A heartbroken dad has revealed how his 31-year-old bride died just one day after they married.
In less than a month, mother-of-one, Katie Salvage, of Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire, went from being a vibrant woman, looking forward to the future, to being diagnosed with terminal cancer – after suffering symptoms such as double vision in early December.
Determined to fulfil her dying wishes, her devastated partner-of-14-years, steelworker Joe Salvage, 34, who is speaking out for the first time, said: ‘Katie had two final wishes.
‘She wanted to get married and she didn’t want to be alone when she died. Thankfully, both wishes were fulfilled.
‘Both our four-year-old daughter, Chloe, and I were sleeping in a camp bed next to her bed in the hospice, just hours after our wedding.
‘We woke up and her back was spasming. We went to her side and I took both her and Chloe in my arms.
‘She said, ‘I love you both’ and we responded in kind. Then, in our arms, she died.
‘Afterwards, little Chloe said: ‘Goodnight Mummy, I love you.’
Katie Salvage from Cambridgeshire, pictured with her daughter Chloe, died a day after she married in a hospice after being diagnosed with cancer
When Joe found out his wife’s condition was terminal, he proposed to her again – six years after he’d first popped the question
Joe recalled how care worker, Katie, first felt a pain in her side and had difficulty breathing at the end of October.
Remembering the dramatic decline in her health, Joe, who married her at 3pm on November 30, only to lose her at around 5.30am on December 2, said: ‘The pain was initially by her right rib. For about 10 days she complained about it. She didn’t much like exercise, so we thought perhaps she might have pulled a muscle while in the garden.’
On Saturday, October 28, concerned by the pain, which was not diminishing, Joe and Katie visited a local out-of-hours GP, who, concerned about a lack of air reaching her lungs, referred her to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
Given an X-ray, the next day she also had a CT scan, two litres of fluid were drained from her left lung, and she had a biopsy.
The couple had just one photo taken of the ceremony, showing their hands with their daughter Chloe’s
On Friday, November 3 the test results indicated cancerous cells were present in her body, although it was not clear where they had originated.
On Thursday, November 9, investigations also revealed cancer in her breast.
‘By this point, she was ill but could still do things,’ explained Joe, who is being supported by his father, retired, Peter Salvage, 65. ‘She could still wash herself, go to the loo and move about.’
But, within a week, her condition deteriorated rapidly.
Her vision had started to blur, especially in her right eye, and her bed was moved downstairs.
At Addenbrooke’s on Thursday, November 23, scans revealed the cancer had spread to behind her eyes.
‘It was terminal,’ said Joe. ‘She, the bravest girl I know, simply said, “Well, let’s just get on with it,” but I was nearly crying.’
The same day Joe, who had previously proposed to Katie six years earlier over dinner, which he described as ‘the most nerve-wracking thing’ he had ever done, decided to pop the question again.
‘After learning it was terminal, I realised I wanted to marry her and knew we didn’t have much time,’ he continued. ‘So, I proposed. She said she would think about it.
Chloe was with her mother when she died and told her ‘Goodnight Mummy, I love you’
‘I couldn’t believe it. Years earlier she’d said yes immediately, but this time she was making me wait.’
But, the next day, she accepted and staff at Arthur Rank Hospice in Cambridge organised the ceremony in record time.
Shortly before 3pm, on November 30, the couple were married in front of family members, including Chloe, her parents, Sarah and Clive Collins, her sister Danielle and brother Michael.
‘It was a small but emotional gathering,’ said Joe. ‘She was very ill, so she didn’t wear a wedding dress. We didn’t take pictures, except for one – of me, her and Chloe holding hands.’
The low-key couple preferred to spend time with their daughter Chloe rather than going on nights out
Joe and Chloe are being supported by family since the death of Katie, who Joe first met in a Tesco car park 14 years earlier
During the early hours of December 2, shortly after becoming a bride, Katie took her last breath.
‘We’d met in the Tesco car park, of all places, 14 years earlier,’ laughed Joe. ‘I loved her as soon as I met her. She had the looks and the personality. She was so friendly and fun. It felt too soon for her to go.’
His dad, who lives in North Yorkshire and is supporting his son, said: ‘They were such a nice, ordinary couple.
‘They were a super couple and really quite old fashioned. They were never materialistic and would far rather spend time together than go on flash nights out.’
The family are fundraising to support Joe and Chloe during this difficult time.