“Trying to organise your funeral and your wedding in the same week, who can prepare you for that?”
This is the reality for Portadown mother-of-two, Jade Caughey, who was delivered the news that her cancer was terminal just last Friday.
The 28-year-old, who has been engaged to long term partner Lee Parker for seven years, wishes to tie the knot in the coming weeks, but has sadly also taken it upon herself to organise her own funeral.
Speaking to Armagh I, Lee, whose family have set up a fundraising page to help with funeral costs, a wedding and future plans said that Jade had “fought valiantly” throughout.
It all began in November of last year, Jade had been diagnosed with nasal polyps and had been referred to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) doctor for a check up.
“That was standard procedure as far as the doctors were concerned,” Lee explained. “Jade kept going back to the doctors and they kept saying that she was on the waiting list.
“There wasn’t much they could do, then Covid hit and all appointments were cancelled.”
Then in May, Jade and Lee became extremely alarmed as the swelling had grown so much that he eye was being pushed out of its socket.
Lee said: “I brought her straight over to A&E; she was there for a couple of hours and at around 2am they told her that it was a tumour behind her eye going in toward sinuses behind her cheekbones and into the front of her head.”
Around a week later, Jade underwent a complicated procedure which saw her on the operating table for about eight hours.
“They came out and they were very happy with results, they thought they had got most of it,” said Lee.
However, a biopsy was carried out on the tumour, which revealed it to be cancerous.
Lee explained: “Jade was told it was a very aggressive form of cancer, to do with hormones and that it could have manifested itself anywhere in her body.
“It is very uncommon and very difficult to treat as there is not a lot of research into it. So, within five and half weeks she was back in for a second operation between which time the tumour had almost grown back completely.”
Almost immediately after surgery, Jade went on to four block of chemo – each of these done over three days.
Lee commented: “It was horrific; she had to be in there for 10 hours the first day, then two-and-a-half the other two days, that was travelling up and done to Belfast as well, which was even worse.”
From September 28, Jade then began 35 daily sessions of radiotherapy with an hour and a half of chemotherapy on a Friday.
Because of the treatment Jade had to isolate at the hospital for seven weeks with only one person allowed to see her.
Lee said: “Me and boys never seen her, because of Covid restrictions only one person was able to see her and that was Jade’s dad. He would have been up on a Tuesday with any provisions she needed.
“She was living off Cup a Soup because her mouth had swollen up so much with the radiotherapy and all round her eye was very badly burnt with the intensity of it.”
Jade was then allowed to return home for two weeks but had to go back to hospital on December 14.
Whilst back with the family, she began to suffer with pains in her back; she had trouble standing and could not get comfortable.
Lee continued: “She still couldn’t eat, she had no strength but she was still doing her best to try and spend time with the boys; she made sure they were tucked in at night and she was trying to get stuff sorted for Christmas.
“She was just so drained, after all the treatment, after everything she had been through but what we didn’t know was, four weeks from her last treatment, that cancer had grown back very aggressively at the back of her skull and into her brain and it had attached itself into her spinal cord.”
Last Friday, the bleak news that nobody ever wants to hear came – Jade would have just months to live.
“It has been a rollercoaster to say the least,” said Lee. “She has been through a lot of treatment and for it to come back so quickly and so aggressively, it really has rocked the whole lot of us.”
“She fought so valiantly through the lot, even after the chemo, she was putting the boys to bed, trying to get up to cook because it is what she does, she looks after people, words can’t describe her.”
Lee said that Jade would be returning home for Christmas, with some help as she now had no feeling in her legs due to the tumour being attached to her spinal cord.
The fundraising page was set up by Lee’s cousin, Marianne Parker, to help out the couple.
Lee explained: “The family had discussed it to help us out with stuff for Christmas, but I said there was no point as I had been buying bits and pieces from October because I just didn’t know.
“Then we got the terminal diagnosis; it is hard to get the price of a funeral together on short notice and my family just said it is stress you don’t need, ‘Jade is coming home just spend some time with her and the boys'”.
The pair have also been engaged for seven years, but with the birth of Ben and James along with Lee’s son, Kai, from a previous relationship, by his own admission Lee said “life got in the way”.
Lee said he has been overwhelmed by the support from local people, businesses and charities with the total currently sitting over £7,400.
He said: “It definitely helps but it doesn’t take it away, there are things that are important in life and there are things that are necessities, you need food in your belly and a roof over your head and these days it is not free.
“Funeral expenses are big, unfortunately I do not have that money lying about at 28 years of age; nobody thinks about funerals. Trying to organise your funeral and your wedding in the same week, who can prepare you for that?”
If you would like to make a donation you can visit Jade and Lee’s GoFundme page.