Jake Coates and childhood sweetheart Emmy Collett met in grade school when they were just 11-years-old. The young boy from Monmouth, Wales and the girl from Luckington, Wiltshire attended primary school together and formed an early bond.
From innocent schoolyard crushes to blossoming young love, their budding romance grew over the years. And although they couldn’t know it at the time, their relationship would impact their futures in ways that they could never imagine.
School Girl Crush
Reflecting on their fairy tale beginnings, Emmy Collett later said: “My ‘school girl crush’ on Jake started almost 20 years ago when we were just 11 years old. We quickly became ‘childhood sweethearts’ and at 13 he told me that I was ‘his lobster,’” she said quoting a reference from the TV sitcom Friends.
‘When we were 16 we finally sought the courage to fully admit our feelings for each other and we dated for three years,” she said looking back at those early years. Despite their burgeoning romance, the young lovers would soon have to make a life-altering decision.
Going Separate Ways
“You are my everything & if you still can put up with me, I will marry you one day,” Jake wrote in a note to Emmy at the time. However, by the time the childhood sweethearts were in their late teens, high school was coming to an end and the pair was faced with a pressing decision about their futures.
They had shared the exciting experience of first love, but as it came time to go to university the pair decided to explore different paths. The young lovers went their separate ways, but life had plans in store for them that they hadn’t expected.
Jake Coates and Emmy Collett were able to remain close during their time at university and although they had drifted from the close bond they had once shared as teenagers, the childhood sweethearts defied the odds and ended up reconnecting in 2015.
Although it took “10 long years” to rekindle their romance it only seemed natural that Emmy and Jake would find their way back to each other. Now in their 20s with careers in full swing, it seemed the picture-perfect couple had been destined for each other. However, fate had other things in store as well.
Going the Distance
Emmy and Jake couldn’t be happier that their lives had come full circle. It seemed the adorable pair had been destined to be together from the get-go. Although Jake was working in Sydney, Australia as a doctor and Emmy was in London working as a teacher, the two were determined to make it work.
Despite the distance of almost 10,000 miles, the loving pair did everything they could to stay connected. They spoke every day on FaceTime and traveled back and forth across the world as much as possible to maintain their relationship. Only six months later, however, everything would change after one simple request.
The Real Deal
As time passed, childhood sweethearts Jake and Emmy were thinking more about the future and planning their lives together. By 2016, Jake couldn’t contain himself anymore and was planning to make good of the note he’d written Emmy when they were young, in which he vowed to marry her one day.
While many young lovers make such pledges, Jake actually planned to follow through with a breathtakingly romantic trip in which he would propose to Emmy on a cliff in the Philippines to a backdrop of fireworks. But before that trip happened, something that would change their plans and their lives forever occured.
Before their big adventure to the tropics, Emmy was on one of her regular trips to visit Jake in Australia. On the last day of their blissful stretch of time together, she asked a simple request of her boyfriend: to give her a neck massage.
The request seemed simple enough and Jake obliged, happy to do something nice for the woman that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, but as he wrapped his hands around her, he noticed something that made him freeze.
‘My Blood Ran Cold’
“We were sat in 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,” he said recalled of the fateful day.
Jake had found a lump in Emmy’s neck and immediately feared the worst. “We were just two people in love lying on a beach in Sydney without a care in the world… who would have known what was to happen next…” he reminisced.
A Shocking Discovery
“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.”
“I told her to make an appointment with her GP as soon as she got home. And that’s what happened.” The next day, Emmy returned to Britain and went for a checkup. What the doctors would say, however, completely caught the happy couple off guard.
While they should have been excitedly packing for the getaway of a lifetime, the results from Emmy Collett’s exam came back the day before she and Jake were supposed to travel to the Philippines. Soon, their focus turned from beaches and daiquiris to something else.
Much to their devastation, the couple was informed that Emmy was one of the youngest people in the country with a rare type of thyroid cancer. The diagnosis confirmed that it had spread to her spine, lungs, liver and bones. Heartbreakingly, they were told that Emmy’s condition was incurable.
A Display of Devotion
At such a young age they never could have foreseen that this would be on their horizon as they prepared to spend the rest of their lives together. “She had been complaining about not feeling great for a while but no one had ever felt her neck,” Jake said looking back.
It had only been six months since the couple had got back together, and Jake immediately dropped everything and flew back to Britain to be by the side of the woman he loved. Once there, they jumped to action, unconvinced that their love story had reached its final chapter.
Embarking on a Brave Battle
Taking on life hand-in-hand, Emmy and Jake decided they wouldn’t give in to the disease and together they defiantly charged ahead fully prepared to battle for her young life. Like everything in life, Emmy approached the feat with her signature optimism and a megawatt smile.
Friends and family rallied to offer their help and support. “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. She was admitted to the Royal Marsden Hospital in London where she received prime care, but also, unfortunately, some further disappointing details.
Courage in the Face of Cancer
As if dealing with the shock and trauma of her diagnosis wasn’t enough, specialists told Emmy that she could have possibly made a full recovery had she been diagnosed earlier. She was also told she wouldn’t be able to have children.
Although she was saddened by the news about her lifelong dream to become a mother, the defiant school teacher wouldn’t take no for an answer. Despite all the hardships and heartbreak, there were still several glimmers of hope and happiness on the horizon for the intrepid young woman.
True Love’s Bliss
A few weeks after the day that turned their lives completely upside down, Jake temporarily put aside his grand dreams of a destination proposal and didn’t wait another moment in asking Emmy for her hand in marriage over a simple cup of tea in bed.
Overjoyed, she said YES! Emmy Coates exuberantly took on wedding planning and the prospect of looking forward to her big day gave her a wonderful benchmark to look forward to amid the taxing cancer treatments. Still, there were more incredible surprises on the way.
The Trip of a Lifetime
Instead of dwelling on regrets, the couple decided to make the most of every second of the time left together and live by Emmy’s personal motto: “Smile, love and be kind.” After the diagnosis, she was told she would be able to sunbathe again because of the medication.
Wanting to live every moment to the fullest, the pair of lovebirds “ran away” to Dubai for a quick five-day getaway. The brief vacation surely provided some much-needed R&R, and when the pair returned home Emmy embarked on an unimaginably inspiring endeavor.
Cycling for Charity
Never one to feel sorry for herself, Emmy amazed everyone by staying positive and upbeat. Rather than remaining bedridden she stayed incredibly active during her trying cancer treatment and tirelessly fundraised along with Jake for the Royal Marsden Hospital.
In a display of their sense of adventure and their deep-seated love for one another and compassion for others, Emmy and Jake amazingly completed a 2,000-kilometer (1,242 miles) bike ride across Europe from London to Copenhagen and raised more than £140,000 (over $ 195,000) for Royal Marsden Hospital. They even got matching tattoos to mark the occasion.
The Happiest Day
Jake Coates and Emmy Collett were childhood sweethearts who turned out to be each other’s soulmates and life partners. Their love story had endured the years, long distances and many ups and down, but in September 2016, the smitten British pair tied the knot and there wasn’t a dry eye at the event.
Although the future seems unclear, the glowing bride beamed uncontrollably as she exchanged vows with her soon-to-be husband in the emotion-charged ceremony. Recalling the night before their big day, Jake recalled that he couldn’t sleep due to his excitement about getting to “marry this girl, the love of my life.” Their incredible tale wouldn’t end there though.
In Sickness and in Health
Due to their unusual and touching circumstances, the couple started to gain public awareness. Taping into her experience as a teacher and prowess as a writer, Emmy astonishingly spent her time in treatment penning some children’s books. Additionally, Jake was named ITV Fundraiser of the Year at the Pride of Britain Awards for his unfaltering charity work in support of his wife and her hospital.
The couple’s renown was in part facilitated through a blog Emmy had started in which she detailed her heart-wrenching, yet inspirational battle against cancer. Although she didn’t know it at the time, Emmy’s blog would help lead to another incredible life-changing event.
Amid everything, Emmy and Jake had started planning to expand their small family and fulfill their dream of becoming parents. Emmy was told she wouldn’t be able to give birth, yet she wrote openly about her plans to have a surrogate carry their child and before she knew it, women were coming forward offering to help.
Although the future was uncertain, the prospect of a baby filled the couple with positivity and kept them going even during the darkest days. Not knowing how much more time they would have together, reproductive specialists took enough samples from the parental-hopefuls for nine viable embryos.
An Old Schoolmate Emerges
In a happy turn of events, one woman who was touched by the couple’s tale was their former schoolmate, Liz Begg, a 32-year-old mother of one son who lived nearby. “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.
Liz contacted Jake and Emmy through the blog and the three agreed to meet. “Emmy was just something else – an incredible person and so positive,” Liz explained. “The best way to describe her is gracious.” What the three would soon experience, however, would forever impact all of their lives.
As Emmy continued to undergo chemotherapy, she and Jake met with Liz a few more times and realized she was exactly what they were looking for. Describing Liz as their “angel,” Emmy and Jake accompanied her to the implantation procedure and sat beside her the whole time.
A mere three weeks later, Liz would take a pregnancy test and get the long-awaited results that would determine whether she would carry Emmy and Jake’s baby, allowing a part of Emmy to live on no matter what happened.
A Miraculous Development
Three weeks later, the hopeful trio reconvened. “We sat around a table and watched three pregnancy tests turn positive one after the other,” Jake said. They were all ecstatic as it looked like things were finally looking up.
Liz recalled the moment saying: “To experience that moment with Emmy and see the hope in her eyes was incredible. That was the most perfect day we ever spent together.” Sadly, it was also the last time Liz would ever speak to Emmy.
Together Until the End
“But 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 devastatingly recalled. Tragically, Jake was beside her when she passed away after an 18-month thyroid cancer batter on June 16, 2017, at the age of 31.
The distraught widower was only comforted by one thought: “She died blissful in the knowledge we were going to have our baby.” Still, Jake said he felt “utterly lost and empty without her.” Reeling in the loss, Jake added: “She was my north, my south, my east, my west. The reason I wanted to wake up every morning and be a better person.” But the story didn’t end there.
Gracious Amid Grief
Along with coping with the loss of his darling wife, Jake Coates had to endure with another heartbreak when he found out that the surrogate’s pregnancy was unsuccessful. The young widower gave surrogacy two more attempts before he decided to indefinitely halt that option.
However, he was eternally grateful to Liz Begg for all that she had done for him and Emmy. “Liz has been the most selfless, kind, thoughtful and gorgeous person throughout this whole process,” he said of the volunteer surrogate. However, he wouldn’t let grief overcome him.
Jake Coates was enduring the greatest sorrow having lost Emmy, whom he described as: “My co-captain on my bike. My best friend. My lobster. My wife. And truly my hero.” He acknowledged that he was constantly thinking of her and “there isn’t a moment that passes when I don’t miss her.”
“I can’t look to the passenger seat whilst driving the car without the deepest ache spreading across my chest,” a heartbroken Jake also revealed. There was one thought, though, that comforted him. “I will always believe that Emmy has that first baby up with her in heaven,” he said. Despite all the tragedy, however, there was an unexpected twist in store for him.
The tear-jerking account of Emmy and Jake Coates’ love story became a much-publicized sensation in Britain. Even after Emmy’s untimely death, the pair remained a subject of heartfelt interest and a personal development in Jake’s life made headlines months later.
While the young widower will always carry the loss of his first love, it appears that his heart is still open to happiness. About eight months into the process of grieving, the 32-year-old revealed that he had been surprised to find love again.
Looking Forward Without Forgetting
In early 2018, Jake Coates vowed to run 10 marathons within two months to raise funds in the memory of his late wife for The Royal Marsden Hospital that looked after his “beautiful girl.” Among the international destinations, he traveled to Iceland and was joined by his new love interest, event planner Jenna Selby.
Jake had apparently started to put the pieces of his heart back together and took to social media in February to upload a cheery post about his new “gorgeous little ragamuffin.” The addition was a change from his many bittersweet commemorations of his late wife, and he garnered a vast response.
Holding on to Happiness
Although Jake Coates seemed delighted to have a new relationship and find happiness from the company of Jenna and her young child, people on social media pointed out that Jenna had a striking resemblance to Emmy and some media outlets even dubbed her a “lookalike.”
While many people who followed the story expressed their support and delight that Jake was able to open his heart again and find happiness after all of his sorrow, some criticized him for what they deemed was disrespectful or too soon. But, he had a wonderful response.
Jake Coates explained that in the wake of the traumatic events that he had endured, he has mustered his strength to go forward living by the philosophy of doing his best every day and doing all that he can to be happy.
“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. His ever-positive and gracious outlook was also evidenced by something he’d say about his new love.
Sunshine Back in His Life
Reflected on how Jenna and her child came into his life, Jake Coates said: “no one was more surprised than me.” He added that: “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.”
“Life is so short, you have to grab it with both hands and enjoy every second of it!” he underlined while expressing his gratitude for Jenna’s support and strength in spite of everything. While Jake is starting to look more to the future, he made it obvious that he’ll never forget Emmy and that she’ll always hold a special place in his heart.
A Meaningful Message
Although he’s started to take step toward a new life on a path he’d never have expected a few years ago, Jake is determined to keep Emmy’s memory alive and spread her message. “I still talk to Emmy every day,” he wrote in a heart-wrenching tribute to his late wife.
Adding a word of advice to others: “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.”
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Sources: The Daily Mirror, The Sun, The Daily Mail