When 23-year-old Jack Kane was tragically diagnosed with terminal cancer, he made a life-changing decision. Although he was given just weeks to live, the young man proposed to his girlfriend, Emma Clarke. She accepted, too, and the hastily arranged wedding took place just over a week later. However, Jack’s wedding speech left his family and friends in stunned silence.
Like a lot of young couples, Jack and Emma had known each other for a long time before beginning their relationship. The British pair have been friends for close to a decade, and they finally got together in 2014. Unlike most people their age, however, the couple faced an unimaginable few months in 2017 when Jack fell seriously ill.
Suffering with pain in his back and legs, the 23-year-old eventually visited a doctor in August. The tests he underwent failed to diagnose the problem, though. Unfortunately, furthermore, Jack’s health continued to deteriorate, with the back pain and leg hypersensitivity only becoming worse. And following a number of different diagnoses, ranging from mental illness all the way to a trapped nerve, the situation came to a head one morning.
Upon waking up, Jack discovered that he couldn’t move – and this prompted further tests and an MRI scan at the North Tees hospital in Middlesbrough, England. Unlike the previous tests, however, the MRI indicated that there was a cancerous tumor on his upper spine. From there, Jack was hence moved to the nearby James Cook Hospital, and yet his situation continued to become more desperate.
On October 13 both Jack and Emma were then informed that his apparent cancer was terminal. In fact, he was given just weeks to live. Despite this devastating news, however, the young man acted quickly to make the most of the time that he thought he had left. As he was now confined to a wheelchair, he asked his nurses to help him out – so that he could propose to his girlfriend in the traditional manner.
“I was always going to marry her – we’ve known each other for nearly ten years and have been together for the last three,” Jack told the Daily Mirror. “From the day I first met her, I knew I wanted to be with her. So I got my mum to get the ring, and the nurses put me down on one knee to propose.”
Much like her husband-to-be, Emma expected that they’d eventually get married, but she admitted that it was an awful situation to be in. “We got prepared to say goodbye to each other and were coming to terms with the fact [that] he wasn’t going to be around anymore,” she told the Daily Mail. “It was bizarre.”
“We had known for a while [that] we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, and to be told we only had weeks left was the hardest thing in the world,” she continued. “It was awful. We had planned to get married eventually but thought it would be in the distant future.”
After the proposal, Jack and Emma’s wedding was arranged to take place on October 23 at the hospital. And on the day, the bride’s father and four-year-old daughter, Lola, walked her down the aisle in front of a small gathering of family and friends. A few hours later, however, a bombshell was dropped on those attending the reception at Billingham’s Synthonia Club.
With more than 100 people in attendance, Jack delivered a moving speech that left his family and friends stunned. “The doctors have done some further tests, and they came back positive,” he told the guests. “I am not terminal.”
You see, just days before the wedding, Jack had been preparing for a spinal biopsy at the hospital – a procedure which required surgery. On the day of the biopsy, though, a scan revealed that the supposed tumor on his spine was shrinking. Even better, subsequent tests soon indicated that the 23-year-old didn’t even have cancer at all.
The medical staff admitted their extraordinary error to Jack on October 20; and instead, he was diagnosed with an incredibly rare illness called Neuromyelitis optica (NMO), better known as Devic’s disease. NMO is a condition that causes spinal and optic nerve inflammation, and fewer than 1,000 people are believed to suffer from the illness in the United Kingdom.
“As long as I live I will never forget the atmosphere in the room when Jack said, ‘I’m not terminal,’” Emma told the Daily Mail. “You could hear a pin drop. Everyone looked like they were taking seconds to register what was going on, [and] then the room erupted into cheers and crying.”
“Jack decided to tell everyone at the wedding because some of his family live and work away,” she continued. “We’d previously delivered the news [that] he was terminally ill by making individual phone calls. We thought that it would be better to share this good news face-to-face with everyone.”
Despite the relief, though, those days before the misdiagnosis was confirmed had taken their toll on Jack as he prepared himself for the worst. “When I found out that I was not terminal, my first thought was, ‘Well what is it then?’” he recalled. “It took me so long to digest the news that I wasn’t dying.”
“It wasn’t until a few days later that it really hit me,” the 23-year-old added. “I told my direct family before the wedding, and with each person I told I felt better. During my speech at the reception the room just exploded when I made the announcement.”
Meanwhile, although there currently isn’t a cure for NMO, Jack is now undertaking an intense rehabilitation program to build up the muscles in his legs. And he’s subsequently hoping to return home at some point in December 2017.
What’s more, while NMO is a condition that Jack will have to live with for the foreseeable future, the young man is refusing to let it defeat him. “My legs may never come back, but there are people worse off than me,” he told the Daily Mirror. “I won’t be beaten by something I can’t see.”
“As it sank in that it was NMO, we were both so happy,” Emma, for her part, said. “NMO can cause sight loss or might mean he will be in a wheelchair for a long time, so we are trying to focus on remembering each other’s faces. But none of that matters so long as he is here.”
Two months ago, then, Jack and Emma Kane faced a deeply tragic position. However, through their love and commitment, what at first appeared to be the granting of a dying man’s wish now represents the chance of a happy life together for them.