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Cancer patient makes best use of borrowed time

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 7th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Gemma and Luke Stewart renewed their marriage vows a year after their nuptials. Most couples wait substantially longer before such a ceremony, but Gemma is living on borrowed time. She has been diagnosed with melanoma, the most fatal form of skin cancer.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Renewing their vows on a beautiful Corfu beach last October, the ceremony was symbolic of the brief time they may have together. Thirty-year-old Gemma has been told she may have as brief as three months to live.

In response, Gemma has put to use the remaining days that she has left. "Being told I had terminal cancer made me realize Luke was the love of my life. Suddenly everything becomes very clear and you realize exactly what it is you want."

The couple had been together for eight years, and had been unsure of their future. "We always loved each other but it just didn't work the first couple of times we lived together. I am quite bohemian and a hoarder of stuff and Luke is the total opposite. We also had different outlooks on life, to some degree.

"I was also badly affected by the death of my father at the beginning of 2009 as he was the person who basically brought me up and we were extremely close.

"After that, I had a burning desire to have children to continue Dad's blood line. But Luke wasn't ready to have a family and that caused a huge rift between us.

"In hindsight, it really wasn't the right time to go about it, as I was incredibly raw. Now we've made it work because we've realized how much we love each other."

The couple, who reside in Farnborough, Hampshire, met in 2005. In October 2010, Gemma found a lump near her groin.

"I spoke with Luke and he encouraged me to go see a doctor," she recalls. "Neither of us dreamed it could be cancer. My doctor agreed - I was too young and had lived a healthy lifestyle, so he was sure it was nothing sinister. But as a precaution, he decided to run a few tests."

A biopsy had revealed malignant melanoma in her lymph nodes. "It was such a shock as I have never been a tanner - I just couldn't believe what I was hearing," she says. "It was like being smacked around the face.

Doctors told her the primary site of the melanoma was in the middle of the ball of her foot. "Looking back, I had felt very run down, but I put that down to my busy job as a special needs teacher working with autistic children, commuting and the stress of Dad dying," she says.

"I was warned from the start that it wasn't good. I was pretty much slap bang in the middle of stage three, advanced cancer and was already very ill."

Gemma underwent major surgery to remove 37 lymph nodes, before undergoing chemotherapy. But that failed to stop the cancer spreading and just seven months later, in May 2011, she received the devastating news that the cancer was terminal.

 "When I do pass away I will be happy because in Luke I have found the love of my life and nothing else matters. I am so grateful for every day we have together."

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