‘Who will look after our children’ Mother and father contemplate leaving their son and daughter orphans after BOTH are diagnosed with a terminal illnessPaul and Clare Coulston have been making guardianship arrangementsShe was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer and he with Motor Neurone DiseaseMrs Coulston has been a 30 per cent chance of survival and her husband has been told he has between three and five years to live
A couple with two young children have both been told they are terminally ill.
Paul and Clare Coulston have been making guardianship arrangements for their daughter Evelyn, four, and son Finlay, six.
Mrs Coulston, 36, a police sergeant, has been given just a 30 per cent chance of surviving an aggressive form of oesophageal cancer. She was diagnosed in 2009.
Mr Coulston, 37, a deputy headteacher, has been told he has between three and five years to live with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
Guardianship arrangements: Paul and Clare Coulston with son Finlay, six and daughter Evelyn Coulston, four
Double diagnosis: Mrs Coulston was told she had oesophageal cancer and her husband found out he has Motor Neurone Disease
He was diagnosed in April with the progressive condition which attacks the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, stopping the muscles working.
To watch them joking with one another, laughing and smiling as they play with their children, it is hard to believe any heartache lies behind the Coulston’s perfect family picture.
But the couple, of Ulverston, Cumbria, are having to make plans no parents of young children should ever have to make.
Mrs Coulston said: ‘We’ve had to think about guardianship for the children, trustees – all the questions you don’t want to have to ask or the places you don’t want to go, we’ve had to sit down and realistically think about.’
Her husband added: ‘We’re lucky in that we’ve got a really good support network of family and friends. That’s everything – it’s what keeps you going day to day.
‘Last summer I thought I’d injured my hip – I was struggling to walk on my right leg. Then just before Christmas, when I was on the treadmill, my right leg kept catching. I was able to lift more weights with my left hand than with my right.’
He was finally diagnosed in April.
‘All I knew about Motor Neurone Disease was Stephen Hawking,’ he said.
As MND affects everyone differently, some people live for longer than five years, while others have less than three.
Mr Coulston is taking drugs aimed at slowing the disease’s progress, and is back at work as deputy head of St George’s Primary School in Barrow.
At play: Mrs Coulston has been given just a 30 per cent chance of surviving an aggressive form of cancer
Proud father: Mr Coulston is taking drugs aimed at slowing the progress of his Motor Neurone Disease, and is back at work as deputy headteacher
He said: ‘I’m just getting through each day. When I need a lift, I’ll plan for it then, when I need help from social workers, I’ll call.
‘At the moment I get up and think “I can still do that today”, rather than about what I won’t be able to do in a year.’
But the couple are having to face some of their fears head on, because of Mrs Coulston’s condition.
She was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in October 2009 and, while she underwent surgery and two courses of chemotherapy, was told she only had 30 per cent chance of living five years.
While she is currently clear of cancer, Mrs Coulston said: ‘A lot of the time, it’s at the three or four year mark when it recurs.
‘It was quite far advanced and it was in my lymph nodes, so there’s always the chance that it’s somewhere else we don’t know about.’
In a bid to support the couple, close friend Adele Dean and Mrs Coulston’s mother, Sue Hudson, are hosting a fundraiser in Barrow tonight.
The couple want to take their children on a special holiday, but a lot of the money raised will cover adjustments needed to their home as Mr Coulston’s condition deteriorates, and financial support when he can no longer work.
Despite being ‘nervous’ about tonight’s event, Mr Coulston said: ‘We’re really grateful for all the effort that’s gone into organising it, all the people who’ve donated prizes or their services, everyone who comes or who’s made donations because they can’t.
‘The way people want to help us, it’s just amazing.’