A man who is suffering from a terminal brain tumour will next month tie the knot with his “best friend” and partner of 11 years.
David Smith, who is 34, will marry girlfriend Katy Harris in her home town in England, with their son Danny (4) standing alongside them.
The Portadown man, who is trying to make the most of every day he has left, was first diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour in 2010.
He has undergone two major, lifesaving operations since then but has now been told there is nothing more the surgeons can do for him.
The couple, who live in the Park Road area, are being helped by the charity, Gift of a Wedding, to make sure they have a day to treasure.
And planning their ‘big day’ has given them a much-needed ‘lift’ and something to look forward to.
Said David, “Katy has given up her life for me and my dying wish is for us to get married.”
David’s diagnosis came after he began experiencing severe headaches and memory loss over the space of about a month.
One day, Katy found him in the kitchen of their home and he didn’t know where he was. The day he was taken to hospital, he was barely able to get out of bed.
A lorry driver by trade, David was “never at the doctor’s” and when he wasn’t at work he was with Katy or out with his mates pursuing his main hobbies of fishing and hunting.
As he explained, “life was good” so the diagnosis was a bolt from the blue.
An MRI scan confirmed the couple’s worst fears - there was a tumour 11cm long and a cyst as well - and David needed a highly risky operation. Said David, “I was told I might not make it - in fact, I was initially told I only had six months to live.”
But David pulled through and the tumour remained stable for four years practically to the day.
However, last October David had another MRI scan and was told he again needed a major, urgent operation to take some of the pressure off his brain.
Said Katy, “Afterwards, they told him they will not operate again.”
Since then, David has endured a “horrendous” course of chemotherapy, which didn’t work, and has just finished another course which appears to be keeping the tumour stable.
Through all of this, Katy has stood by David, even though he told her at the outset to leave him and go back to England, which she refused to do.
He said, “At the start, I was at an all-time low. I remember lying on the sofa in the early hours of the morning, I was terrified I was going to die in the bed with Katy.”
But the couple eventually decided to have their much-loved son Danny, who attends the nursery at Portadown Integrated PS. He will be four on November 12, the day before their wedding.
David, who also has a son by a previous relationship, is a doting dad. He says that if it weren’t for Danny he would give up. “He is so funny, he makes me laugh,” he said. “He knows I am not well but I want to make memories for him. I am having the best time of my life with him.”
And there will be plenty of memories. The family spent the summer in Cranfield - thanks to a caravan Katy’s mum and dad bought for them - two weeks ago they were at Dublin Zoo and there are daily trips to the park and the swimming pool.
Added David, “If I had died before he was two, he wouldn’t have known me, and sometimes I wish I had died then to spare him what he is going to go through. But Katy is a fantastic mum and I have no worries that way whatsoever.
“Everything I do now is for the child. I am fighting even harder. I live every day for Danny. I am not a religious person but when I wake up I think ‘I have got another day’.”
David and Katy met when Katy, who is from Rochdale and worked for O2, phoned David about an upgrade.
And they will return there to marry, with 40 people attending the wedding and 80-90 the evening do.
Among the wedding party will be members of both families and David’s good friend Gareth Martin.
The couple are also hoping to have an evening do when they return - money permitting - for those people who cannot make the trip to England.
Funds have been tight for the couple as David has not been able to work since his diagnosis so when Katy’s mum contacted the charity, Gift of a Wedding, they were delighted.
The Portadown pair’s wedding is the first in Northern Ireland that the charity has organised. The charity invites businesses to donate what they can to the ‘big day’ leaving the couple with less expense to worry about.
Local businesses have stepped in to help, with Debonair in Portadown providing the suits, Perfect Day in Lurgan ‘gifting’ the dress, and town jewellers Nigel O’Hara and David Van Scoy donating the rings and necklaces for the bridesmaids.
While David has had a few unpleasant experiences of people thinking he was drunk - the tumour affects his balance - and has had to put up with some stares at his scarred scalp, he has good friends, from both sides of the community, and both he and Katy have support from their families.
His fishing friends take him out, the guys from the gun club visit, Sure Start have been “fantastic” while the women in the Costcuttters store and Post Office on the Garvaghy Road “are great”.
He is not afraid of dying - “It comes to us all, it’s out of my hands. You come in on a date and you go out on a date and the middle bit you make yourself.
“I don’t want to die, who does, but I will never give up.”