First Dates has a universal appeal: who doesn’t love to watch people find love, or gain comfort in the knowledge that others, too, struggle to fill awkward silences on those pressure-filled first meetings.
But on Monday night, viewers were taken on a real emotional rollercoaster, when one contestant opened up about having terminal cancer.
Thirty-seven-year-old Annie from Surrey, who was paired with 40-year-old Bristolian builder Barry on the Channel 4 show, opened up on camera about having been diagnosed with breast cancer aged 33, before learning in November 2015 that it had spread to her bones and become incurable.
During their meal, Annie told Barry through awkward laughs: “I am not very well,” before elaborating, saying: “I’m actually dying. Slowly but surely, I’ve got incurable cancer.”
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Amazingly, Annie then said: “I’m fine about it. It’s just one of those things that happens in life. I could be here for a long time but I might not be.”
Barry was clearly in awe of her optimistic and accepting attitude, saying: “That’s got me a little bit. I’m completely bowled over by your positive attitude.”
“All it does is keep things in perspective,” said Annie.
Annie revealed that she could have as little as two years to live, and didn’t know when her time might come. She then talked about how she’s determined to live her life, getting through her bucket list. “You’ve got to get on with it, haven’t you? You’ve got to live life.”
Viewers were immediately inspired by Annie’s positive outlook, taking to Twitter to express their opinions, and describing Annie as “amazing”, “an inspiration” and “a total legend”.
Crying now. Annie deserves all the happiness in the world! 😢#FirstDates— Corybantic Suzanne (@Originals_in) November 14, 2016
Annie's story has brought me to tears, what an amazing lady. So brave and funny #FirstDates— A S H L E I G H (@ashleighlnelson) November 14, 2016
I can't even see 😭😭😭 Annie, I just want to hug you so tight And do your bucket list with you. Total legend. Total inspiration #firstdates— Sarah (@NoTumbleweed) November 14, 2016
We all have to live our lives and make the most of it. Annie just realises it more than most. More than me. #FirstDates— Mr X (@MusicSnobb) November 14, 2016
Despite her fate, Annie is determined to find love, and just hopes that it doesn’t put people off. “The only thing that worries me about telling somebody is you don't want to sit down and say: ‘Just so you know, I’ve got fake tits, I have to take a few drugs and basically I’m dying’.”
“Incurable cancer?” she said. “Great! I’d scare the living shit out of them.”
But she added: “I don’t lie about it and I’m really upfront.”
Following the date, Annie revealed how despite the hand she’s been dealt, she’s still not willing to settle – and told Barry that he wasn’t the one for her.
“I think you’re lovely,” she told him. “I don’t fancy you, but I want you to know you’re spot on.”
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To which Barry said: “I'm a little bit gutted that you don't want to spend more time, but I'm a little bit uplifted by what you've got to say about me.
“It made me very sad to hear that someone with so much energy, so much beauty and vibrancy has got to face that and the same time completely bowled over by your positive nature.”
The pair did say they were going to remain friends, and Barry intends to take Annie to a motorbike festival after her next bout of chemotherapy.