Terminally ill Merthyr Tydfil dad's memory wish for children

By Gemma Ryall
BBC News

Media caption,
Richard Walters' children are trying to come to terms with his terminal illness

When Richard and Loretta Walters renew their wedding vows, they hope it will be a day their three young children will always remember.

Richard was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer last November and he made it his mission to create lasting memories for Callum, 11, Lillianna, eight and six-year-old Sophia.

Last month, the 33-year-old's condition got worse and his family was told he only had two to three months left to live.

They hope the blessing near their home in Merthyr Tydfil on Friday will be a day to focus on something positive.

"For me and my sister Lillianna, we have had a hard time over the last few weeks... Sophia doesn't really understand it yet," said Callum.

"My grandmother told me about my dad and I didn't really cry about it. I was just thinking in my head 'how has this happened?' and I was really upset.

"I hope when my parents renew their vows that it's going to be a really happy day."

Image source, Loretta Walters
Image caption,
Richard Walters and his children on a recent holiday to Porthcawl

Lillianna, who will be bridesmaid with her younger sister, said: "I think it's going to be the best day of my mother and father's life and I don't think my father will ever forget it.

"We can all remember that day and remember our father."

Sophia added: "I'm looking forward to being a bridesmaid - I'm really excited."

After Richard's diagnosis, the blessing became top of his wishlist of things he wanted to do before he died, along with creating a wheelchair-friendly garden for Sophia, who has spina bifida, and taking family holidays together.

"The children haven't got much time left with their dad, it's heartbreaking," Loretta, 30, said.

"But Richard just wants to make memories for them. It's very important because Sophia, she's so young and has problems with her memory because she has hydrocephalus - fluid on the brain.

"So he's trying to fit in as much as possible."

Image source, Loretta Walters
Image caption,
Loretta and Richard Walters married nearly seven years ago when she was pregnant with Sophia
Image source, Loretta Walters

Richard, a former security guard, was first diagnosed with a benign brain tumour at the end of 2012 and had an operation to remove it, along with radiation treatment.

He was told he would be fine but symptoms reappeared last year - this time they were a lot worse, with seizures and constant sickness.

In November 2016, Richard was told the tumour had become cancerous and had spread throughout his brain. It was terminal.

He started chemotherapy and had another operation, but last month he was told the treatment was not working.

"He was shocked, very shocked," recalled Loretta.

"I don't think he took it in in November but I think it's really come down on him like a tonne of bricks since they gave the last prognosis.

Image source, Loretta Walters
Image caption,
Richard wants to ensure his children have happy memories

"He won't speak about being ill.

"He will say to people 'I'm dying' but when you ask him 'how are you feeling', he won't speak about his actual feelings. He will just say 'I'm fine'.

"He gets awful mood swings since he had his operation. One minute he's perfectly fine, his normal self, the next he goes into a rage and that's it."

She said the children had been having counselling to help them cope and had enjoyed family holidays to Bluestone in Pembrokeshire, Disneyland in Paris and a trip to Porthcawl in Bridgend county.

Next week they are going on a caravan holiday in Pendine, Carmarthenshire.

"Callum is coping the worst," Loretta said.

"He seems to hold everything on his shoulders and he doesn't understand or know what to do with it so it comes out in a lot of rage and anger and things like that."

Image source, Loretta Walters
Image caption,
Callum said he is trying to help his parents

Callum said he now spent as much time as possible with his father while he rested in bed at home.

"Recently I have been playing upstairs on my Playstation with my dad," he added.

"I have been going to the shop with him, I have been doing stuff with my mam and helping her keep the house tidy."

And how will Loretta feel walking up the aisle again to renew her vows with the man she first met when she was 15?

"I'm nervous but happy it's being done and Richard's wish is being fulfilled," she added.

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