They say that love can conquer anything, and when you’re in love it certainly can feel that way. However, no matter how head over heels you may be, the world doesn’t just stop—not even when you really want it to. It’s a painful reality that some tragedies can’t be avoided by even the strongest of relationships.
When Jake and Emmy met, it was practically love at first sight. They battled break-ups, distance, and so much more. But there was one battle they had to face together that they never expected—and it could happen to anyone.
Childhood sweethearts Jake Coates and Emmy Collett met each other in grammar school when they were just 11 years old. Their relationship would change over time, but the closeness of their bond never wavered—not even in the face of the unthinkable.
As they began to grow older, the connection between the duo was undeniable. “When we were 16 we finally sought the courage to fully admit our feelings for each other and we dated for three years,” said Emmy about their early days.
As with many cases of high school love, the two decided to split when they were accepted into different colleges. Still, Emmy never forgot the note that Jake wrote her when they were still together: “You are my everything and if you still can put up with me, I will marry you one day,” it read.
Even though they were no longer a romantic item, Emmy and Jake still stayed in touch. Amazingly, 10 years after they first broke up, the two found themselves falling back in love with each other and dating once more in their twenties.
Their relationship wasn’t easy. With Jake working as a doctor in Sydney, Australia, and Emmy teaching in London, the couple had 10,000 miles separating them. They were able to make their relationship work in spite of the distance with a little help from FaceTime.
By 2016, Jake knew that it was time to follow through on that note he’d written to Emmy all those years ago. He planned to propose to her on a cliff during a trip to the Philippines; it would be an epic way to start their lives together! But then something happened that changed everything…
Emmy had flown to Australia to pay a visit to Jake and they went to the beach. Afterward, while at dinner, Emmy asked Jake if he would rub her neck. Jake was happy to do it—until he got his hands around her neck…
“We were [sitting in a] restaurant on a Sunday afternoon—a really sunny, beautiful day—and I just put my hands round her neck from behind and I knew straight away [something was wrong]. My blood ran cold,” Jake said. Jake found a massive lump on Emmy’s neck.
“You don’t want to worry someone so I didn’t shout ‘Oh my God, Emmy, why didn’t you tell me about this’ or anything,” he continued. “I just said very calmly that she needed to have it checked out really quickly.” The next day Emmy flew home to get the lump examined—and she found out something neither she nor Jake expected.
Emmy was diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer, and doctors said it had already spread to her spine, lungs, liver, and bones. She was supposed to be preparing for the trip of a lifetime, and now she and Jake were grappling with the news that her condition was fatal.
“She had been complaining about not feeling great for a while but no one had ever felt her neck,” Jake said. Though the couple had only been back together for six months, Jake dropped everything and flew home to England. He wasn’t giving up on Emmy.
The couple refused to believe that the doctors were right. They wanted to fight the cancer, and they settled in to do it. “Believe it or not I am happier than ever. Love truly is the best drug and I have been totally smothered in it,” Emmy said at the time with Jake by her side.
Unfortunately, fate wasn’t finished in dealing out its rough blows for the couple. Emmy learned that if her cancer was caught earlier, she could have cured it. She also learned that she would never be able to have children.
In light of all of this devastating news, Jake decided to change his plans to propose to Emmy. Instead of whisking her away, he asked her as she lie in bed if she would be his wife. She was ecstatic and accepted on the spot!
Learning that Emmy would not be able to be in the sun once she started treatment, Jake whisked her away to Dubai for five days of rest and relaxation. Emmy and Jake decided to live together in the moment, rather than focus on the negative aspects of their situation.
Throughout her grueling treatment, Emmy stayed smiling, positive, and active. She even completed a 1,242-mile bike ride with Jake to raise money for the hospital where she was being treated. They got tattoos together to memorialize the special event…
Finally, in September 2016, the couple tied the knot in front of their families and friends. The only person who wasn’t crying during the ceremony was Emmy—she simply couldn’t wipe the delighted grin from her face.
The couple’s story gained national attention when Emmy started writing a blog about her journey. Amazingly, the blog led to her being able to live out her dream of writing children’s books! Meanwhile, Jake was named “ITV Fundraiser of the Year” at the Pride of Britain Awards for working so hard to help support the hospital looking after his wife.
In spite being thrust into the spotlight, the two tried and live a normal, happy life together. While they knew Emmy couldn’t carry a child of her own, they were hopeful that a surrogate was their answer. Emmy wrote about this on her blog and women from all over the world responded, eager to help.
One of the women who wrote to the couple was actually a former school friend of theirs, Liz Begg. Liz already had children of her own, and she was thrilled to be able to offer Emmy and Jake the gift of surrogacy. “I didn’t really know them at school but when Emmy started sharing her story on her blog, I knew I wanted to help,” Liz said.
After a few meetings with Emmy and Jake, the decision was made—and Liz was implanted with one of the embryos the couple had harvested. They were with Liz every step of the way. All that was left to do was wait three weeks for the test results…
Because Jake was a medically trained professional, he was able to take care of Emmy in a way that most spouses couldn’t. Unfortunately, this wasn’t always good. Sometimes, Jake was the only one who could answer Emmy’s tough questions about her future.
This was a tremendous struggle for Jake. He wanted to be honest, but he also didn’t want his wife to be afraid. All the same, he was thankful that he was able to be there for Emmy, and she knew that focusing on the medical aspect of her situation would give him some distance from their struggle.
Finally, Emmy and Jake got some good news: the implantation worked—Liz was pregnant! “We sat around a table and watched three pregnancy tests turn positive one after the other,” Jake said. “To experience that moment with Emmy and see the hope in her eyes was incredible,” Liz added. “That was the most perfect day we ever spent together.” Sadly, it was also the last day they would spend together.
Tragically, Emmy passed away on June 16, 2017 at the age of 31. “Less than an hour after doing the tests Emmy could barely keep her eyes open—the tank was well and truly empty. Truth be told, Emmy never fully woke up,” Jake said.
For Jake there was even more loss to come. His surrogate, Liz, wound up losing the pregnancy. They tried implantation twice more before giving up. “Liz has been the most selfless, kind, thoughtful and gorgeous person throughout this whole process,” he said.
Jake mourned the loss of his wife and the loss of the child the two of them would never raise together. But he was able to take comfort in one thought: “I will always believe that Emmy has that first baby up with her in heaven,” he said.
While losing Emmy was something Jake would never forget, he carried her openness of heart with him. That is what made it possible for him to discover a new love just eight months after losing his beloved Emmy…
In the early months of 2018, Jake brought his new love, Jenna Selby, with him to Iceland where he planned on running two back-to-back marathons to help raise more money for the hospital that treated Emmy. Jake seemed happy, but some people online weren’t entirely on board…
While some were excited that Jake had found love again, others criticized him for moving on from Emmy in so short a span of time. They also were quick to point out that Jenna even looked a little bit like Emmy, too. Jake took their feedback in stride and came back with a wonderful response…
“The odd negative comments that have been written (by people that don’t know me or have any understanding of my life or what I have been through) have been deleted because I don’t have any space in my life for negativity,” he said. But that wasn’t all.
Jake shared how meeting Jenna and her young son basically saved his life. “No one was more surprised than me. They have both brought the sunshine back into my life and given me the nudge I so desperately needed to start living life to the full again,” he said. He would never forget Emmy, but admitted that “life is so short, you have to grab it with both hands and enjoy every second of it.”
After the three failed attempts at surrogacy with Liz, Jake was heartbroken thinking he would never have a child of his own with Emmy. Jenna’s young son filled a void in his heart. They spent countless hours together, playing, hiking, and goofing around.
Though Emmy is gone, Jake still volunteered daily at the hospital where she was treated. In fact, he ran an art program there for children undergoing treatment for life-threatening cancer. It was just one way he kept Emmy’s memory alive.
Another way he planned to keep Emmy’s memory alive was by raising money through his marathons. In just eight weeks, Jake ran an amazing nine marathons raising more than $1,000,000 to help support the hospital! Jake lost a toenail, drove countless miles, and pushed his body to the limit—but to him, it was all worth it.
While Jake was doing his best to move on, it wasn’t always easy, and he had a message for other married couples: “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… You’re only here in this world for the shortest time and you never know when it might all disappear.”
What a heartbreaking story. Thank goodness that Jake was able to find happiness even after losing what he and Emmy shared. You know she would be happy and proud of him.
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