Emma and Justin Cotillard from the UK had just been married. The young lovers couldn't have been happier and looked forward to an exciting honeymoon. They had no idea that this trip would end up becoming their worst nightmare.
One morning during the trip, Justin scared his wife half to death. "He woke up one morning and started screaming at me to get out of his room," remembers Emma. She was seven months pregnant at the time and was completely distraught by her husband's strange behavior. When she asked Justin what was wrong, she received a very terrifying answer.
"He thought I was a stranger. He didn’t remember that I was seven months pregnant with our first baby," recalled Emma.
The couple had to end their honeymoon early and head home to the UK. Justin went for a checkup to find out what was wrong with him and underwent an MRI scan. What it revealed was devastating: Justing had a very aggressive and fatal brain tumor. Doctors told him that he could prolong his life for another two years if he underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The diagnosis left the young couple in shock.
Due to the severe stress of the situation, Emma gave birth to their daughter Mia five weeks early. Fortunately she was perfectly healthy. That was on August 17, 2015, the same day Justin started radiation therapy. This meant he could only see his newborn daughter on the weekends.
Four months later, another brain scan showed that the tumor had grown larger and metastacized. It was the most aggressive tumor the doctors had seen in a decade. In October 2015, it looked like the end was near for Justin. Emma remembers the conversation with his doctor: "They gave me two weeks to take my husband home before he died."
But amazingly, Justin lived for another seven months and was able to celebrate his 30th birthday and another Christmas. Sadly, everyone recognized that his days were numbered and he was brought to a hospice so he would be properly cared for. Justin, however, refused to give up — he was determined to live and it appeared as though he were waiting for something. Emma had a good idea what it was.
Justin wanted to see his daughter again. She had not been allowed to visit him for two days because she was suffering from chicken pox. The staff at the hospice decided to bend the rules and allowed Justin to see Mia one last time. But unfortunately it was too late. "I went back into his room, lay down next to him on the bed and told him that Mia was on her way. That was when he let go. He died knowing that she was ok," remembers Emma.
Since her husband's death in May 2016, Emma has been volunteering to help other brain tumor patients and their relatives. She collects donations and works for The Brain Tumor Charity, a non-profit organization in the UK.
The symptoms of a brain tumor are often harmless in the beginning and can be easily ignored. One of Emma's goals is to raise awareness to help sufferers spot them earlier when there is still a chance to treat them. Looking back, Emma can now see that Justin's behavior had changed noticeably before the wedding.
"His behavior had started to become a bit erratic. He would go off and walk around in circles on his own and sometimes his speech was a bit slurry," recalls Emma. She had simply assumed that he was nervous about the upcoming marriage, but even some guests at their wedding had noticed that something wasn't quite right with him.
But no one would have guessed that he had a brain tumor. Emma later noticed a detail in the wedding photos that she had never noticed before: "Looking at the wedding photos now, you can see that the right side of his face is droopy,"
Emma hopes that their story will help other people to recognize the warning signs and get medical help before it's too late. In many cases, brain tumors are treatable when they are diagnosed early enough. Let's hope that other sufferers out there get the treatment they need in time.