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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Brave Ulverston couple smile through parents’ worst nightmare

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 36-year-old mum Clare has just a 30 per cent chance of surviving an aggressive form of cancer, while her husband, Paul, is fighting a terminal illness.

Mum and dad to Evelyn, four, and Finlay, six, the couple are having to make plans no parents should ever have to make.

Mr Coulston has Motor Neurone Disease (MND), a progressive condition which attacks the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, stopping the muscles working.

Doctors say he probably has between three and five years to live.

The 37-year-old, of Birkrigg Park, Ulverston, said: “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.”

Finally diagnosed in April, he added: “All I knew about Motor Neurone Disease was Stephen Hawking.”

Because MND affects everyone differently, some people get longer than five years – others have less than three.

Mr Coulston is taking drugs aimed at slowing the progression down, and is back at work as deputy head of St George’s Primary School in Barrow.

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.

The Barrow police sergeant was diagnosed with esophageal 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.

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.”

Mr Coulston 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.”

While she is clear from 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 mum, Sue Hudson, are hosting a fundraiser tonight at The Nines, in Barrow.

With performances by The Chevrons and The Rusty Bullets, plus free venue hire, proceeds from sales of £5 tickets will help the family.

Tickets are available on the doors, which open at 7.30pm.

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.”

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