'It's been so hard – telling the children was the worst part'
WITH a huge sigh of relief, Alan and Joanna Wheeldon giggled as the doctors told them it was not cancer.
After suffering from a prolonged cough, Alan had feared doctors would tell him he had cancer when he went to get it checked out.
But as the specialist's face remained sombre and he explained Alan's condition was far worse, the couple started to realise what his prognosis meant.
"As soon as we heard it wasn't cancer, we were both giggling," said Joanna.
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"Because it wasn't cancer, we thought it didn't matter what else it was.
"But then we were told it was IPF, it was serious and terminal and there was no cure," said Alan.
"We went home and googled it and found out three quarters of patients die within the first three years of diagnosis."
Joanna, a dinner lady and creche worker, and Alan, who works for Howden Joinery, decided to tell their three children straight away.
"I knew I'd be breaking down in front of them and there would be people coming to see us, so we didn't want to keep it from them," said Joanna.
"It was so hard, though – telling the family was horrible but telling the kids was the worst part."
Alan had once enjoyed a fit and happy life – he coached rugby league team Hull Dockers – but he soon found he was breathless and tired easily.
His condition means he struggles to breathe normally and eventually he may need to wear an oxygen mash.
A lung transplant may give him a few more years, but Alan's disease will ultimately prove fatal.
He now says he wants to create happy memories with his three children – Courtney, Ellie and Alan – and draw up a "bucket list" of things to do before he dies.
Alan said: "A transplant will probably buy me about three to five years, but some patients can live up to 15 years.
"What worries me is what will happen to my wife and children when I go – I haven't got things in place for them, I don't know if I'll have my pension or enough money.
"I might not see my daughter's school prom.
"I just don't know what the future holds."
Despite the harrowing news, Alan says he has accepted his fate.
But Joanna says she has refused to believe what is happening and will not accept her husband's disease will eventually kill him.
She said: "I get very upset everything I think about it.
"He is my soulmate and I love him to bits.
"I just get by, telling myself he will get some new lungs and everything will be better."