A MARRIED couple who last year suffered their "most difficult" yet said their family would now become "one big unit" after winning £2m in the National Lottery.

John, 62, and Allison McDonald, 49, of Stockton, said 2019 had been their most difficult yet after their son was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma in May.

Mr McDonald, who up until their big win was a security officer in Hartlepool and Mrs McDonald, who had to take leave from her job in an opticians, said son Ewan had to undergo several rounds of chemotherapy.

But just days before he was given the all-clear following treatment, the pair said they were left in disbelief after their Lucky Dip matched all six numbers in the draw on December 18.

On Friday, at a Lotto Winners conference which was held at Crathorne Hall Hotel near Stockton, the couple said their win was "still sinking in," as they struggled to hold back the tears.

Mr McDonald said: "It's been a difficult year – Alison has been by Ewan's side for all that time since he was diagnosed, she's never left his side and it's been one long journey which has hopefully come to an end.

"It means again we're going to do things as a family together, but now having retired we're just going to be one big family unit."

The Northern Echo: John and Allison McDonald celebrate their Lotto win. Picture: Danny Lawson / PA WireJohn and Allison McDonald celebrate their Lotto win. Picture: Danny Lawson / PA Wire

The pair, who have three children and three grandchildren, were apart when Mr McDonald discovered the win. 

Mr McDonald said: "I had finished my routine patrols and was sitting having a cup of tea when I remembered I had not checked my lottery ticket.

"I quickly realised I had matched two numbers and thought great – this means I have won a Lucky Dip.

"I then matched three numbers and was over the moon, thinking we can do something nice this weekend as a family, but then I realised I had matched all six numbers – I was in total shock."

The Northern Echo: John and Allison McDonald celebrate their Lotto win. Picture: Danny Lawson / PA WireJohn and Allison McDonald celebrate their Lotto win. Picture: Danny Lawson / PA Wire

After matching 13, 15, 36, 44, 50 and 56 in the draw, Mr McDonald said his heart was pounding and struggled to hold back the tears.

After calling Camelot to verify that he had in fact won, he attempted to phone his wife to give her the news.

He said: "I called Camelot to check that what I was seeing was right – I couldn't believe it when it was confirmed."

The Northern Echo:

The winning ticket was purchased at ASDA on Portrack Lane in Stockton Picture: GOOGLE

Mrs McDonald, who had to take leave to care for Ewan while undergoing treatment, said she thought "something had gone wrong" with Ewan when she missed her husband's call.

She said: "I thought 'oh no why is he calling me' – all sorts of thoughts rushed through my head.

"Never did I believe when I called him back that he would be telling me we had won the Lotto Jackpot.

"When I found out I went home to clean the bathroom because I didn't know what to do with myself."

The Northern Echo:

Mr McDonald said: "Alison said she had to sit down. The emotions, you don't know whether to laugh or cry, you get tears and wobbly legs, your heart rate starts pounding – the disbelief is there for quite a long time."

The couple said they continued to have a normal Christmas despite their windfall, said they would try to live a normal life but considered a move to a larger home with "more room" for their grandchildren.

Paying tribute to the doctors and nurses who had helped Ewan through his battle, the couple said: "We're so thankful, they are the best people in the world. Ewan's received fantastic care."

The Northern Echo:

The couple added: "“It is fantastic that this win has not only given us the financial security to buy a lovely new family home – but also time.

"We can both now afford to stop work and spend time with our family making memories – something we could only have ever dreamed of doing.”