Last Friday, Remynse got to forget all that for just one day: her wedding day.
“Honestly, for the first time in 12 months, I felt that I didn’t have cancer,” she tells Mamamia. “It was just one day where it never crossed my mind. I just got to be a bride, not a bride with cancer, not having to worry about all the other parts that go with it. So it was fantastic.”
The wedding was made possible by charity My Wedding Wish, which gifts weddings to the terminally ill.
Remynse hadn’t expected to be able to get married. When she was diagnosed with a goblet cell endocrine carcinoid tumour, she’d been dating Alex Bartusz for less than two years.
“When I got diagnosed, I said to him he didn’t have to follow this path that I had now been dealt,” Remynse remembers. “But he was determined to stay with me and see me through it.”
In fact, the morning after the diagnosis, Bartusz told her he wanted to take the relationship further.
“He said, ‘I’ve been thinking. I really need to go and ask your dad. We need to stop putting this off.’”
The couple got engaged last December. But they didn’t think they were going to be able to afford a wedding. Remynse, a teacher at Picton High School in NSW, had to take leave from her job for treatment. Bartusz was caring for her, while studying to become a pilot.
“We knew that our savings that we had for the wedding would be used basically just for keeping the mortgage going and everyday life,” she explains.
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In January this year, on Remynse’s 33rd birthday, she underwent a massive operation. Because the cancer had spread so far, she had her uterus, ovaries, appendix, gall bladder and two sections of her bowel removed, had her peritoneum, part of her diaphragm and part of her stomach stripped, and was then filled with “hot chemo”.
She was in intensive care for five days afterwards, and was left with a scar from her breastplate to her pubic bone. Six weeks later, when she was out of hospital, she began 12 rounds of chemo, “as much as the body can take”.
While Remynse was undergoing treatment, a friend of a friend heard a news report about My Wedding Wish. She got in touch with the charity, and before long, they’d assigned her a wedding planner.
“I feel she was my fairy godmother,” Remynse says.
From June onwards, she had something to focus on other than her cancer. Her dream wedding began to fall into place: the “perfect” dress, the vineyard setting in the Southern Highlands. A woman she didn’t know offered to make canapes. A hairdresser did four trials with her, finding a way to work with the small amount of “paper-thin” hair she had left.
“She did an amazing job to make it not look like I was without hair. She was determined I wouldn’t wear a wig.”
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Two weeks before the wedding, there was bad news.
“They found more cancer,” she explains, “so I was pushed into a week and a half’s worth of medical appointments and tests and scans and hospital visits.”
Throughout it, Remynse kept her focus on the wedding.
“There was something to look forward to.”
Last Thursday, the day before the wedding, Remynse was “absolutely wrecked”.
“My left lung is partially collapsed and my right lung has fluid from the cancer in it, so breathing’s been quite difficult. I thought, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to get through a whole day.’”
But she did. It was her day, and she was beautiful.
“Getting ready, there was no focus on what was underneath, the scars and all that extra stuff I’ve got to live with,” she explains. “To be able to look like a beautiful bride on Friday and for people not to know what was underneath was really good.”
Everything was perfect, even the weather, as Remynse made her vows to Bartusz, the man she knew was the one for her from the day they first met.
“He’s been the reason I’ve had to keep fighting. Nothing’s stopped him from staying by my side.”
For Remynse, the day was about making memories for Alex, and her family and friends.
“If something – or when something – does happen, they’ll always have those memories to keep, which is really special.”
Remynse is now focusing on her honeymoon. She entered a competition at a hardware store just under a year ago, and won a holiday. If her doctor gives her the okay, she and Bartusz will be flying to Asia on December 30.
“There’s no real forward planning anymore,” she says. “We just make the most of it when we can. We thought, ‘We’ll just have a good holiday, enjoy it together while my health’s strong, and just see what happens after that.’ You don’t take it for granted that there’s a ‘next time’ anymore.”
To apply to become a wish recipient or to donate, visit My Wedding Wish.