When I divorced my husband Mark, I knew he would always have a place in my heart. We’d had our problems but deep down, I did still love him.
I never imagined I’d be walking down the aisle with him again though. We first got chatting at our local pub. I was 20 and happy being single. Mark, then 30, was a regular, known for being a cheeky so and so.
He always had a joke or card trick to hand. At first I only saw him as a friend.
But after six months of making me laugh, I realised I was falling for him. He was so kind. The moment I told him I had diabetes, he rushed to the library to read up on it.
When we moved in together, my parents were sceptical it’d last. Mark was 10 years older than me and not what they’d imagined for their little girl.
Even when we announced our engagement two years on, it was met with stunned silence. We had a low-key wedding at Braintree Register Office.
Despite my parents’ concerns, they wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Falling pregnant with a son, Philip, soon afterwards, I couldn’t have been happier.
But the honeymoon period was soon over. Mark would go to the pub with his mates most nights.
Left with the washing up and a baby to get to sleep, I felt so much older than 24. On Christmas Day in 1998, six years after we’d married, I’d had enough and ended it.
Mark was shocked when I started divorce proceedings. He didn’t fight it though, and in time we both met new partners.
Staying friends wasn’t as hard as I thought. We’d chat over a cup of tea when he came to collect Philip at the weekends.
And when I had two more children, Mark would even babysit. In time, my relationship with their dad broke down and Mark was a shoulder to cry on.
I supported him too. In 2004, he was diagnosed with skin cancer. I was the first person he told.
He had surgery to cut the mole off his arm at Broomfield Hospital. Watching him battle back to health afterwards, I realised Mark had grown up so much.
Then, whenever we were in the same room, I got a familiar sensation in my tummy – butterflies.
I tried pushing my feelings to one side. What if it didn’t work out? I couldn’t do that to the kids.
But one night we were chatting over a drink when Mark told me he still loved me. Thirteen years after we’d separated, I knew we had to try again.
Within six months, he’d moved back into the same house we’d shared. It felt like we’d never been apart.
Six months later, we were dealt a blow. Mark found a tennis ball-sized lump under his arm.
The skin cancer was back and it was terminal. It had already spread throughout his body.
Doctors couldn’t tell us how long he had left. Clinging to each other, I had so many regrets.
We’d been given a second chance at love but now it was being snatched away. Why had we spent so many years apart?
Mark had the lump removed and began chemotherapy to slow down the inevitable. I went to every appointment with him and it brought us closer together than ever.
I told Mark I wanted us to be official again. He bought me a ring for Christmas and told me the wedding was booked.
On Valentine’s Day this year, we married with a small ceremony in front of 50 guests. As Mark slipped on my wedding band, I felt complete again.
Doctors have now stopped Mark’s treatment and he’s home with me, taking each day as it comes. We’re determined to make the most of our married lives together.
It took 24 years and two weddings for me to realise that Mark is my true love.
Never say never, Felicity.
Jan Kirkman is supporting Macmillan Cancer Support’s campaign to ensure no-one faces cancer alone. For more information, visit www.macmillan.org.uk or call 0808 808 0000.