To understand how Mollivers (and this website) truly came into existence, you first have to understand the story of Emmy Coates. But before you navigate away thinking that this is just another regular or routine story of 'just another' person's battle with cancer, know that this is not some average girl we're talking about here. This is the indomitable, unstoppable, incredible and inspirational Emmy Coates. The girl who who re-wrote the rulebook on dealing with a diagnosis of incurable cancer. Not a story of how she died, but of how she lived a life so inspirational and full of love in the face of such extreme adversity. So please, take a few moments to read about her, to share her story and to spread the legacy that she began.
She started to write this 'about us' section before she passed away but sadly never completed it. Because she wrote so beautifully and in an attempt to keep her 'voice' alive, i felt compelled to keep as much of the story as possible in her words, highlighted in yellow, as she had written it...
Emmy Coates passed away on June 16th 2017. She was only 31 years old when she died, just 15 months after she was first given her diagnosis of metastatic medullary thyroid cancer. This story should then start in March 2016, however first we have to go back a little bit further to how Emmy and I came to be...
Jake and I met at the tender age of 11 on our first day at secondary school. Our love blossomed over the years and we became childhood sweethearts. When watching an episode of 'Friends' (where a character explained that 'lobsters are partners for life') aged 16 Jake told me that I was his 'lobster' and we made a promise to one another that, if we weren't already, we would get married when we were 30.
Our relationship came to an end when we went our separate ways during university although we always remained in contact as friends. The contact gradually became less frequent predominantly due to distance when Jake moved to Australia for 4 years to work as a doctor and I was living in London working as a primary school teacher.
As a man of his word, not long after I turned 30 (having not seen one another for 6 years), I received a message from Jake reminding me of our 'lobster vow'. We spoke over FaceTime and after chatting and seeing one another again (albeit on a phone screen) all of the feelings came flooding back... we realised that maybe fairytales CAN exist. And so our adventure began!
From the moment we spoke on FaceTime, we continued to speak every day; negotiating the time difference and travelling (the short distance!) back and forth. By Christmas 2015 we had planned to start our lives together in the UK; our childhood dreams were becoming a reality!
Unbeknownst to me, Jake had planned to propose on a holiday planned in March (2016) to the Philippines before he moved back to the UK. Unfortunately it was a couple of days before I was meant to meet him there that I was given the devastating news that I had cancer. He was on the first flight out of Australia back to the UK to be by my side and he never left. Determined to go and unaware of the extent of the spread (thinking I would just be able to have it 'cut' out when I got home) we continued to plan our trip, but on the day we were due to travel I developed severe chest pain (which would ultimately be related to the disease spread), I was advised not to fly and we were unable to go. We had lots of cuddles and he made me feel so safe. He promptly proposed the next day in our small flat in Clapham in bed with a cup of tea and it couldn't have been more perfect. Despite the worst circumstances I still felt like the happiest and luckiest girl in the whole world. I was with my lobster and that's all that mattered.
Growing up Emmy had always been an active, fit and healthy girl with boundless energy. She was a member of every sports team at school and during her time at Royal Holloway University, and whilst never the biggest player, she was always one of the most talented, energetic and enthusiastic. Combined with the most positive attitude to life and the most contagious and breathtakingly beautiful smile she was, without doubt, a ray of sunshine to everyone who met her.
She was also an incredibly hard worker and having finally found her calling in life (becoming a wonderfully gifted primary school teacher), she would regularly stay late and go the extra mile for her pupils (her own 'little rays of sunshine' as she would call them) and her colleagues, without much consideration for herself. However about 18 months prior to being diagnosed she started to notice some unusual symptoms...
I gradually began to change from always having loads of energy and surviving on next to no sleep to feeling tired almost all of the time. I was used to having funny sleeping patterns due to my time as an air hostess but this was different - I was falling asleep at the wheel on my way home from work and couldn't summon the energy to exercise like normal. I also started having night sweats and unusual and problematic periods which were heavier than normal. I regularly felt sore all over with unexplained muscle aches and would get funny pains in my tummy and my back which tended to worsen after exercise leading to severe cramps and vomiting. But most obviously I had begun to experience increasingly irregular bowel habits with diarrhoea which was increasing in frequency and becoming excruciatingly painful, resulting in swelling, blisters and cuts to my bottom; it felt like I had shards of glass in my bum! These bowel problems kept me up during the night and were difficult to manage during daytime whilst I was at work. It was so horrible. It was ruining my life as I knew it.
Despite being someone who avoided going to the GP, Emmy visited the doctors several times in the 18 months before she was diagnosed only to be told she probably had IBS, norovirus or perhaps 'just stress'. She was certain that it was none of these but not wanting to waste their time she instead tried to forget about it all and just 'carry on'. Her routine blood results were normal as was an ultrasound of her liver, womb and ovaries. Ultimately she was not seeing the same doctors so it was tricky for anyone to build up any sort of picture of how she was.
Things only got worse as my health started to impact on every aspect of my life. Unfortunately I was not aware of the lymph nodes in my neck at this point (which had been growing over this same period but which I assumed were because I was run down or that they were muscle knots) and therefore did not highlight this and these were never checked. I was reluctant to continue to go to the doctor and felt demoralised but one particularly bad GP experience over the Christmas school holidays in 2015 was the final nail in the coffin (so to speak)... I just wanted to get on with life. I had stopped believing in myself and had given up on my own health. 'I must be a hypochondriac' I thought. 'There isn't anything actually wrong with me.'
By the time Jake and I were back in contact I was able to be totally honest with him. He was the love of my life and as he was a doctor. I felt completely comfortable to confide in him about my health. It was such a support and so reassuring to have someone just listen to you.
In February 2016 I flew out to Sydney to see him during my half term and we had the best time together. I was able to forget about my symptoms to an extent and I realise now, that it was one of the only times we ever had together where we didn't know the storm that was to lie ahead of us. We were so blissfully unawares and innocent. It was a perfect holiday. However on our last day together I ask Jake for a neck rub; to ease some of the 'muscle knots' I had been struggling with. In Jake's words his 'blood went cold'. He says in that moment, he knew something very serious was wrong. But not wanting to worry me he simply carried on and gently persuaded me to present to a doctor as soon as I was home, ask them to feel my neck and ask for a neck biopsy.
On arrival back to the UK the GP felt her neck and rushed Emmy into A&E immediately, where she was referred for an urgent neck biopsy. Within a week, following the biopsy results she was given the initial diagnosis of 'likely Medullary Thyroid Cancer' and this is when I flew back from Sydney to be with her. It has since been revealed that Emmy had probably had the cancer for up to 2 years before she was diagnosed.
Although it sounds absurd, it was almost a relief receiving the diagnosis, I felt I could fight and treat the illness. The worst feeling was knowing something was wrong but not being able to do anything about it, or even worse - thinking you're going mad. Jake gave me the confidence to pursue my case. I had completely given up hope.
My hope is that this story will not only make more people aware of symptoms of this rare cancer, but also empower people to be more aware of their own bodies, what is normal for them and ultimately to inspire them to never give up believing in themselves. If you think something is wrong you have to keep faith and keep searching for an answer. Remember that you know your own body better that anyone!
The chest pain Emmy experienced the day we were due to fly to the Philippines was proven to be a broken rib from a metastasis in the bone. The CT scan in the A&E department that day however showed that the disease had progressed far further than even I had feared though, with 'lesions' in her lungs, bones and liver. We were completely stunned and utterly heartbroken. We walked away from the hospital that day hand-in-hand, both in shock and fearing for the future that would be stolen from us. We spent the rest of the day in tears. It all seemed so unreal. Like it was all happening to someone else.
A week later, newly engaged and with as much positivity as we could both muster, we once again returned to St Georges hospital where we met the straight talking, incredibly professional and absolutely wonderful Dr Kate Newbold - a specialist in head and neck oncology based at The Royal Marsden Hospital.
That day Kate sat me down and asked me to talk. To talk through my symptoms from the beginning. To tell her everything, no matter how small. It was an amazing feeling. She made me feel like she had all the time in the world for me and it felt like she was the first doctor who really cared.
Dr Newbold explained that Emmy's longstanding bowel problems were due to the extremely high level of the hormone, calcitonin, secreted from the cancer cells. An average person has a calcitonin level of less than 10, whereas Emmy's were over 12000. The high concentrations of the hormone in her blood were making her need to empty her bowel every 15 minutes night and day which was having a severe impact on her quality of life including extreme fatigue, a fissured and blistered anus, weight loss and erratic menstruation (due to malabsorption of the contraceptive pill she was taking).
Kate would go on to tell us that due to the extent of the spread that her prognosis was very poor - that she had roughly a 10% chance of living 5 years. That it was incurable. But also that the chemotherapy treatment that she would require would prevent her ever being able to get pregnant as it would be potentially harmful to the foetus.
As an aunt, a god-mother, a primary school teacher and as a girl growing up all I ever wanted to be is a mother. To hear that I would not be able to carry my own child was the worst news of all. I felt like giving up there and then. So sad that I wouldn't be able to become a mummy but also so guilty that I wouldn't be able to make Jake a daddy. I felt so lost.
Our only option of ever having our own child was to undergo fertility treatment which we were referred for (and had funding approved) with in days. Before we knew it we had 'harvested' my eggs and Jake's little swimmers and a few weeks later we were very fortunately able to freeze 9 embryos which could potentially then be used with a surrogate in the future. It could never replace being pregnant but it was something. Something to hold on to. To focus on. To keep positive about.
The Royal Marsden is a remarkable institution. From the moment we walked through the doors we were blown away by the level of care that Emmy received. Not only did they organise the fertility treatment so quickly but they made sure that every aspect of Emmy's health was taken care of. They ran every test, walked us through every plan and gave us every treatment option available sparing no expense. They even took Emmy's own DNA and grew it in a mouse so that they could test new pioneering treatments and see which ones might work should hers fail. They are world leaders and you could see that in every aspect of what they did.
The staff are all absolutely wonderful and all deserve awards! But we had little idea of how important one such staff member would come to be. At our first meeting to discuss fertility and chemotherapy options we were introduced to a specialist nurse called Tara. It would later turn out that she was never meant to be Emmy's nurse, but Kate had thought that we would 'work well' together and for that single decision alone we will never be able to tell Kate how grateful we are. Tara is one in a million and took such good care of us. She was more than just a nurse - she quickly became a wonderful friend to us both and was even a guest of honour at our wedding in the September.
The Royal Marsden quickly became a 'home from home' for both Emmy and I. Tara and Kate, along with all the other staff there, did something far more important than just treat Emmy, they gave her a reason to feel positive. Despite the horrendous prognosis and horrible circumstances in which Emmy found herself, they made her feel reassured and they made her feel safe. From the cleaners to the phlebotomists, from every nurse and health care assistant to all of the doctors that treated her and surgeons that operated on her, each and every one was incredible. We felt so lucky to be looked after by such a wonderful bunch and at such an inspiring place that we were desperate to give something back. Within months our EJTandemonium fundraising mission was born!
Emmy was so impressed by The Royal Marsden Hospital that she was desperate to give something back. Not a month had gone by after she was diagnosed when Emmy came to me and said that she wanted to raise money for them somehow. She knew that any money raised would probably come too late for any new treatment that could help her, but she never focused on that. Instead she hoped to raise money to help the hospital fund new drugs and drug trials and find ways of preventing others finding themselves in a similar situation to Emmy in the future. It was a completely selfless desire and wish to help others and is just one of the many reasons why I will forever be so proud of what Emmy achieved.
To raise money we wanted to do something special and something different. We wanted to embark on an epic adventure together, spend as much time as possible together and do something physical but not too strenuous as we weren't sure how Emmy was going to feel at any given point, especially on her newly started chemotherapy drug.
After some serious thought and a very successful practice ride around Richmond Park in London, we decided that a tandem bicycle road trip was just about the perfect idea! We would be together all of the time, I could keep a close eye on her, she could peddle as hard as she felt able to and we could still get the adventure we so yearned for. The route was the North sea cycle route. - 2000 kilometres from London to Copenhagen. To be competed in just under a month...
'We bought a fantastic bike and straight away we named the tandem 'Tara' in respect of the incredible Specialist Research Nurse at the Royal Marsden Hospital who has provided me with such phenomenal care and has become a very significant person in our lives. We then began to plan our fundraising journey on Tara the Tandem from London to Copenhagen. We quickly realised that we would need somewhere to store our equipment, amenities, clothes and medication whilst travelling, so we decided to get a trailer...Tyrone.'
Two months later, following as much training as we could possibly fit in we set off from Trafalgar Square to a fanfare from hundreds of friends and family! It was a day that neither of us would ever forget...
In our heads we guessed we would have about 10-20 people to hug and wave goodbye to. Never ever could we have imagined so many of you sensational people would be there to send us off... It was the most phenomenally overwhelming experience...the BEST day of both of our lives. EPICNESS!! All the people that I love from every single walk of my life in one place, altogether. A feeling like nothing else. So much love for you all we could burst!... I never, ever wanted to leave that moment. I wanted to stay there forever with you all. I wish I could keep it in a bottle and wear it around my neck, by my heart forever. If/when...times get rougher over the next few years, be assured, if I'm ever worried, sad, exhausted or scared...I will think about today and it will never fail to make me smile and give me the biggest boost of love, energy and motivation!!!
The trip was absolutely incredible. We navigated our way around some of the most extraordinary coastal paths and countryside on Europe's North Sea coastline. Delved into some of Europe's most culturally rich and beautiful cities (whilst skirting around some of the less spectacular), we saw some amazing scenery, met some incredible people, stayed in some beautiful places and ate some of the most delicious local delicacies. We created so many amazing memories, some of which we shared on the blog, some which we kept to ourselves, but all of which I will keep in my heart forever. It's was an incredible adventure.
'From the moment we left Trafalgar Square Tara and Tyrone were inseparable, and our adventure began! Despite Tyrone's bulky, heavy weight (over 70kg to be precise), the pair safely carried us the entire 2000km journey through 6 countries battling against strong winds, rain, hail, rain, more rain and thunderstorms, with some magnificent rainbows in between.'
Emmy's attitude towards her illness was nothing short of miraculous. She took her diagnosis and told it to 'do one!' She had no time for it. She had a life to lead. She didn't lie around feeling sorry for herself. Instead, less than 3 months after being diagnosed with the unimaginable, she was on the back of a tandem riding beside the beautiful beaches in Holland, drinking the finest hot chocolate in Belgium and stuffing her face with danishes in Copenhagen. She wanted to live her life to the full whilst also using her desperate but unique situation for the power of good.
What Emmy had to deal with too with the symptoms of her cancer, the side effects of her chemo, the awful weather and everything in between... I still don't know how she did it. I was with her everyday, right by her side, and there was barely a whimper or a moan or whisper of a complaint... She just knuckled down and got on with it. She was the toughest little cookie I ever met and there are not enough words to say how proud I am of what she managed to do.
We arrived in Copenhagen 2 days before Emmy's 31st birthday and celebrated in almighty style!
As well as fundraising, Emmy was also focussed on shining a light on and raising awareness of lesser known cancers. After she had struggled for so long with her symptoms she wanted to inspire others (who might find themselves in a similar position) to stand up and believe in themselves and seek help... to listen to their body, to recognise if something is wrong and to keep pushing for an answer.
Despite everything that she was going through Emmy was at peace with her own situation:
The reason I am so passionate about raising awareness, is due to all of the trials and tribulations I encountered prior to being given the diagnosis. I find it quite scary how long I had lived with it completely unaware and being made to feel like I was going totally bonkers! The experts believe that it is likely I had the cancer for possibly more than two years before I was diagnosed. If it was identified at that point then obviously things could be very different now and I could have the all clear.
I remember sitting with Jake in the waiting room at one of my first appointments and seeing an old man walk out of a clinic room and smile to his wife saying that he had finally gotten the 'all-clear' and I remember thinking that I would never have that and it broke my heart. However having said this I harbour no resentment, blame or bitterness. Doctors work so hard, are under so much stress and they do their best. My cancer is so rare and it was no-ones fault that my case wasn't picked up earlier.
In September 2016, just 6 months after my diagnosis, Jake and I were married at my family home. It was the most incredible day and i loved every second - it was just how i always dreamed it would be. It breaks my heart that after 10 years I can finally be with the love of my life and I would give anything to be fit and well and be starting our own family. But on the other hand in someways I feel lucky to be in the position I am and if I can help just one other person to believe in themselves to seek medical advice or remind one doctor to keep an open mind and help save someone then thats all I could ever hope for.
Away from hospital Emmy was determined to make the most of each day. She wrote a bucket list and we frantically went about ticking as many items off of it as we could. We got married, kissed at the top of the Eiffel Tower, got matching tattoos, went to a Coldplay concert and we swam with whale sharks amongst many many other things too. For our fundraising efforts we were given the honour of cutting the starting ribbon at The Marsden March and were even given the JustGiving award for 'fundraising team of the year' in 2016. It was phenomenal but nothing less than Emmy deserved. All of the newspaper and magazine articles, radio interviews, support on social media and incredible kindness shown by everyone around us (both near and far, family and strangers) was just evidence of how loved and admired she was and how much of an inspiration she had become to so many. She was one of a kind.
Emmy believed whole heartedly that not only she would live to see her baby born but that she would see it at it's first day at school. She was given the prognosis but she didn't believe it. Call it denial. Call it a belief in the system - that there would be new drugs found that would keep her healthy and keep her going and going. Call it whatever you like. She stared cancer in the face and didn't believe for one second that it would beat her... that she wouldn't be ok.
Emmy remained unremittingly positive throughout her illness. And I believe that it was because she had hope. And that was in no small part down to the incredible support that she received from The Royal Marsden Hospital. In the end all we have is hope. And if you don't have it then life can become very dark very quickly. One more surgery, one more cancer medication, one more side effect treatment, one more...one more. It was punishing - having to put up with that little bit more pain or illness everyday. Each day had its demons for Emmy to deal with, but she stayed so strong because she had hope.
On one of our last visits to the Royal Marsden to see Kate, we were waiting to see whether we had had funding approved for a further chemotherapy drug. Kate seemed more anxious than usual, more on edge, concerned maybe that we might not get it. Emmy asked the question 'what happens if we don't get the funding approved? Is there something else?' To which they replied 'As long as you're willing to fight, we will keep fighting for you.' As desperate as it sounded it was incredibly comforting to know we had such incredible people behind us supporting us both. I will never be able to thank the staff there for the support, kindness and pure hope that they gave us both.
As a primary school teacher Emmy was always on the look out for a good quality children's book and it was whilst riding on EJTandemonium that she came up with the concept that our bicycle and trailer, nicknamed Tara (after the specialist nurse that was looking after her) and Tyrone, could be characters in their own children's story!
Although it may sound absurd, they really did develop their own personalities and grew into two very unique and loveable characters, who together, were the perfect team! (We couldn't even get married without them; using the pair as our wedding day transport in September 2016!)
The idea was that we could produce and sell a book and a percentage of the profits could help us towards our fundraising target. She would write the stories and I would do my best to illustrate her vision. And so the 'Tara and Tyrone' book series was born.
On our return from our EJTandemonium voyage, we began the first book and completed it just in time for Christmas! It was a great success and very warmly received by both friends and complete strangers. Never in a million years did we imagine the response that they would get. We were both over the moon!
Following my diagnosis, I had to leave my job as a primary school teacher which was heartbreaking. We wanted to find an alternative way to inspire learning and bring happiness to children, whilst continuing to raise money and awareness along with spending time together. So, with Tara and Tyrone as our inspiration, we decided to write and publish a children's book in December 2016 called 'Stuck in the Mud'. We were over the moon to receive such positive feedback, and to boost our fundraising through book sales. We enjoyed the project so much that we decided to write 'Pedro the Pump' and hope that there will be many more stories to come in the future.
When we got married we received the most wonderful wedding present in the form of a very fluffy labradoodle who we called Molly. She was an immense strength to Emmy when she was not feeling well and to us both over the final months and continues to be to me now. When she was naughty we would reprimand her with the name 'Molliver!' And so when we came to thinking about a business name for our publishing house - 'Mollivers Ltd' seemed like the only sensible choice!
Having both given up our jobs when Emmy got sick (Emmy as a primary school teacher and myself as a doctor) Mollivers Ltd, a small independent children's book publishing venture, would become our new livelihood and allow us to work from home, work the hours we could spare (when we weren't in hospital) and spend the most amount of the short time that we had together. The hope was that we could produce high quality children's books with a strong moral message, that are entertaining and interesting for the children and parents alike
Before Emmy passed away she also wrote the majority of a third book and we had also discussed the concept of a fourth. Emmy died on 16th June 2017. Completely distraught and overwhelmed with sadness, I needed to focus and I decided to concentrate my efforts on illustrating and finishing the third book 'Tara and Tyrone - Lost at Sea'. My hope is that I can continue to produce children's story books in memory of Emmy and continue to keep her message alive forever more.
Emmy squeezed the absolute most out of every single day. She never complained. She got up every morning and took on every day with her head held high and ready to fight for every moment. She lived by her motto even until her last moments, being gracious, kind, caring and loving to all. Two weeks before she passed away she even managed to perform Maid of honour duties at her best friend's wedding. Besides her walking stick and increasingly petite frame, you'd have barely known a single thing was wrong such was her elegance and sheer class. She looked utterly stunning.
Less than a fortnight later my darling Emmy passed away. She died at 8:30pm on Friday evening the 16th June 2017. She was surrounded by all her family and was as comfortable as she could be. The evening sun was still shining, the French doors were open, the birds were singing their evening song and three dogs and her very minxy Milly moo (Emmys and my beautiful 2 and a half year old niece) played and danced around her in a perfect blissful ignorance. It was exactly how Emmy would have wanted it to be. Her last words to each and everyone there were of love and of thanks. She was stronger for us than we could have ever been for her combined.
So what's next? Well...Molly and I have a job to do!
It is the greatest honour to be able to continue spreading a little of Emmy's light and her positivity by continuing the journey that Emmy and I started together. Through Mollivers we are going to continue to sell the Tara and Tyrone books that Emmy so beautifully wrote. We are going to create new stories and publish new books in the Tara and Tyrone series as well as create new children's stories based on on other friendly characters too. We have lots of fun and exciting plans afoot for the Molliver's Market place too with lots of new items to go on sale soon!
Emmy's motto was 'Smile, Love and Be Kind'. Three simple actions that resonated with more people than we could have ever imagined. And like the ripples on a pool her legacy will live on forever through people she has inspired and the motto that she shared. Molly and I are going to do our best to keep that simple motto alive, spread her message and remember her each and every day! As a way of remembering her and continuing her legacy, the 'Smile, Love and Be Kind' range is being created in her memory.
Molly and I want to continue to do school visits for book readings, author and illustrator talks and art classes and we will of course continue to raise money for The Royal Marsden Hospital with 10% of all profits from any sale continuing to go to the charity.
Emmy's hopes were far reaching... She wanted to celebrate and champion the Royal Marsden and raise money for them so that they could help others like Emmy in the future. She wanted to shine a spotlight on a lesser known cancer and the possible symptoms of cancer in young men and women. She believed that we are all experts in our own bodies and in our own health and the masters of our own lives and and of our own destinies and she wanted to empower people to be more aware of their own bodies, what is normal for them and ultimately to inspire them to never give up believing in themselves.
But what she did quite unintentionally goes far and above what she or I ever imagined. She inspired many thousands of reevaluate what is important in their lives and to encourage each of us to treat one another better. She taught us not to judge so quickly; to be wary that behind every smile may be a desperate story. That you don't always see on the surface what is going on beneath or behind the scenes. And by creating the motto 'to smile love and be kind', she gave us all a simple message to carry forward to prompt and to inspire us all to be nicer human beings.
Emmy faced something not many people have to, and she did with such class, grace and dignity. Instead of being bitter or resentful, she wanted only to spread love and happiness. She managed to be kind and loving and to smile until her very last breath, so we owe it to her and ourselves to do the same.
I feel so lucky that i had my case picked up by The Royal Marsden and although i wish i could take this cancer away, I feel blessed to be in a position where i can raise awareness and potentially have a positive impact on the lives of others caught in the same situation as me in the future. If i can provide some sort of support to others, encourage people to have a little more faith in themselves and pursue medical help, raise money or just encourage more people to 'smile, to love and be kind' then thats all i can ever ask for. We will never give up hope... and i will do everything i can to keep positive and channel my energy towards helping others in any way i can.'There are of course highs and lows both emotional and physically but I will never give up...I have the love of my life by my side and love conquers all.
Emmy was truly one of a kind. She was effortlessly beautiful. By far the most stunning girl I have ever seen. She had a simple charm, a gentle elegance and a pure class that couldn't be taught. She had the biggest, brightest smile that radiated an unparalleled warmth. She had the most dazzling emerald eyes - shining beacons that had a kindness like no other. Like Audrey Hepburn once said, her eyes were like a doorway to her heart - they smiled at you and you couldn't help but smile back - they were a window to her glistening soul and a true inner beauty. From her every pore she exuded a positivity so infectious that it was impossible not to feel better about yourself just by being around her. She genuinely lit up every room she walked into.
She was kind to a fault. She put everyone else first. She never believed any compliment she received and she played down any praise. She was unbelievably thoughtful - always buying others gifts and making them cards, writing thank you messages or notes and always desperately tried to respond to everyone who had written to her with the greatest care and attention that she felt they so deserved. She was an incredible teacher and children universally adored her. She was a scrabble mastermind and I could never beat her (even at the end when she would play half asleep! (Gad dam'it!). She wrote beautifully and authored the Tara and Tyrone books effortlessly. She surprised herself with her public speaking and was far more eloquent with words than she ever gave herself credit.
She was a fighter. Throughout everything she remained so strong. She was quite simply the bravest person I've ever met. She never ever complained, never moaned and never wanted any sympathy from me or anyone else. Every time she was dealt a dud card she just sucked it up and continued on. Always moving forward, never looking back. Even at the end she was still able to joke and laugh and make light of her situation. She was an unstoppable force who just wanted to spread as much love, light, happiness, kindness and positivity as she could.
They say that the true measure of friendship isn't how you feel about someone else but how they make you feel about yourself. Well Emmy had the incredible ability to make you feel like you were the only person in the world. Completely listened to. And made you feel so special. It is of little surprise then that over the years she has made and surrounded herself with some of the most gorgeous, sweet, caring, loving and incredible people that, as a husband, you could have ever wished her to have as friends. Her sweet nature and indomitable spirit gave her a magnetic attraction to all that she came into contact with and she lifted us all up and carried us with her on her journey. I feel truly lucky and privileged to have been able to walk beside her for the time that I did.
She was the most caring and loving and loved daughter, sister, auntie, god-mother and niece. And she was the most wonderful wife that I or any man could ever ask for. Sure she had some quirks but who doesn't - I loved her even more for each and every one of them! The imperfections! I mean - She wasn't the tidiest. She 'never had any clothes' (we could honestly clothe a small nation - good luck moving Jake!). She was rarely on time. She could be sooooo stubborn!! (but not to be mean we'll call it 'strong willed')... and this combined with her razor sharp photographic elephant like memory meant that I never (EVER!!) won an argument!!???? She was totally useless at saying goodbye (particularly to a certain Mrs Bugden!), her accents were questionable and her singing voice...let's say original (sorry baby!)! She had the tiniest thumbs and couldn't stop herself sticking them up in every photo (god I love her!) and she ate chocolate in her sleep (often waking up with it on her cheek and a wrapper stuck to her forehead). She had the coolest dance moves and the best fancy dress outfits! She hated her 'Spock' like ears and her 'Desperate Dan' jaw as she called them but I just loved her even more for her ridiculous and delusional self deprecation. To me - she was perfect.
She never knew how beautiful or how admired, loved and cherished she was. The effect she had on others and the number of people she inspired just by being her was so clear to see but not to her. I hope that she can look down now and is able to see the kind of impact she had on everyone she met and even those that she didn't. Her legacy and her motto 'Smile, love and be kind' will live on. To borrow a line (thank you Joanne Philip) - 'Emmy is like a skipping stone... she skipped and danced across the big wide pond that is life but now it is time for her to rest whilst her ripples live on'.
As for me... I feel utterly lost and empty without her. I can't look to the passenger seat whilst driving the car without the deepest ache spreading across my chest. And there isn't a moment that passes when I don't miss her. No truer word has been spoken than 'Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.' (K.Gibran). I knew I was lucky but it is true that you never know what you have got until its gone. She was my north, my south, my east, my west. The reason I wanted to wake up every morning and be a better person. My co-captain on my bike. My best friend. My lobster. My wife. And truly my hero.
Now that she is gone it is difficult to not feel so alone. But I have to believe that she she has just gone on to the next room. That she has returned to a heaven surrounded by her kind again. For she was an angel amongst mortals and she spread light in a world that at times was not so bright. And she is looking back and smiling on all of us and she'll be with us all in some way still.
To me... She is the ray of sunshine that warms my face. She is the brightest star in the night sky. She is the gentle breeze that rustles through the curtain. She is the gentle lapping sea on the shore. She is literally in my thoughts every waking moment, and in my dreams every minute I rest. She shone so brightly upon so many and she had so much love to give. The kind of love that envelops you completely and makes you feel like the only person in the world. I feel truly blessed that Emmy chose me. I got to meet and marry my soulmate and very few people get to do that. The overwhelming feeling when she passed away was that if I couldn't keep her here in this world then all I wanted was to go with her to the next. To be with her. To walk with her, hold her hand and make sure she wasn't scared. But alas I have to stay. I have a Molly to look after and Emmy's message to continue to spread. The surrogacy journey also continues and one day, who knows, we might have a little bit of Emmy in this world again! But I wish with all that I am that I could have just one more day with her. To laugh with, to hug, to kiss, to hold tight.
So make me this promise. Go out. Go to your husband or your wife. Your partner or your lover. Tell them that you love them. Embrace them. Hold them that little bit longer. Squeeze them that little bit tighter. Whisper sweet nothings and try to forget, just for a moment, those small irrelevant worries. You're only here in this world for the shortest time and you never know when it might all disappear.
And so, although I fear I have missed out so much that I wanted to say... I leave with this.
You're back amongst your own now my gorgeous girl, my love, my angel. Shine down whenever you can. I'll be looking out for you. Wherever you are, put the kettle on, put on your dressing gown, curl up on the sofa and wait for me. I'll always be holding your hand...See you soon gorge.
'Smile more, love more deeply and be kind always.' Emmy Coates.