Christopher and Katey Stoker were just weeks away from welcoming their first baby when the couple's eager anticipation was shattered by life-changing news. The soon-to-be dad had only a few short months to live.
The 36-year-old had been battling a rare eye cancer called Ocular Melanoma, which affects 1 in 5 million people, but it had now spread to his liver and he was deemed "incurable" by doctors.
His wife, Katey, said they were "pretty devastated" by the terminal diagnosis, which would change how they viewed the birth of their daughter Ivy, who was born eight weeks ago in Brisbane.
"When we found out that it had spread, our main thoughts were just about the baby and how it was going to be; this little one potentially growing up without a dad and then him missing her first day at school or her getting married," Katey told Yahoo News Australia.
Mum's troublesome pregnancy
The 32-year-old mum saw her own share of health battles during pregnancy which added to the stress, she said. They'd suffered through multiple miscarriages before eventually falling pregnant with Ivy who was breech — when a baby lies bottom or feet first in the womb.
"We were originally expecting twins, and we lost one of the twins early in the pregnancy," she explained. "So we'd already kind of had that journey in that battle. We were already kind of anxious about the pregnancy to begin with [and then we got the news]."
Dad's blurry vision leads to grim diagnosis
Chris, who works as a warehouse manager, first experienced blurry vision in May last year. "Being a typical male he tried to brush it off with his 'she'll be right' attitude and got up and went to work," his wife said.
Eventually, an optometrist sent him straight to the hospital with suspected retinal detachment, but surgery the following day revealed the truth. Doctors found a large mass behind his eye and four "excruciating" days later, Chris was diagnosed with Ocular Melanoma.
Radiation wasn't an option and the only way to survive was to remove his eye, a journey Chris was "strong and brave" throughout. Nine months later at a routine cancer check, spots were found on his liver, indicating the cancer had spread.
"They were told that there is no cure with very limited treatment options available," his aunt wrote on a GoFundMe page set up for the couple. "The treatment options that are available will prolong his life but not cure him of this awful disease".
Family enjoy final months together
Now, the couple are enjoying what time they have left as a family of three. Katey is on maternity leave and Chris is unable to work because he's "often too sick" to leave home.
"Instead of just being in this little [newborn] bubble we're attending oncology appointments and focused on how you're going to get the money for the next round of treatment," Katey said.
Chris has been told he has around six months to live, and while they're trying to take things day by day, Katey said "it's always in the back of your mind". "We're settling in as much as we can and just trying to make the most of every moment. I'm trying to document every single little thing," she said.
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