A couple who got engaged at the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas finally tied the knot at Pendleside Hospice just before Christmas.
Ben and Gemma Greenwood, 37, had been weighing up when to get married in the three years since their engagement, but fighting Gemma’s illness became their top priority.
Gemma was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 and underwent surgery and a six-month course of chemotherapy, before the cancer spread to her lungs and she had to have another two courses of chemotherapy.
But as the tumours continued to grow, the disease spread to Gemma’s liver and pelvic bones, causing her to deteriorate really quickly.
Ben, 36, who works as a farrier, said: “I was on my way to the hospital on the Thursday night and a friend of mine asked if we were going to get married. We’d been engaged a while but now seemed like the right time to do it.
“She moved to Pendleside the next day and I went straight to Burnley Registry Office to get things moving. They offered me Monday at 6pm – which would’ve been too soon – or Tuesday at 3pm.
“Once we had the date and time, she had friends come into the hospice to do her hair and nails so she was looking her best. We were so lucky to have the wedding on the Tuesday as she was really poorly on the Wednesday and the next day she was gone.”
The wedding was hosted in Gemma’s hospice room alongside friends and family. Animal lover and former vet receptionist Gemma wanted her two dogs there – Pepper the Patterdale Terrier and Jet the Patterdoodle – and hospice staff were happy to oblige.
“It was bittersweet, but it made her day,” said Ben. “She loved her dogs and to have them there was really important to her.
“Just like everything else the staff at Pendleside did, nothing was too much trouble. They’re just amazing. They knew exactly what to say and how to say it. They didn’t mind me helping here and there like I’d done at home, they put an arm around me when I was crumbling.”
Gemma’s sister Becky Epstein said: “It was a very private and emotional service and one it was a pleasure to be a part of.
“I would like to thank everyone that helped make it possible and a massive thank you to everyone at Pendleside Hospice who went above and beyond to make it a really special occasion for both families.”
This was the ninth wedding which Chris Cheeseman, the hospice’s Spiritual Care Co-ordinator, had overseen and was especially poignant as it was his final Pendleside wedding before retiring at the end of January.
He said: “From the moment Gemma and Ben arrived at the hospice, this was what they wanted. I went to the registry office with Ben and was fortunate to be there to witness the joy and celebration during the service.
“It was a lovely atmosphere and the catering staff put on a brilliant spread of food for the guests who seemed to keep on coming throughout the day and evening. It was wonderful that we had that window on the Tuesday.”