the treatment. Even cancer from the treatment was a side effect.
“But we had to do something, we couldn’t just sit back and take what we were told – that it is incurable and all we can do is stop it from growing.
“That’s what they said, but I decided I was going to do my bleeding well best to get it gone.”
While Gavin was undergoing treatment, Alisha visited the hospital in Bristol with their daughter Evelyn.
Alisha said: “The six weeks in Bristol were absolutely the toughest of my life.
“Taking Evelyn to the hospital everyday took its toll. She would often cry and be unsettled, which led to stares from people in the hospital and in the waiting rooms.
“I wanted to be there to support my husband, but I felt like I was splitting myself in two. One half as a wife and the other half as a mother and I often felt like it was so hard to synchronise the two together.”
After completing the radiotherapy, Gavin’s condition became stable and the cancer stopped growing.
But he still has the cancer, and he is getting used to the idea of living with it for the rest of his life.
Gavin added: “Since treatment I’ve had MRI scans which all show the same thing, no more new growth since I started treatment, which to be honest I’m absolutely thrilled with.
“I feel good in myself and I’m slowly starting to build myself up with various things – exercises and voluntary work to get back into being me again.
“You can live with it for a very long time, but because mine was very extensive and when we looked at it on the scans up in Bristol, I could see exactly what I had to deal with – it was very extensive.
“It was up my spine and to the base of my brain as well, that was one of the worst moments of the whole thing.
“It looked so pathetic there, it looked like it couldn’t do anything. It just looked like white sponge but when you’re looking at it and thinking about it you realise that’s something that could paralyse you or ultimately kill you.
“That was hard to take.
“Because it’s a rare cancer, not many people are diagnosed with it – especially at my age. It’s usually young children who get this cancer.
“They said it was likely a secondary cancer, but they said they couldn’t find a primary and had no idea where it came from.
“They gave me an example that someone else was diagnosed with this cancer 30 years ago and were still living a healthy and happy life.
“They said they had no idea how long I would live because there wasn’t enough research done to give me a prognosis.
“My current condition, as fair as they’re concerned, is the cancer will be there forever.
“If the cancer does not grow then there is no problem with me having a full and healthy life.
“It’s just if it grows, the worry is that if it grows in my spine it will start to affect the functionality of my legs.
“I had a biopsy and they removed as much as they could of a part of the cancer in my spine to relive pressure, and that’s worked brilliantly.”
Now Gavin’s wife, Alisha, is raising money for treatment research, by walking five miles a day until she reaches her target of 150 miles.
Alisha added: “I am now using mine and Gavin’s story to fund raise for the brain tumour research charity.
“Once my September fundraising challenge is complete I fully intend to continue using my voice to actively campaign for brain tumour charities.
“The future, although uncertain, looks incredibly bright and I am very grateful for the lessons I have learned through this life changing experience.
“Myself and Gavin have fallen deeper in love with each other, we appreciate every second we have together and are focused on making as many memories as possible as a family with our darling Evelyn.
“Life truly is for living.”
Gavin also has a son named Andrew from a previous relationship.
Alisha has already broken her fundraising target, achieving £1,464 – way over her target of £300.
To donate to Gavin and Alisha’s cause, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/alisha-hawke.