Would you admit to your blind date you only had months to live?

Electrician, 31, signs up for First Dates looking for love despite having a terminal brain tumour that ‘should have killed him by now’

  • Electrician Julian Fiano, 31, has to drop a bombshell on his unsuspecting date 
  • Julian, a keen footballer, was diagnosed with Stage 4 terminal brain cancer
  • He was filmed meeting 27-year-old London property consultant Becca Wilson
  • Their encounter will be showcased on Channel 4’s TV programme First Dates 

First dates are never easy, are they? What to wear, what time to arrive and how to navigate the tricky subjects of religion, ex-partners and Brexit. Who pays the bill? And how does one suggest a nightcap — or make a quick escape without causing offence?

For Julian Fiano, however, a first date is always going to be problematic. For, somewhere in the introductory platitudes, he knows he must drop a bombshell and tell his unsuspecting dinner companion that he doesn’t expect to be alive for very much longer.

In any other circumstances, with his gorgeous brown eyes and caring, engaging personality, the 31-year-old London electrician would be considered quite a catch.

But Julian knows it will take a particular sort of person to take on someone with terminal cancer. Besides, at the back of his mind, is the uncomfortable question of whether it is fair of him to be on the dating scene at all. What if he were to meet ‘the one’? Wouldn’t it be the cruellest thing ever to allow someone to fall in love with him, knowing that he is destined to break her heart?

Also, what if she didn’t like him? Would she feel obliged to stay with him, out of guilt?

Julian Fiano knows it will take a particular sort of person to not want to run for the door when he confesses he has terminal cancer

But, then again, why shouldn’t Julian squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of the short time he has left? Don’t the dying deserve a chance of romance, too?

Tonight this impossible quandary is explored on the popular Channel 4 show First Dates, when Julian is filmed meeting 27-year-old London property consultant Becca Wilson.

Instead of the usual superficial first-date chat, Julian and Becca discuss this taboo as they get to know each other. Julian says he’d decided from the outset to be completely open about his illness. ‘I wished I didn’t have to, of course I did,’ he says. ‘But if I didn’t, things could develop and then I would have led someone on, and I’d never do that.’

And without giving too much away, no, Becca doesn’t flee, although she says Julian’s confession did ‘pack quite a punch’.

‘I had no idea of Julian’s ill-health until the cameras were rolling,’ she says. ‘When he told me, my whole tummy did a back-flip. I was gutted for him. I’ve had bad experiences with family members who’ve had cancer, and my first thought was: I hate this cruel disease. I hate what it does to people, and I hate what it’s doing to you.’

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But it took only a few minutes of conversation for Becca to realise that, short though Julian’s time might be, he’s determined to make the most of every minute.

She says: ‘He’s an incredibly positive, outgoing guy, and it was very clear there was no way he’d be going to let this horrible illness defeat him. As far as he’s concerned, his cancer is just a blip. He’s strong and determined, and this isn’t going to stop him enjoying his life and planning for the future. And that, quite frankly, in any person, is very attractive.’

It was in 2016, after suffering vague symptoms such as a feeling numbness in his left leg, and severe headaches, that Julian was diagnosed with a tumour the size of a golfball on the right side of his brain.

‘I was a healthy guy — a keen footballer — and I had no idea this was going to hit me,’ he says.

‘When I eventually went to hospital and told the doctors my entire left side was numb, they thought I’d had a stroke. They sent me for a CT scan and then an MRI, and I remember lying there in a hospital bed and seeing the doctor’s face as he walked towards me. I could tell it was going to be bad news.’

Julian’s encounter with 27-year-old London property consultant Becca Wilson was filmed for Channel 4’s First Dates

A few days later, Julian had surgery and was then told the tumour was malignant and, even worse, Stage 4. ‘I remember thinking, I’m 28 and here I am planning my funeral.

‘A few weeks earlier, I’d been thinking about getting married, getting my own house, having kids. Especially having kids — I always wanted children.

‘And in the moment when I heard how bad it was, everything in my life changed. You have no idea how important your health is until you lose it — and, when you do, you realise everything else was built on it.’

At the time, Julian was living with a long-term girlfriend in Oldham, Greater Manchester, who, he says, was incredibly supportive.

‘Cancer doesn’t only affect the person who’s got it, it affects everyone around them. My then girlfriend was in her 20s and she didn’t expect suddenly to be looking after this ill guy with big scars on his head, who was having to have radiotherapy and chemotherapy every day.’

It was tough for both of them, he recalls. ‘One of the worst things was that my hair started falling out. Also, there were days when I’d wake up in a foul mood: days when I’d be angry because I had this terrible thing.

Julian was diagnosed with a tumour the size of a golfball on the right side of his brain

‘In the end, things didn’t work out between us, but I’d never say anything bad about her: she was there for me and she really helped me.

‘When you’re feeling horrible after treatment, there’s no doubt that kisses and cuddles really do make a difference. I’d lost all my hair and with it I lost my confidence — but she told me I was still good-looking, and that made such a difference.

‘When I was in hospital, she’d come to see me after a long day at work and stay until 10 or 11pm — and the next day, she’d do it all over again.’

Their five-year relationship ended in 2017, and Julian moved back to London, where he grew up with his two younger brothers.

He’d already suffered plenty of heartache in his life: his parents split up when he was in his mid-teens, and his mum died in 2012. However, he discovered that these blows had made him stronger, and when his treatment ended and he was feeling better, his first thought was, why not start dating again?

‘As far as I’m concerned,’ he says, ‘there’s someone out there for everyone, whatever you’ve got wrong with you and whatever the prognosis. There is no excuse not to look for love.’

So he started going out and chatting to women, although it was daunting at first. ‘It was nerve-wracking after so long in a relationship and also I had to tell them about my cancer. But it was also exciting. So much of life is about finding the person of your dreams, and there I was out looking for them again.’

And something extraordinary began to happen.

‘At the beginning, I thought no one would want to go out with me,’ he remembers. ‘I decided I’d always be straight with girls, and tell them right away, and to my surprise, they didn’t want to walk away.

‘In fact, without fail, they were caring and supportive: they wanted to look after me. I was being surprised by how many women actively wanted to date me. And I realised that provided you’re honest and upfront, girls are willing to take you on.’

At the same time, Julian is a realist and he knows the ultimate purpose of dating is finding someone with whom you can have a future.

‘I’ve always wanted children, and I understand that a lot of girls are going to be thinking about that when they’re dating. Children and looking like a princess on their wedding day,’ he says. ‘Women are looking for someone who’s going to be around for a while.’

But a relationship is about quality, too, and when it comes to the real stuff of life, Julian says that cancer, horrible though it is, has really helped him focus. ‘It’s taught me so much. I really know the value of life now. So many people think what matters is new clothes or a smart car, but I’ve learned there’s a much deeper level.’

Julian says he’d always loved the TV programme First Dates, in which couples are filmed having dinner in a restaurant after being matched by TV producers, and had once discussed with his ex whether they’d apply to go on the programme if they were single.

So, newly single and with his medical treatment behind him, he decided to go for it.

Julian says he’d always loved the TV programme First Dates, in which couples are filmed having dinner in a restaurant after being matched by TV producers

Meanwhile, Becca says she applied on the spur of the moment after a few glasses of wine with some girlfriends. ‘And they got straight back in touch with me, which I now know was because they were looking for someone for Julian. Like him, I’m very positive, and I think they thought let’s give them a go.’

Becca had no hints whatsoever that her ‘date’ had cancer.

‘It’s a blind date in every way, and though they know a lot about your personalities and have matched you, you know nothing about who you’re meeting,’ she explains.

Her first impressions of Julian, she says, were that he was ‘a nice guy, very genuine, very interesting. And he was very polite. But there was this odd thing about him: he kept his hat on. I like hats, but not usually in a restaurant. And though I thought it was cool, I did ask him about it — and that’s when he told me about his operation, and that he was wearing it to cover his scars.’

Becca says she was surprised how quickly her initial shock gave way to other emotions. ‘As he talked about his attitude to life, I started to think, “Good for you”. Because why should cancer stop anyone in their life?’

First impressions for Julian were positive, too. ‘I’d never been on a blind date, so it was a bit worrying. But Becca was so lovely. And I thought, can I really start speaking to this girl and make plans for the future? Because even though I want to, I can’t promise anyone my life …’

Within a very short time, Becca says she completely got Julian’s upbeat vibe. ‘The truth is, what does it matter if he’s got cancer? I’d say it makes him different from the next guy. I’d say it makes him even more incredible. And Julian changed my whole attitude to life. I’d been in a nasty relationship for a while, and I’d let my demons get me down. But Julian told me to leave them behind me, because life is too short.

‘And he said if you’re afraid of something, just go for it. You only live once and you’ve got to grasp life while you can. My new motto is: “Press play.” ’

Some friends, she says, were initially shocked when she told them about her date. ‘At first, they were taken aback by it, but very quickly, like me, they were saying why shouldn’t he date? He’s just living for the moment, and that’s something we can all learn from.’

Did knowing he was so ill, though, mean Becca felt she had to be careful about what she said, so as not to upset him? A casual comment about an event which Julian might not live to see could have left an awkward atmosphere.

‘Not at all. He’s a very outgoing, positive person, and I could tell he’s got really broad shoulders,’ she says. ‘There was no need to tread on eggshells. I quickly realised I could discuss anything and ask him pretty much anything.’

Since tonight’s episode was filmed, Julian has been able to go back to his first love, sports coaching, and to work part-time in a supermarket.

And last weekend, he fulfilled a lifetime’s ambition to visit Barcelona. Whether or not Becca was with him, and what happened after their first date, is up to viewers to discover.

‘There are plenty of people out there who are a lot worse off than me, and I’m very aware of that,’ he says. ‘I was meant to be dead by now, and I’ve been having a blast in Spain over the weekend.’

Unfortunately, recent scans have revealed the cancer has returned and Julian is about to go back into hospital for more surgery. As usual, he’s taking it in his stride.

‘I’m not scared,’ he says. ‘The operation is just something I have to get through. I’m looking forward to Christmas and the New Year, and all that life has in store.’

First Dates is on Channel 4 on Mondays at 10pm.    

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