'He fought so hard to live': Wedding date joy blighted by tragedy
On what would have been her wedding day tomorrow, Hannah Merrick will instead be saying farewell to the love of her life at his funeral.
Hannah’s 29-year-old fiancee Martins Kokins died last week after losing his battle against cancer.
The couple, who worked together at Fishmore Hall in Ludlow where Latvian-born Martins was general manager, had been preparing for a long future together when Martins was diagnosed with a rare form of parotid cancer, which attacks the salivary gland.
Instead, they were thrown in to the turmoil of doctor’s appointments, hospital visits and operations.
But Martins would not give up. “He was stubborn,” said Hannah, 26. “He wouldn’t give up without a fight and he was still fighting even on the morning that he died. He was up and walking around in the hospice so it was a shock that he went downhill so quickly.
“He fought so hard to live, he did his best. We had booked the date, so we will use it one way or another.”
Martins was first diagnosed with cancer in 2016 in his neck and, after treatment, was given the all clear. He took Hannah on a dream trip to New York, and asked her to marry him. They decided to set the date for 2020.
But in May last year he was told that the cancer had returned and he underwent chemotherapy at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
The couple booked a holiday to Spain hoping for time to walk on the beach and enjoy the sunsets together. But on the second day he fell desperately ill and was rushed to hospital where scans revealed more tumours. Martins discharged himself so they could get back to the UK. He then had the devastating news that the cancer was terminal.
The couple brought their plans forward for the wedding for this month and started making plans for the big day.
Sadly Martins died less than two weeks before they were due to tie the knot.
“In the last few weeks he really deteriorated,” said Hannah. “On the day he died he was walking around. He was not okay by any means but his death was a shock.” Martins died at the Severn Hospice with Hannah by his side. His funeral will take place tomorrow at St Giles’ Church in Ludlow – a town where Martins was very well known.
“You could hardly walk down the street with him without someone saying hello. Knowing how much he was loved has made his death that little bit easier,” said Hannah.
“At the end of the day, he is now at peace, he doesn’t have to fight anymore. It was not in his personality to give in and he fought to the end.”
Hannah has asked that no one wears black to the service, which starts at 11am but if everyone could wear a suit in Martins’ honour. “He was always in a suit, that’s what he was known for,” she said.
A private wake for friends and family will follow the service. Hannah is preparing to return Martins back to Latvia where he will be buried next to his father. “I am still in the process of sorting out the paperwork,” she said, “but we are nearly there. A couple of us will fly him home.”
Martins talked with candour about his illness. After he was told the cancer was terminal he said he would make the most of every day he had.
Speaking to the Shropshire Star in March, he said: “We enjoy just going for walks and just spending time together. Just doing something together makes things so much better. I don’t sit at home and sulk or cry about it. I want to live my life. I know it is short but I have done as much as possible.
“I sometimes get scared. Actually I think I was more scared back in 2016 when I first got diagnosed with cancer, I was 26 and I was just wondering what was going to happen. But if and when it happens, well, we had a great time.”
When he was given the news the cancer could not be cured, Martins decided to spend as much time as possible with Hannah and his family.
He was taken off chemotherapy and was put on a new type of pill from America.
His hair grew back along with his eyebrows and finger nails.
The cancer was so rare that he agreed to undergo a painful biopsy to help research to help others. “It’s not for my own medical benefit, but for the 100,000 Genomes project which I hope will help advance medical care,” he said.