Ovarian cancer patient plans wedding in hospital


A Queensland mother-of-two diagnosed with stage two ovarian cancer planned her wedding day from her hospital bed at Mater Hospital Brisbane in the days following surgery to remove a 16-centimeter tumour.

Barely able to walk down the aisle, Warwick mum Angela Beckhouse, who also has two step children, had no time for a honeymoon.

Just five days after her wedding, the 43-year-old started 12 weeks of gruelling chemotherapy at Mater Cancer Care Centre in South Brisbane.

It was while Ms Beckhouse and her fiancé Paul Butler, 50, were enjoying a six-week holiday on the Sunshine Coast that her stomach became swollen.

Several scans later, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a month before she “threw plans together to get married”.

“I was in complete shock,” she said. “I had never really heard about ovarian cancer before being diagnosed. There’s a million different types of cancer, but I have never known anyone with ovarian cancer.”

The couple decided to get married as soon as possible – and before chemotherapy started.

They had 15 guests attend their wedding at Noosa.

“It was a day filled with mixed emotions,” Ms Beckhouse said. “The lead up to my wedding day wasn’t how I ever imagined it to be, but it was joyous and memorable.

“There were lots of tears when planning the wedding, I had thoughts about how long Paul and I would have left together, or if I was going to die.

“Paul picked out all the wedding songs, and we wrote individual vows to each other.”

Mr Butler never imagined a cancer diagnosis would be the catalyst for setting a wedding date.

“Everyone puts everything into planning their big day, their wedding night and their honeymoon, but we did most of it together while Ange laid in a hospital bed,” he said.

Some of Mr Butler’s vows to his new bride included: “When you are sad, I promise to hold you, to give you strength, to care for you completely”.

“When you are in pain, I will go through it with you, so you never feel alone,” he said.

“When you are happy, I will be happy with you because your smile warms my heart, my soul, my whole being.”

The couple is sharing their story to shine a spotlight on the Brisbane to Gold Coast Cycle for Cancer ride, a fundraising event to support Mater Research in discovering new treatments and care for people with cancer.

Ms Beckhouse said it was one way she and Mr Butler could give back to Mater for the care she received.

“Until you are personally affected, you may not realise just how important every dollar raised is and how many lives it impacts,” she said.

“Donations are about helping to change the future for people, and one day that person could be you.”

Mater Hospital Brisbane Gynaecology Oncology Clinical Nurse Consultant Bronwyn Jennings said Mater received about 200 referrals ever year to care for women with ovarian cancer.

“Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that if not picked up early, the patient will have a poor outcome and survival rate,” Ms Jennings said.

“We know that women diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer have a five-year survival rate of less than 50 per cent.

“This is why research and the upcoming Brisbane to Gold Coast ride so important – we need to discover ways of identifying ovarian cancer at earlier stages to improve survival.”

Mater is one of three public gynaecological oncology units in the state and offers both public and private services on the one campus. Services include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, pathology and research all on the one site.

Mr Butler said he was forever grateful for the care and support that Ms Jennings and the rest of the Mater team provided.

“Bronwyn gave me confidence things would start to happen quickly and the quicker she had surgery the better outcome,” he said.

“Thanks to her, and the team at the Mater, it was only 17 days from the official diagnosis to when Angela had surgery.”

Now in remission, the couple recently celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary by spending a night in Brisbane, attending a musical and enjoying each other’s company together at home.

“We bought a van in January and we’re looking forward to travelling and starting some new adventures,” Ms Beckhouse said.

To make a donation visit: https://fundraise.mater.org.au/event/brisbane-to-gold-coast/home

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