A woman battling cancer has told of the agonising eight months she had to spend apart from her fiancé due to the lockdown.
Sarah Taylor, 26, from Canada, last saw Jacob in February 2020, when he flew over from England to propose.
Their parents had been friends for years and set the pair up in 2019 after Sarah told her mum she was “sick of dating”.
After just one day of speaking to Jacob, Sarah knew he was the one and they spent the whole summer of 2019 getting to know each other over video call.
They planned to marry in Bath on June 27, 2020, and Jacob returned home to prepare for the wedding but then coronavirus hit and the world was plunged into lockdown.
Canada closed its borders and the couple were stuck on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
One night when Sarah was washing her face, she noticed a “strange lump” on the side of her neck. She rang her doctor the next day, provided blood samples and had an ultrasound scan.
“They didn’t show anything, but then I had a CT scan and it showed a swollen lymph node, so they decided to do a biopsy.
“I was booked in for a biopsy on June 25 and obviously the borders were still closed and I was going through all this, so we had to postpone the wedding,” Sarah said.
The procedure was meant to last 45 minutes but ended up taking nearly two hours, she explained, as it turned out to be “more complicated” than the medics were expecting. Sarah was on a call to Jacob when the doctor rang her eight days later.
“She said ‘I’m so sorry but unfortunately it’s thyroid cancer. You need to start radiation and surgery’.
“I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. Jacob was in Bath, sitting in the flat we were supposed to be living in together.
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“It’s horrible when your life partner is going through something no one should have to go through alone. Cancer doesn’t care about a pandemic, he felt helpless.
“For months, he just had to sit there and wait and wait and wait. Meanwhile, I was going for surgery and scans, and more surgery and more scans,” Sarah said.
She sent emails to government ministers in Canada, begging them to let Jacob fly into the country, but all she got was an automated response – but Sarah was determined.
“I decided to start hand-writing letters and mailing them to any minister I could think of. I wrote at least one every single day over the summer and I think I sent 132 in total.
“There is a massive online community of people who are in a relationship with someone who lives in a different country. Some people don’t realise that not all travel is for fun.
“I believe people can be reunited safely. Some couples have been separated for a year – it’s horrible and it’s heartbreaking,” she said.
It wasn’t until October 2, Jacob’s birthday, that Sarah’s phone rang and displayed a withheld number.
“I answered it and the man said, ‘this is the Minister of Immigration, I’m about to go on TV and make an announcement that will make you very happy’,” Sarah explained
She quickly turned on her TV, just in time to hear the minister say Canada would be making exemptions for extra family members, to allow them to be reunited. He even gave a “shout out” to Sarah and Jacob.
“The Minister of Immigration was one of the guys I sent the letters to. I wrote him something like 40 letters and he said he had read some of them and he read one of them back to me on the phone,” she said.
A week later Jacob was able to fly to Canada and begin his two-week quarantine. The day after his confinement ended, he and Sarah got married.
“I finished my treatment and then we moved to Bath. I find out in August if the cancer has gone.
“They gave me radioactive iodine so it stays in your body for six to nine months and attaches itself to thyroid cells,” the 26-year-old explained.
Meanwhile, Sarah is searching for internships to allow her to complete her art therapy degree. It’s been a tough year, but now she has Jacob by her side.
“Even though Jacob and I are together now in Bath and we are really happy, not everyone is as lucky,” she said.