Michael and Karen McIntosh were married the day before he died - now she's backing a powerful new campaign
Brave mum Karen McIntosh who married the love of her life the day before he died from cancer is backing a powerful new television campaign which urges Scots to help write an end to the disease.
Cancer Research UK is launching a drive to encourage more people to remember the charity in their wills.
New TV and radio adverts focus on the power of a signature in our lives to do everything from registering a baby’s birth to signing a marriage register which declares a love that can last forever.
It also highlights that a signature on a will leaving a legacy gift to Cancer Research UK can fund life saving research.
Karen faced a race against time to marry her fiancé Michael after the couple from Lochgilphead, Argyll, were told that skin cancer had spread to his lungs and brain.
Now Karen, 35, who moved to Dunoon to be closer to family after her husband died, has paid tribute to his courage.
We were just an ordinary couple with two young children who thought our whole lives stretched ahead of us
The couple married on 2 October last year in an emotional ceremony watched by close family including their children, Finlay, three, and Annie, one.
Forestry manager Michael died the next day, aged only 43. More than £3,000 was collected for Cancer Research UK at his funeral.
Michael was 22 when he was diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
It meant major surgery to remove it and he had been clear of cancer for more than a decade when he first met Karen and the couple dared to hope it would never return.
Karen said: “We met through friends and just clicked. We had a lot in common and I knew he was the one for me. We were happy to accept that cancer was in the past. Michael was a healthy weight, he didn’t smoke, he drank only a couple of glasses a wine a week. Our life together meant just being together. At weekends Michael loved to cook and we’d enjoy long walks in the hills.”
They had their first child, Finlay, in 2011 and when their daughter Annie arrived in March last year, it felt like their family was complete.
Sleepless nights and a hectic young family life meant they weren’t too worried at first when Michael developed a cough.
When he started getting chest pain and felt breathless he visited his GP last August who sent him for an urgent chest x-ray. The results revealed a shadow on his lung.
Karen said: “We were worried but kept hoping it was something else, that it wasn’t cancer. Michael still looked well.”
But more tests confirmed it was cancer and it had already spread to his stomach. When Michael developed agonising headaches, a scan showed cancer was also in his brain.
Karen said: “It was a shock that cancer had come back after so much time. It was all a bit of a blur as we went from not knowing there was anything wrong to losing Michael in just eight weeks.
“Michael kept saying how sorry he was for leaving us but I wanted to make the most of what time we had left. He asked me what I’d like to do and I said I’d like to get married. I found a lace dress on Ebay, a friend made a five tier wedding cake, and a week later we were married.”
Their wedding in the conservatory at the Kilmartin House Museum café in Argyll was unforgettable. But Michael suffered a seizure just minutes after signing the register and had to go home where he shared a kiss with his new wife before losing consciousness. He died on October 3 at 9pm with Karen by his side.
Karen said: “I felt so proud to become Michael’s wife. Michael looked so smart in his dark grey suit and was determined to stand up all the way through the wedding ceremony. He wanted to do everything the right way and to make me happy. That day was a celebration of our love and precious time together which I’ll never forget.
“We were just an ordinary couple with two young children who thought our whole lives stretched ahead of us. But none of us know what’s going to happen next. I hope research in to cancer will help prevent other families going through what we have.”
For more information on how you can write a gift in your will at cruk.org/WriteAnEnd or call 0800 707 6006.