Lottery players-turned-millionaires march forward with a smile
By Kate Northrop
SWANSEA, U.K. — A U.K. couple felt like they were on a merry-go-round when a Welsh man won a £1 million (US$1.26 million) lottery prize during a bout of sickness, followed by his wife both receiving a diagnosis for and beating cancer.
The Francis' lives never felt more "up and down" than when they won £1 million in the U.K. National Lottery's Millionaire Maker drawing in January 2022.
From the moment Mark Francis, of Swansea, found out about his newly minted millionaire status, he and his wife, Helen, have had an eventful year consisting of both happy moments and tough obstacles.
On Jan. 4, 2022, Mark bought a lottery ticket and discovered he held a winning U.K. Millionaire Maker code while "blowing his nose." It was one way to cheer himself up as he rested in bed fighting Covid, he figured.
"I was at home watching daytime TV when, in between the coughing and spluttering from my bout of Covid, I was idly checking my results on the National Lottery app" the delivery driver laughed. "When it flashed up I was a winner, I called the line definitely not expecting to end it as a millionaire. It's still a blur to this day!"
The 50-year-old was isolating himself from Helen, who works as a carer for Swansea council. She saw multiple missed calls from Mark, but she was busy with a patient and blissfully unaware of the good news about to head her way.
"I was just about to shower a lady, and told him I couldn't speak," Helen told Wales Online. "But he was saying, "No, no, no, I need to tell you we have won the lottery."
It was definitely a major update that gave her some pause as she processed the win, but to this day, the Ftwo haven't given up their jobs since the win.
"It's been an amazing 18 months for us — winning the lottery is truly life changing," Mark added. "We've been able to buy a home, follow Wales to all Six Nations games and upgrade our cars. As cars and driving are my 'thing,' this is more meaningful than it sounds! Driving my Audi Q3 RS brings me so much joy — every time I get in that car, it feels like I'm winning all over again!"
Winning a million pounds in the lottery has enabled the couple to improve their quality of life in a variety of ways, from having more financial security to being able to host their entire family, including their five grandchildren between the ages of two and 15, at their new caravan on the Gower peninsula in Wales. They've also been in the throes of planning for their wedding in September.
"Sharing the luck is important to us, so we recently bought a caravan on The Gower, which means that friends and family can enjoy short breaks and family holidays too," Mark related. "It's already proving so popular with my mother and our grandchildren. I'm not sure how much time we will actually get to spend there."
"By far, the best [part] about winning is the security it has given us," Mark continued. "We were both working long hours plus overtime and now, although we both continue to work we can do it for the job satisfaction. Plus, we've been able to help out family in a way we could have only dreamt of before."
However, the lottery winners encountered their fair share of obstacles along the way. During a routine checkup, Helen was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully, she caught it early, received treatment, and just celebrated her first year of being cancer-free.
"After the high of winning, it was a massive bump," she told the online journal. "It was a lot to take in, but we all got through it together and now we can look forward and plan our wedding and celebration with all the family."
With a positive attitude and her chin up, Helen explained that they've put the difficult time behind them and are set on enjoying their winnings while reminding themselves to stay smart about saving and spending.
"After the win, my health scare definitely put everything into perspective, but I was lucky once again, and now firmly on the mend, we can really start to enjoy the win," Helen reaffirmed. "We've been busy planning our wedding, and I feel blessed that I can choose things I want rather than what the budget dictates. Having said that, I'm not going wild. I'm still keeping a keen eye on the pennies."
There are not many downsides to winning the lottery that Mark can think of.
"The ups are so great, but I would say the responsibility that comes with it," the winner said in an interview. "We need to make sure this money makes a difference to our lives, and with luck, our kids and grandkids too, so we do feel some pressure to make wise decisions with it. Thankfully, we've had good advice from the experts and also from the other Welsh lottery winners we've met in the last 12 months or so."
Above all, Mark and Helen are optimistic about what the future holds.
"Our hopes for the future are that we both stay in good health so we can continue to enjoy the amazing new lottery lifestyle we have been lucky enough to win, and that we can continue to share this good fortune with our family," he went on to say. "Beyond that, we have our wedding to look forward to later in the year, plenty more of those little trips to events and places we've always wanted to visit, and further ahead, hopefully a trip to Australia for the 2025 British and Irish Lions Tour."