Worldwide Features Devoted dad Ric with wife Carrie and son Cory
WHEN Carrie Coggins proposed to her husband Ric, she was hiding a tragic secret.
Ric had been diagnosed with bowel cancer and Carrie had just been told that he only had three months at the most to live.
So she did the bravest thing any bride-to-be could do. She didn't tell Ric how much time he had left, and instead went through her wedding vows knowing she would have only a short time left to spend with her husband.
Worldwide Features Ric and Carrie's wedding night was spent in hospital
Carrie, 30, says: "When the doctor told me Ric only had three months to live, I was devastated.
But I asked him to marry me, and on our wedding day I knew how little time he had left, but he didn't.
I didn't want to tell him, as I wanted him to keep on fighting right until the end.
Ric first started complaining of stomach cramps in March 2009, but the couple had just moved house so they put it down to stress.
He went to see his GP and told him there was a history of bowel cancer in his family. The doctor gave him medication to ease the stomach cramps, but three weeks later they still weren't better so he was referred for tests.
The test appointment was for three months time, but the couple weren't worried as they felt sure he had irritable bowel syndrome or at worst, crohn's disease.
When he was finally examined, the results were devastating. Mr Coggins had bowel cancer.
Carrie says: "He broke the news to me over the phone and I just couldn't believe it. How could he possibly have bowel cancer. He was only 31 and our son Cory was only seven months old. Ric was a wonderful dad to him and as I watched him cuddle Cory afterwards, I just had to pray that everything would be alright."
An operation to remove the tumour was successful but the doctors had found some cancer cells on his liver too.
Eight weeks later he started chemotherapy treatment, determined to beat the disease.
But just before Christmas scans showed devastating news. The chemotherapy hadn't worked and the spots on his liver had grown.
Carrie says: "We were absolutely speechless - never had we imagined the chemotherapy not working.
"We were sat in a room whilst the doctors delivered the news. Ric was in shock and didn't say anything. Afterwards when Ric had gone back to the hospital ward, I asked the doctor how long he had left. I could barely bring myself to listen to the answer of only three months.
"I decided I wasn't going to tell Ric. He was fighting so hard, he would just stop fighting if he heard that, and I couldn't let him give up the fight.
"He'd always thought he could beat it, so I was going to let him carry on thinking that. It was a hard burden to bear. Every time I looked at him, the doctors words echoed in my mind."
Carrie asked her Ric to marry her and the ceremony took place just a few weeks later. They spent their wedding night in hospital with two hospital beds pushed together.
Ric started more chemotherapy at the end of January but then in April he had a nosebleed that just wouldn't stop. Scans showed that he was bleeding internally.
Worldwide Features Ric two days before he died
A week later he lost his fight for life.
Carrie, who lives in Wigan, says: "Cory and I are trying to get on with our life without Ric. I'm just glad to have our son, as he gives me a reason to get up each day.
I'm glad that Ric got to spend a few years with Cory, and when he's older I'll tell him what a wonderful special dad he had.
"I'm now fighting to raise more awareness of bowel cancer in young people, as we never even realised that you could get bowel cancer like Ric did.
"He was a healthy young man, full of energy and life, yet the disease claimed him.
"If we'd known of the symptoms such as changes in bowel habit, abdominal pain, bleeding or weight loss, then he could have had the examination earlier and things may have turned out differently.
"I would urge people to get checked if they have symptoms, whatever their age. If it stops one more person losing their loved one like I did, then it will be worth it."
BOWEL CANCER FACTS.
Bowel Cancer affects both men and women. In the UK around 95 per cent of cases occur in people over 50.
Symptoms include bleeding from the bottom and/or blood in your stools, a change in bowel habit lasting for three weeks or more, unexplained weight loss, extreme tiredness for no apparent reason and a pain or lump in your stomach.
For more information visit Bowel Cancer UK.