Lancashire couple Steve and Jane Cottom found love a second time together following their separation almost a decade earlier.
However, their happiness was short lived and they were cruelly torn apart after Steve was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Jane tells Aasma Day how she and Steve married again at a poignant wedding ceremony at St Catherine’s Hospice only days before Steve’s death.
IT was fate that brought them together in the first place and after they lost each other, lightning struck twice making them fall in love all over again.
Steve and Jane Cottam first met in 2001 when Jane went on a night out to a local pub with a friend from work.
Jane, now 51, who lives on Primrose Street, Chorley, recalls: “I was on my way to the toilets when my friend asked me to get her a Baileys.
He had cancer in his arm and shoulder and it had spread to his vertebrae and there were shadows on his lungs.Jane Cottam
“The bar was really busy, so I cheekily tapped this guy at the bar and asked him to get the drink, told him where me and my friend were standing and that I would give him the money in a minute.
“I then went to the loo and when I came back, to my surprise, the man - who was Steve - had brought the drink.
“We then hit it off and we were so busy chatting, I totally forgot to pay him for the Baileys he bought for my friend.
“It ended up being a standing joke between us and Steve would often tease me saying: “You never did pay me for that drink!”
Jane, who has three grown-up children, says their relationship blossomed quickly and not only did she and Steve get on really well, he hit it off with her children too.
Jane says: “Steve moved in with me quite quickly. My divorce was going through at the time and I was a bit scared about committing again, but it just seemed so right.”
After a whirlwind romance, Steve and Jane got married later that year in December 2001 and were happily married until 2007.
The couple even lived together in Cyprus for a short time before returning to Lancashire.
In 2007, various factors led to them going their separate ways but they always remained close and were regularly in touch.
Jane explains: “The love was still there but we split up.
“I wanted to be with him, but at that point, I felt I needed to concentrate on my daughter who was quite young and had seen one messy divorce.
“I thought Steve and I splitting was for the best. Sometimes, you have to put your children first.
“I think I realised quite early on that I had made a mistake by splitting up and the love was still there. However, we stayed friends and were always there for each other when we needed it.”
As time went on, Steve and Jane began going out as friends but kept things quite casual as Jane was still quite scared of committing her heart again.
However, five years ago, they became a couple once more and were enjoying life together again and even started talking about getting married again.
However, their world was suddenly turned upside down a couple of months ago when Steve was suddenly diagnosed with cancer over Valentine’s weekend.
Jane explains: “Steve had been experiencing pains in his arm for a while, but it was put down to his job and he had been on painkillers.
“But in January this year, he found a lump on his arm.”
As a steel erector working in a physical job, the pain in Steve’s arm and shoulder was initially linked to a previous injury and an operation carried out five years ago.
However, when he developed a lump, further investigations including an MRI scan eventually found an aggressive sarcoma tumour which had also spread.
Jane, who works at Glover’s Bakery in Chorley, says: “It was a huge shock.
“The hospital told me that Steve had stomach cancer which had spread to his shoulder and spine.
“He had cancer in his arm and shoulder and it had spread to his vertebrae and there were shadows on his lungs.
“They told us it was terminal and gave Steve weeks to live.”
Steve went into St Catherine’s Hospice a week after his diagnosis. Jane admits when going to stay at St Catherine’s was first mentioned, they both didn’t know what to expect and were fearful.
Jane says: “We were both scared, but there really was no need to be.
“St Catherine’s made such a difference to Steve’s life, and mine.
“They treated Steve like Steve, not just a patient and the support they provided to us both was incredible. I don’t think I would have got through it without them.”
Jane says although she and Steve had talked about getting married again over the last few years, they had never really done anything seriously about it.
All that changed with Steve’s diagnosis as they knew time was running out.
Jane and Steve decided the time was right to tie the knot and after mentioning their wishes to staff and volunteers at St Catherine’s Hospice, a moving ceremony was arranged within a couple of days.
The couple shared their special occasion with close family and friends at St Catherine’s Hospice on March 2.
Devastatingly, Steve, 52, died just days later on March 14.
Despite the pain of losing Steve, Jane says having the wedding day has made the pain more bearable and her memories and photographs of the day will always be treasured.
She says: “I want to thank everyone at St Catherine’s for helping to organise such a moving celebration.
“It was such a special day which meant so much to us.
“It was something we really wanted to do and the team at St Catherine’s brought everything together to make it happen.
“Within a few days of arriving at St Catherine’s we’d made the decision to do it and we can’t thank St Catherine’s enough for all the effort they put in to make it such a wonderful day.”
Jane and Steve said their vows with Jane’s daughter Vic Tootell as Steve’s best man – sporting a skirt with shirt and tie in honour of the occasion.
Afterwards they celebrated with banners, balloons, a buffet, Prosecco and wedding cake.
Jane says: “I was absolutely gob-smacked by St Catherine’s had organised in such a short space of time. So much effort went into all the little touches. It meant the world to us and afterwards, when we were married, it felt like we were complete again.
“The wedding was just one of the ways St Catherine’s made such a difference to Steve’s life, and mine.
“It seems really unfair that cancer took Steve from me after we’d just found each other again.
“I don’t think his death has really sunk in with me yet.
“But having such a beautiful wedding day at St Catherine’s has really helped me.
“I could not have arranged anything nicer even if I had months and months to do it. Our wedding day was calm and peaceful, but emotional too.
“Even the registrar ended up in tears and found it difficult to read the words.”
Steve passed away at the hospice and Jane says it was very peaceful and she held his hand while he slept and slipped away.
Tracy Parkinson, in-patient unit manager at St Catherine’s Hospice, says she and the team feel honoured to have hosted Steve and Jane’s wedding day.
She says: “Hospice care is about being here for all of the many different things that are important to a person and their family at that particular time.
“This could be more obvious things like making sure someone has the right pain relief medication, but it also goes much further than treating physical symptoms.
“Getting married was something which was very important to Jane and Steve and we were delighted to have been able to help organise the occasion for them here at the hospice.”