WHEN Nicola and John Mansfield met, they knew within seconds that they would end up married.
“It was a whirlwind romance, we clicked from the moment we met,” Nicola says.
“We knew we’d get married and it was a real love story, just like in the films – only ours had a tragic ending.”
Just two weeks after their honeymoon, John collapsed and was eventually diagnosed with a brain tumour that developed into brain cancer.
The couple were told in January 2012 that John was terminally ill and wouldn’t survive the year.
They enjoyed one last holiday together and after a weekend in the Lake District, Nicola decided to make John’s final wish come true.
WEDDING DAY: John and Nicola Mansfield
“We came back from our holiday talking about baby names and I knew I had to make his dream come true so I asked him how he’d feel if I tried to get pregnant before he died.
“His biggest dream was to be a father and he was so happy he burst into tears.
“We knew our chances were limited after chemotherapy so we had John’s sperm frozen and, knowing we were living on borrowed time, had two eggs implanted to try and make sure one took.
“The process was really difficult on top of everything else but it was something John really wanted and I wanted to do it for him.”
Knowing John didn’t have long left, his Macmillan nurses arranged an early scan for his wife.
However, he lost consciousness the night before Nicola found out she was carrying twins.
“The nurses said he could hear me so as soon as I came home, I told him – he grunted and that was his way of telling me he knew.
“I think that’s what he was hanging on for as he passed away two days later while I was sat by his bed – I held his hand as he took his last breath, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Nicola suffered hearing loss and headaches throughout John’s illness but it was only following his death that she discovered she also had life-threatening brain tumours.
The same team that nursed her husband went on to care for Nicola, operating when she was 23 weeks pregnant.
“The babies were too little to save and I knew there was a chance I could come out without them but that morning I felt calm, as though John was with me and I felt everything would be alright.”
Nicola credits the support of friends, family, district and Macmillan nurses with getting her through the hardest time of her life but says without twins Archie John and Ella Kate, she wouldn’t be here to tell her story.
“I didn’t want to continue living without John, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and without the twins, I would have given up.
“I wake up every morning wishing he was here but my babies are the reason I carry on.
“They’re his legacy and they’re amazing – they know who their daddy is and they blow kisses to his picture every night.”
The twins are now 15-months-old and their mother – still undergoing treatment for a tumour, facial paralysis and hearing loss – is fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Care.
To other people suffering, she says: “Don’t give up, no matter how hard life gets something good will happen – I’ve got my babies to prove it.”