"I hate it when you can't get to sleep. I don't know if I'm sick of being in hospital or if I'm too excited for this extra long weekend and week's honeymoon with my beautiful wife. So much to be happy about with my life at the moment. I feel sorry for anyone who isn't happy. But happiness isn't just given out to people, you have to know what will make you happy and work every day and every hour and every minute and every second to be happy. Because at the end of the day what is life without happiness? Don't ask me I wouldn't know...two more sleeps until I marry the love of my life."
Gareth wrote this on the eve of his wedding day. He was 22 when he married his childhood sweetheart. She had been by his side throughout his long battle with metastatic cancer. His dream was to whisk his new bride away to a honeymoon they would never forget. He wanted to show her how much her loyalty, love and care meant to him. With the help of Dreams2live4, Gareth felt he had the power to give back to her.
We were fortunate enough to hear Gareth's wife, Rikki deliver an inspiring speech about her experience with Dreams2Live4, and we would like to share it with you.
"I remember one of the first things that came into my mind whilst gripping Gareth's hand so tight, eyes welling with tears and listening to the Doctor say the unimaginable. "But we were supposed to get married and live long happy lives together..."
My fiance Gareth was diagnosed in September 2011 with Rhabdomyosarcoma. An incredibly rare cancer which begins in the muscular tissue bit is incredibly aggressive and can spread to all organs, the bone and any other tissue in the body. This cancer is relatively common in young children with quite a good survival rate but unfortunately once found in adolescent and young adults the odds aren't as good.
I remember the day that Louise got into contact with Gareth and myself. At the time we were living the typical life of cancer fighters. Living in the Hospital, sleeping on a trundle bed by his side, constantly talking to Doctor's about chemo, medications, radiation, appointment, scans etc. But whenever Louise entered the room she was like a breath of fresh air. A warm, vibrant, bubbly personality who always wore a huge smile each time we saw her.
Louise was a Dream Maker ‚ yes that is a job description I think we all would like. She works with an incredible organisation called Dreams2live4 which offers patients with metastatic cancer help to fulfil their dream. I know from my own experience that what they do has an enormous impact on cancer patients and their family, carers and loved ones. To be offered an opportunity but more importantly, simply being asked the question; "If you had one dream what would it be?" Has enormous power.
This takes the mind away from the countless amount of tubes which are currently inserted into your body. It takes away the fact that you are no longer living a normal life. It takes away the fact that you have lost all your hair. It helps you to forget for a short while that you currently spend more time in a hospital than anywhere else and the fact that when you look in the mirror you no longer recognise yourself.
The simple question "Do you have a dream?" puts the mind into a state of fantasy. "If I could make anything possible what would it be?" And finally for a while the things that feel like they are impossible due to not working, lack of money or your treatment regime, may all of a sudden be closer then you ever imagined.
She had the understanding and compassion to relate to our situation and provided a nurturing environment for Gareth to discuss the possibility of a dream. Gareth had been told weeks prior that after a short break in his treatment regime the cancer had grown back and was no longer being responsive.
This meant that there was little more medical treatment could do to help us fight his cancer and Gareth would be kept comfortable but would eventually pass away. I remember one of the first things that came into my mind whilst gripping Gareth's hand so tight, eyes welling with tears and listening to the Doctor say the unimaginable. "But we were supposed to get married and live long happy lives together..."
Turns out that unfortunately that wasn't supposed to be but the good news was getting married was Gareth's first thought too. So within 6 weeks, the wedding was planned with the enormous amount of help from some incredibly kind and generous people. The day was amazing in every way and to have the opportunity to announce and formalise our love together after 6 years of being high school sweet hearts, we were incredibly happy. When asked what his dream was, Gareth being typically him said, 'take my wife on a honeymoon.'
Initially Gareth's dream was to go to Hamilton Island and did Louise jump on that! It felt like within days she had an amazing honeymoon planned and presented this to Gareth and I. Unfortunately given his quick decline in health, Doctors had grave concerns about travel and the care that would be available in an emergency. Heart broken and down trod ‚Gareth's dream had disappeared ‚ Just another thing to thank the cancer for.
But Louise was determined to give him his dream at all costs. This is when I believe she really went to bat for Gareth and consulted with Doctors around what would be possible. Surely enough within probably hours, she had a 'new honeymoon' ready for us and the best part? It already had Doctors approval!
He would get it... Gareth would get his dream...We were given a 5 night getaway in the incredible Gaia Health Retreat in Byron Bay. So we set off after our beautiful wedding on the 8th of June as two young people madly in love. But most of all, we felt normal (just with a lot of drugs and morphine in tow, but we didn't mind). Driving up the coast to Byron Bay was about an 8hr drive with an overnight stop at Coffs Harbour. Arriving at Gaia retreat was like a dream come true, quite literally!
Nestled amongst the rolling hills of the Hinterland Mountains the entire retreat was like a tranquil rainforest that made all our previous worries slowly drift away. Our time there was amazing, the setting allowed us to be away from the crazy world that we found ourselves would up in and gave the two of us incredible quality time with one another which we may not have received if it wasn't for Gareth's dream.
Passing the hours by in a tranquil secluded bungalow just being with one another was the most amazing gift for us to enjoy. The memories and true quality time which was no one's but our own was truly precious to us both and allowed us to be together to laugh, cry, joke and clown around. Thanking our lucky stars for having each other, our beautiful wedding day and our amazing honeymoon.
As many of you may be aware, time for those affected by cancer is well and truly the most valuable commodity life has to offer. Something that unfortunately many of us don't realise until you are in such a terrible situation.
Beyond the gift of time - by being offered a dream Gareth was able to fulfil a burning desire of his own. I'm not sure what is was and why he only wanted to take me on a honeymoon. Whether it was that he felt like it was a way to repay me somehow. I'm not sure. But having that dream come true was truly the most important thing for Gareth and meant the absolute world to him. Needless to say at the end of our 5 day trip we were not ready to head back to reality, so we thought what the heck, let's duck up to the Gold Coast for a couple more nights. Yet another opportunity we wouldn't have had without Gareth's dream.
We eventually came home and our first appointment back at the Hospital was unfortunately the last time Gareth left Hospital ever again. Gareth passed away on the 19th July 2012, less than 6 weeks after our wedding day. I cannot put into words the gratitude that both Gareth and I have for being offered a dream by such a wonderful team and charity. I will never be able to thank you enough or repay you such an important and special time in mine and Gareth's lives."
*Details have been altered to protect the privacy of our dreamer.