Happiness to heartbreak as newlywed loses cancer battle just 18 days after being diagnosed with the disease.
A heartbroken husband has told of the bittersweet joy of marrying the “love of his life” just days before she died from cancer.
Dean and Dawn Jackson married on May 1, having been granted an emergency licence to wed after being told Dawn, nee Lilley, had just days to live.
In the early hours of May 4 – just three days later – Dawn died, after cancer attacked her liver, spleen and bowel.
The 36-year-old had taken ill only 18 days earlier.
This devastating diagnosis came just one month after the parents, from Fleetwood, had buried their youngest child, Jaycee May, who was stillborn in March.
I knew straight away that Dawn was the one for me
In the face of heartbreak, the couple were able to enjoy an all-expenses paid “dream” day with their daughters Karla and Aydia and Dean’s son Joshua, thanks to the efforts of people across the Fylde coast who pulled together, organised by national charity Gift Of A Wedding,
Mr Jackson said: “The diagnosis was completely out of the blue but we thought we’d have at least a few weeks.
“But everything happened so quickly, Dawn’s health deteriorated rapidly. I wanted to do everything I could to make her happy and comfortable so I proposed, she’d always wanted to get married.
“A lot of photos from our wedding day show her smiling which says a lot, because she was in agony.
“Our wedding day was perfect in every way you could imagine – apart from the circumstances.”
The couple, both 36, met eight years ago and Dean, a bus driver, told how he fell for Dawn, a care worker at Mariner’s Court nursing home, instantly. He said: “Dawn was such a nice person, I loved her personality.
“She took to my son straight away and she was so passionate about her job.
“I knew straight away she was the one for me.”
They started 2015 excited for the arrival of a new baby, to add to their family with one-year-old Karla, four-year-old Aydia and Joshua, 10.
But in March, at eight months pregnant, Dawn suffered serious abdominal pains and was taken to hospital for a check up.
Here a routine scan found no heartbeat for her baby.
Doctors told the devastated mother her baby had died and she had to give birth to the tiny girl.
Mr Jackson said: “She was so upset but she said she had to be strong for our girls.”
The family soldiered on and buried baby Jaycee-May on March 20.
Weeks later, on the morning April 17, while Dean was away earning a HGV licence to better support his family, Dawn collapsed at their home on Hazel Avenue.
Her husband said: “Luckily Josh was there so he called for help. I’m so proud of him.
“If he hadn’t have been there Dawn would have died.”
Dawn collapsed twice more that morning and was rushed to Blackpool Victoria Hospital where tests found she had a blood clot in her chest, restricting oxygen getting to her brain.
Mr Jackson said his beloved partner had suffered a series of health problems since the stillbirth, from coughing and being unable to keep food down and losing five stone in weight.
But the couple were not prepared for what was to come in the following days.
Further tests found a mass on Dawn’s liver.
And on April 20, one month after the couple had buried their baby girl, Dawn was told she had terminal liver cancer that had spread to her bowel and spleen.
Dean said: “We were devastated. But Dawn faced it in the same way she faced losing the baby. There were tears but she said she had to be strong for the children.”
Determined to ensure her comfort and happiness in the face of the shocking diagnosis, Dean set out to marry Dawn, buying an engagement ring and organising a romantic proposal, filmed to be shared with their children in years to come.
He said: “She’d always wanted to get married so she was over the moon.
“She’d even written out a secret wedding plan last year.
“But at that point we thought she’d have months, even years, not days.”
Dawn was admitted to Trinity Hospice, to its end-of-life care unit on Low Moor Road in Bispham, on April 28.
“She was happy to go there,” Dean said. “She knew she’d be looked after and they were unreal.”
Here her fiance was warned to plan the wedding for sooner rather than later.
He said: “I think I’d fooled myself she had longer to live.”
The same vicar, Father John from St Peter’s Church in Fleetwood, who blessed their baby was called in to do the nuptials and a notice was put on Gift Of A Wedding’s Facebook page at 8pm on the Thursday night before the wedding.
Within hours, dozens of people had pledged their support to arrange the wedding for 3.30pm the next day.
Donations to the big day included a free photographer, John Francis Photography, flowers from Jeanettes Florists, and beauty by Rebecca Davenport and Pinkies Polished, to name just a few.
Mr Jackson said: “Dawn looked stunning in her dress.
“It was unbelievable the response we got.
“Dawn had the dream wedding she always wanted and there is no way this could have happened without Gift Of A Wedding and the generosity of local companies and individuals.”
Dawn, wearing a beautiful donated wedding dress and surrounded by decorations in keeping with her dream pink and purple theme, was wheeled into a room at Trinity Hospice to share her big day with family and close friends.
Mr Jackson said: “She was over the moon. Seeing her smile that day was the best bit, in those moments, in spite of the pain, she was her normal self.”
The couple were happily married for two days but Dawn’s health deteriorated rapidly.
She died in the early hours on May 4, her husband at her bedside.
Mr Jackson said: “I’ve so many happy memories of our lives, holidays and days out with children. Dawn was a wonderful person.”
• Mrs Jackson will be remembered in a service at Carleton Crematorium next Tuesday, May 19, at 12pm.
In Dean’s own words...
Husband Dean Jackson kept this honest and heartbreaking account of the 18 days of his beloved’s Dawns illness.
Dawn has a blood clot on her chest, which was preventing oxygen to the head. While they were running the tests, they have found something on her liver which may or may not be related. She is OK now but she’s still in hospital and might be for a while. They say that they’re not too concerned about the liver problem since it could be cysts but because she does not drink, is young and otherwise healthy, she is easily treated.
It looks like Dawn has bowel cancer - probably terminal. I don’t know what to do.
April 20 -
We are just waiting for the results. After she came back from having tests she was very sick and was in a lot of pain.
The operation Dawn had didn’t go well unfortunately and they found that the cancer has spread to the spleen.
Went to Blackpool to buy Dawn an engagement ring. There is a charity that offers free weddings for terminally ill people so we’re hoping for a wedding very soon.
She had lots of visitors today and it just shows how much she is loved
Dawn phoned this morning and she sounded more like her normal self.
I planned that when her mum arrived she should walk in with the video camera recording me proposing.
I just want to document as much as possible because one of my fears is the children will have little memory of her in years to come.
One of the many visitors was Father John from St Peter‘s Church in Fleetwood, who blessed her. It just brings some small comfort in this difficult time.
Joshua has been nominated for a bravery award – I’m so very proud of him.
Her former magnolia hospital wall is slowly turning into a collage of pictures of the children - anything I can do to make her stay in hospital as comfortable as possible I will do
April 24 -
Dawn was better today. She was more active so it seems the drugs are having the effect they expected.
April 25 -
It‘s now been over a week and we are still non the wiser of her condition.
It is frustrating not knowing, it‘s frustrating seeing Dawn like the way she is and its frustrating not being able to plan the wedding because of us not knowing anything.
The wedding would be the one thing Dawn could focus on to help her get some quality of life.
April 26 -
I felt a lot of frustration today. Dawn was having a very good day, she was talking all day and did much less sleeping but we spent hours calling for nurses to come to sort out her drip.
Dawn has been offered the chance of going into a hospice today.
She had another good day and asked me to bring her some of her favourite drinks in – her demands are growing so you can tell she is getting better.
Through the day we started a bucket list for her. She has listed eight achievable things but we are keen to make it 10.
There has been no discussion of treating the cause, so we don’t know whether or not chemotherapy will take place.
Dawn has now been moved to the hospice in Bispham. It is another world compared to the Vic. She is so happy here. I am staying here tonight with her and attending to all that I can.
She has picked up further since yesterday. She has become more coherent and I watched her eat a full bowl of soup and half a jacket. The tea lady even comes round with spirits!
Yesterday Dawn did a bucket list and one of them was to meet Keith Harris and Orville. Sadly only hours of putting pen to paper Keith died in the same hospital. We were lucky enough to be the last to see him perform on stage.
I spent the night at the hospice last night so I saw Dawn first thing this morning. First thing this morning she was in slight pain but nothing too severe.
The nurse came to see me and told me if I was planning a wedding I should be doing it sooner rather than later. I made the necessary phonecalls and arranged it for this Friday.
I just hope she survives that long.
Dawn had a good night’s sleep - 9 hours! The morphine is having an impact on her but overall - she’s comfortable and happy.
I knew she would be better today.
It was a dream come true for me and Dawn to marry.
It has to be the most proud moment of my life and I can’t thank everyone enough for their generosity, humanity and kindness for making our day special.