The brave Foxton couple who received cancer diagnoses within 6 months of each other

''I have this lovely husband and I don’t get to keep him,'' says Jennie.

By Cloe Willetts
Since falling madly in love 11 years ago, Jennie and Craig Gutry have always been amazed by just how much they have in common. They both love salsa dancing and decadent food, travel and being on the water. And sadly for the devoted pair, they both also know what it's like to be diagnosed with bowel cancer.
The difference, however, is Jennie is in remission from the disease that struck her last year, while Craig, who was diagnosed six months after his love, has been told it's terminal.
"I have this lovely husband and I don't get to keep him," says Jennie with tears pouring down her face. "To know I was sorted out, but then find out Craig's can't be fixed, it's just so unfair."
The brave Foxton couple are speaking out about their joint battle to mark Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. It's over a decade since they first met at a karate class on the Kapiti Coast, where Craig was the teacher and Jennie a student.
They began chatting on an online dating site, where Jennie was in search of a salsa partner.
Speaking to Woman's Day from their rural retreat, the couple laugh about their first café date in 2008, when Craig destroyed three sugar sachets before managing to pour one into his coffee.
"I was nervous!" exclaims the father of Louis, 27, Hannah, 24, and Josephine, 21, and stepdad to Jennie's kids Katie, 21, and Iain, 15.
Craig and Jenny's first blended family holiday together in 2008. Clockwise from top left - Louis, Katie, Hannah, Josephine and Iain.
"He just talked non-stop," teases Jennie. "But it was comfortable and I thought Craig was funny. I liked that he put his kids first."
She was also blown away by his moves on the dance floor. "He was such a hot dancer and had snake hips when he did Latin!"
Like Jennie, whose marriage had ended several months earlier, chef Craig was also a solo parent, after losing his wife to a brain tumour.
"What struck me was that he nursed her, giving up his business to care for her at home," says Jennie.
"From the beginning, we agreed if the children didn't like the other partner, we'd end it."
But the family clicked and in 2010, the happy couple married in Fiji.
The couple married in Fiji in 2010.
"We had dinner on a pontoon and there were sharks swimming around and you could smell frangipanis – it was peaceful," recalls Craig.
"We've always put the kids first and done lots for other people, but it was a moment together, for just us."
Sadly, life was turned upside down eight years later when Jenny experienced tiredness, erratic bowel movements and noticed blood in her stools.
The communications professional, who also has diabetes and kidney problems, was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Fortunately, her private medical insurance meant her treatment happened swiftly, with the tumour removed less than three weeks after her diagnosis.
However, just a week before his wife's operation, Craig began noticing similar symptoms. At first, the couple thought he was having "sympathy symptoms", but it soon became clear it was far more sinister.
After a six-month wait to see a specialist (unlike Jennie, Craig didn't have insurance), he was told his symptoms were likely to be nothing to worry about, but he was booked in for a colonoscopy just in case.
"But when they tried, there was something blocking the colon," tells Craig, whose pain was becoming unbearable.
Craig at Palmerston North hospital the day after unsuccessful surgery to remove the tumour in his colon.
After collapsing at Palmerston North Hospital, a CT scan revealed the devastating diagnosis – he had the same cancer as his wife. Worse, it had spread to his lymph nodes, liver and lungs, and was terminal.
"They said without treatment, I only had months, which was devastating," says Craig, who is having chemotherapy treatment.
Laments Jennie, "My treatment was so fast compared with Craig's and if they'd done a CT sooner, it mightn't have spread. All those dreams we have, like sailing around the world when we retire, we can't do now."
The couple are warning others to insist on a colonoscopy if they notice any possible colon cancer symptoms, which can include swollen testicles in men, weight loss and abdominal pain.
Now, instead of planning for their retirement, they're ticking off Craig's bucket list and enjoying as many magic moments together as they can.
"Doctors said the cancer's terminal, but I like to call it life-limiting because they don't know if it'll be 12 months or five years," he says smiling bravely at his wife. "I'm happy and positive – and it ain't over yet."

Bowel cancer facts

✦ More people die from bowel cancer than prostate cancer and breast cancer combined.
✦ Bowel cancer is the second most curable cancer, if picked up early.
✦ One in six New Zealanders are affected by bowel cancer.
✦ You're more at risk if there's bowel cancer in your family.

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