For 20 years, Pat and Trish have been one another’s biggest supporters.
But in 2020, that support was put to its biggest test as Pat was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL), which then morphed into Richter syndrome (RS).
Pat began treatment in regional Victoria, before being referred to the haematology ward at the RMH and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre for an allogeneic bone marrow transplant.
Incredibly, Pat’s sister Mary was a perfect match and donated her stem cells to help her brother.
“We were extremely overwhelmed, very grateful. It is very emotional even now,” Trish recalls.
After a tumultuous few years - travelling between their hometown of Tocumwal on the NSW border and the Leukaemia Foundation’s Parkville apartments - Pat and Trish returned home for Christmas in 2022.
And on Christmas Day, Pat proposed to Trish with the help of their granddaughter.
“We always have a photo in front of the tree and Pat said I should stand in front of the tree. [Our granddaughter] was running around with this huge bunch of flowers…
“Pat got down on his knee – and as he got down, [our granddaughter] was saying ‘Nanny will you marry Nonno’.”
But just a few months later, in March 2023, the unthinkable happened.
Trish was feeling tired and went to her GP for a general check up. He ran some blood tests, and delivered the heartbreaking news that she had cancer too.
Like lightning striking twice, Trish was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia (APML).
“Pat just kept crying – he couldn’t believe it,” Trish said.
“My head was spinning, I just didn’t think it was possible.”
She too was admitted to the RMH and Peter Mac for eight months of treatment. And while they still have some battles ahead, last weekend the couple finally got to say “I do”.
Surrounded by 140 of their closest family and friends, Pat and Trish celebrated their unwavering love and support of one another.
“Every time I think about it I get butterflies - just like a school kids,” Trish said of the day.
She added that their support network had got them through the tough times.
"Our family, Leonie, Nathan and Bridie, Rob, Michelle and our five grandchildren Karlee, Jamie, Ryan, and mine and Pat's brothers and sisters... we couldn't do life without them," Trish said.
The couple also thanked the RMH staff who have been involved in their care.
Bone Marrow Transplant social worker Melissa Weinstein has worked with Pat and Trish for over a year and said their "extraordinary resilience and strength" was to be admired.
"Caring for someone having a Bone Marrow Transplant is a unique commitment that can be physically and emotionally challenging," she said.
"Caregivers [like Trish] play an irreplaceable role in the care and recovery of patients."
A/Prof Ashish Bajel, a clinical haematologist and bone marrow transplant physician at the RMH, said leukaemia was a complex cancer to treat. But helping Trish and Pat get to their big day was the ultimate goal.
"It's truly a remarkable story," he said.
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