I couldn’t believe it when I discovered my first love on Facebook decades later, but then a deadly diagnosis threatened our reunion…
By Elaine Vivers, 44, from Livingston, Scotland
I scrolled down the computer screen searching through Friends Reunited, chuckling at pictures of old friends, each taking me back to an old, fond memory.
But when I saw Ian’s picture my heart skipped a beat. Could that really be him?
All the old feelings I had for Ian came flooding back. He had been my first love and here I was in my thirties experiencing the same butterflies in my stomach I’d had twenty years ago.
I was only 14 when I started dating Ian.
We met at a local amusement arcade and although we went to different schools, we spent all our free time together. We may have been young but there was no denying the special spark between us. We got on so well.
We were together for four months before fate would tear us apart.
We’d stayed out past our curfew one night, oblivious to time. When my worried parents found us together they were furious and banned me from seeing Ian again, grounding me for a couple of weeks.
As soon as I was allowed out, I rushed straight round to Ian’s house – but there was no sign of him. This was before mobile phones or social media, so I had no way to contact him.
It was like he’d vanished off the face of the earth! I was devastated and for the next couple of decades, I saw and heard nothing of Ian.
I went on to marry and divorce and have a son, Jonathan, now 25.
I thought about Ian from time-to-time but never thought in a million years that I would see his face again. And here it was in front of me! He was still as handsome as ever.
I was grinning from ear-to-ear as I read his profile. But my happiness was short-lived. Ian was in a relationship. Just my luck!
I sighed and closed the page. It wasn’t meant to be.
Another 10 years passed before I saw my childhood sweetheart’s face again – this time, on Facebook under the ‘friends you might know’ section.
I tried not to let myself get too carried away but his status read single! I re-read the word again… Single.
I sent him a friend request and held my breath. I couldn’t believe it when Ian, now 46, accepted just moments later.
‘How are you Elaine?’ He wrote. ‘It’s been so long!’
He revealed that as a child, he’d been taken to Wales to live with his mum after his parents split. Finally, after all these years, the mystery was solved!
Three decades had passed since we’d last been in touch but we chatted over messenger until the wee hours of the morning, stopping only because we both had work the next day.
‘Take care and I’ll speak to you soon,’ he signed off.
I kept checking my Facebook inbox but didn’t hear anything for a week. I was so disappointed. I thought we’d got on as well as we had when we were teenagers.
But the following weekend I received a private message. I went light-headed when I realised it was from Ian. ‘Why haven’t you been in touch?’ He had written.
We swapped numbers and he called me straight away.
‘I was worried I wouldn’t hear from you again,’ I told him.
‘Me too,’ explained Ian. ‘I kept waiting for you to message me!’
We laughed over our crossed-wires and stayed on the phone all night chatting until 7am. We couldn’t get enough of each other.
Eventually, in May 2012, Ian arranged for me to spend a weekend with him down in Wales. I was so excited.
However in the week before I was due to head south, I was lying in bed with my laptop when my hand brushed against a lump on my left breast.
I’d never checked my breasts before as I’d always associated breast cancer with older women so I wasn’t too panicked.
I booked an appointment with my GP who referred me for a mammogram.
I’m only 41, I told myself. It won’t be anything serious.
I didn’t tell Ian until just days before I was due to meet him. I was so nervous.
‘Ian, I’ve found a lump on my breast,’ I revealed over the phone. ‘I don’t know if I should come down.’
‘Don’t be daft,’ said Ian. ‘Come down and don’t worry about it.’
My mind was so preoccupied with meeting Ian for the first time in decades that I had little time to concern myself with the lump. He was a welcome distraction.
We pressed ahead with our arrangement and when we saw each other in the flesh, there was no doubt about it – the spark was still there.
I was on cloud nine as we spent the next few days getting to know one another again. It was a far cry from our first evening together as a couple of kids at the amusement arcade.
‘I know this sounds silly because we barely know each other but I have such strong feelings for you,’ Ian told me as our weekend drew to a close.
‘It doesn’t sound silly’ I gushed. ‘I feel the same.’
I didn’t want to return to Scotland to face my fate but just days later I was dealt the deadly blow.
‘You have two cancerous lumps in your left breast,’ said the consultant. ‘We need to remove it as soon as possible and follow that up with a course of chemotherapy.’
I was in disbelief. I had been so sure that I would get the all clear.
I called Ian straight away.
‘I’m sorry Elaine,’ he said. ‘But I don’t think I can cope with this, it’s all too much.’
It was a sucker punch. I’d waited 30 years for this reunion – would cancer rob me of my fairytale ending?
I was devastated but I had to respect Ian’s decision. It was a lot to take on after one date.
But he called back in a couple of hours.
‘I am going to help you through this,’ he said. ‘I will be by your side the whole way.’
I was stunned. ‘You said you weren’t interested,’ I cried.
‘I was in shock,’ he explained. ‘I wasn’t thinking straight. I’ve had time to go over everything in my head and I want to stand by you, I don’t want to lose you.’
I felt overwhelmed. I was getting my happy ending. I just had to beat cancer first, but with Ian by my side I felt confident I could.
Within a few months Ian had closed up his business and given up his house in Wales to travel 400 miles to be my rock.
I had my left breast removed in July 2012, followed by four months of gruelling chemotherapy. I lost all of my hair but Ian didn’t care. Like me, he was smitten.
When I was given the all clear a year later, Ian took me away to Fuerteventura in July 2013 to celebrate.
We were sitting in a bar on our second night when Ian tried to say something to me but was a stuttering mess.
‘Are you OK?’ I asked, concerned.
‘We have been through so much together,’ he finally managed to say. ‘You make me so happy that I never want us to be apart again… Will you marry me?’
I smiled. ‘You’re supposed to get down on one knee!’ I joked.
He did, drawing attention from everyone else in the pub. He asked again and I accepted.
The patrons and staff let out a loud cheer as Ian kissed me passionately, then held me in his arms. I was in heaven.
We married in a beautiful ceremony in May last year and our wedding vows were particularly poignant when we promised to be with each other, in sickness and in health. We’d already been through thick and thin.
We’ve since bought our own house and I have recently been selected to model in this year’s Breast Cancer Care Scotland fashion show in November.
Breast cancer has taught me what’s important in life – being around those you love. I am so thankful to be alive.
Thirty years may have passed since our first date but Ian was definitely worth the wait.