Newcastle United fan, 22, who was battling rare bone cancer died before he got the chance to marry fiancée

Kai Heslop sadly passed away following a battle with bone cancer
Kai Heslop sadly passed away following a battle with bone cancer -Credit:Chronicle Live

A Newcastle United fan who was battling a rare form of bone cancer died before he got the chance to marry his fiancée.

Kai Heslop was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2021 after suffering from pain in his leg. The 22-year-old, from South Shields, South Tyneside, had his left leg amputated and underwent chemotherapy. Regular scans later showed that he was cancer free.

However last year, the disease returned and spread to his lungs. Last month, medics at the Freeman Hospital gave him the devastating news that there was nothing more they could do to save his life.

Kai and his fiancé Nicole Hughes, 21, planned to get married in the hospital in Newcastle and hold a blessing at St James' Park. However he sadly passed away in Nicole's arms during the early hours of Saturday, before they could say their vows.

Kai Heslop (right) with his fiancée Nicole Hughes (left)
Kai Heslop (right) with his fiancée Nicole Hughes (left) -Credit:Chronicle Live

Kai's uncle Steven Lomas, 38, said: "He was amazing. I can't imagine at that age being told what he was told and having to go through what he went through. He never complained, he was never like why me? He just took it in his stride. Yes he was sad at times but he just got on with it. He was so strong and determined. His sense of humour was ridiculously good.

"He was a carefree, happy-go-lucky kid, like we all are. From being six or seven years old, he was a Newcastle supporter. He knew everything about the players and the team. He would go to the matches all the time with his friends, his little brother and then his girlfriend.

"Even when the doctor told him he had cancer the first thing he said was 'Well as long as it doesn't interrupt any of the matches I'm going to'. You could slice him in half and he would be black and white through and through!

"He just loved the football, he loved being around the family and he loved being with his girlfriend. He was happy with the life that he had set up."

Kai, who is an older brother to Nicole, 21, Mason, 11, and Rhys, 10, got together with his partner Nicole just before he was diagnosed with cancer in 2021. When he first began suffering from pain in his leg, it was initially put down to being a sports injury.

However the pain became too much and he ended up visiting South Tyneside District Hospital in South Shields. He had an x-ray and a scan before being given an urgent appointment at the Freeman Hospital.

L-R Nicole Hughes, Nicole Heslop and Kai Heslop
L-R Nicole Hughes, Nicole Heslop and Kai Heslop -Credit:Chronicle Live

Steven, who lives in South Shields, said: "He was playing around with one of his brothers and he said he felt something in his knee jerk. He thought nothing of it, he thought he'd over stretched his leg. He felt the same effect when he was playing football in the back garden with his girlfriend, he felt his knee stretch a little bit.

"For a number of weeks he was complaining of leg pain and there was (covid) lockdowns at that time. He was speaking to a GP on the phone as they weren't offering face-to-face appointments. He had a zoom call and they were going to refer him for physiotherapy.

"The pain got too much and he ended up going to South Tyneside Hospital. The nurses from there pretty much knew instantly what it was. They sent him for an examination and they told him to come back the next day with his mam. As soon as she said that I knew what was coming."

Steven said he went with Kai to the oncologist appointment where he was told that he had osteosarcoma and would need his leg amputated. Kai went on to undergo rounds of chemotherapy and he had his leg removed on his 20th birthday.

He said that for around a year Kai was having regular scans and they were coming back clear. However during the early months of 2023, a scan revealed that he had cancer in both lungs.

Kai Heslop (left) planned to marry his partner Nicole Hughes (right)
Kai Heslop (left) planned to marry his partner Nicole Hughes (right) -Credit:Chronicle Live

Steven said: "He got diagnosed with lung cancer in April of last year. They said 'It's not lung cancer on it's own'. It was lung cancer that had spread from the bone cancer and went to his lungs."

He said medics operated on one of Kai's lungs to remove the cancer and planned to operate, or use chemotherapy, on the other lung. However Kai kept getting infections and the cancer spread.

In March this year, Kai was told by the oncologist that the cancer had grown so rapidly and it was now in the chest wall. They said that there was no more treatment they could offer him.

Steven asked for a second opinion from the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, who specialise in cancer treatment, and they agreed with verdict of the Freeman Hospital. He also looked at the possibility of Kai undergoing private immunotherapy treatment.

He said: "Kai was scared, then was upset but we said 'We're going to look at different options'. There was times when you could see that he was scared and down. It was only in the last couple of weeks that he got that bit of fight back again.

"I found a private clinic that offered Immunotherapy all over Europe. We were looking into that right until the very end."

Just over a week ago, Kai went into the Freeman Hospital for a blood test and to get a dressing on his chest changed. While he was there, a surgeon became concerned about the lump on the side of his chest. He was sent for a scan and was kept in the hospital.

Steven said: "It showed the tumour was just enormous. It was growing out of the chest wall through his ribs and you could see it. It was a huge lump on his side. He didn't want to be in hospital but he was quite comfortable because they had his pain managed quite well."

Kai (far right) with his sister Nicole (left), his uncle Steven (middle left) and his granddad Keith (middle right)
Kai (far right) with his sister Nicole (left), his uncle Steven (middle left) and his granddad Keith (middle right) -Credit:Chronicle Live

Kai and Nicole decided, while Kai was in hospital, that they would like to get married. The Teenage Cancer Trust was helping them to arrange a wedding at the hospital and a blessing at St James' Park.

Steven said: "They had just received the rings. The Teenage Cancer Trust nurses were going to help Nicole to get the marriage certificate from Newcastle City Council. That was going to happen on Saturday morning but obviously it never happened."

Kai's health began to deteriorate on Friday and he was visited by Steven, his dad Benjamin, his grandmother Karen and his sister Nicole. Kai's mum Danielle Lomas, 43, and his partner Nicole were with him when he passed away at 1.45am on Saturday morning.

Steven said: "Kai didn't want to know when he was going to die, he didn't want to know anything like that. He said we didn't want to scare him but we were all there visiting him. He was quite weak but he was still having a bit of a carry on."

He said they left around 8pm and Kai fell asleep. He was cuddling Nicole when he passed away during the early hours. He said: "We went up to the hospital and we were there by about half two. We spent about four or five hours in the room with him."

Steven has praised Nicole, who shared a flat with Kai, for the way she supported his nephew. He said: "Honestly for what she's done, for him and the family, she should be knighted.

"That relationship was pretty much cemented as soon as they got together. They were inseparable. They were never, ever apart. She was with him at hospital visits and in every situation she was there. Right up until the end.

"He died in her arms, in the hospital, and I think that's where he would have wanted it. So she's such an absolute angel.

"She was so in tune with him, she knew what he wanted before he knew it. Every single second of the day she was with him, caring for him and being with him. I don't think you come across that very often."

Newcastle fans have been calling for a 22nd minute applause in Kai's memory at the next home game against Sheffield United on April 27.

Steven said: "I just want to say thank you to everybody. I know that doesn't seem enough but that's all I can give - a huge thank you. The community as a whole, and on social media, has been so supportive. The response has been so touching, so heart-warming. It really does help."

The Bone Cancer Research Trust is the leading UK charity dedicated to fighting primary bone cancer. If you would like more information about the different types of primary bone cancer and tumour, visit their website: You can also access their free Support & Information Service on 0800 111 4855 or by emailing