24 August 2018
In November 2017, Dermot Browne travelled to Adelaide from Ireland to marry the love of his life, Rochelle. Heartbreakingly, just 17 days before their wedding on 20 January 2018, Rochelle was diagnosed with Stage 4, Terminal Metastatic Breast Cancer.
The couple, aged 45 and 44 met online five years ago and became friends, chatting and sharing stories from opposite side of the world. In 2016, after four years of talking online, Dermot flew to Adelaide to meet Rochelle for the first time, got down on one knee and proposed.
The couple began planning their life together, with Dermot returning to Australia in November 2017 ahead of their wedding. Just before Christmas, Rochelle broke her rib and went to her GP to get a scan. What the GP found was a dark patch on her lungs, with further scans confirming the worst.
Rochelle had already survived cancer once, undergoing a right mastectomy and reconstruction in 2013. In 2016, following a full body scan she was given the all clear, which made her stage 4 diagnosis even more surreal.
“One minute, we were planning a wedding and building our future together, and the next we were given a terminal diagnosis. It just didn’t seem to make any sense. I experienced every emotion under the sun – anger, fear, disbelief, sadness, I didn’t know what to think,” said Dermot.
“My first thought was ‘I’m going to die,” said Rochelle. “And while that’s the case, at the time you think it’s imminent. It’s an absolute shock. I remember looking across to Dermot and we both just burst into tears. I was told that I had spots on my lungs, liver and bones – it sounded so awful and finite.”
The couple then faced the unbelievably hard task of telling their family the news, with appointments scheduled right up until their wedding day. Despite all the challenges, they got married on the 3 January 2018, a day they both describe as the best day of their lives.
“It was an emotion charged day as you can imagine, but also the most amazing day. I can’t put into words how special it was for us both,” said Dermot.
“It was just perfect because I was marrying the man I loved,” said Rochelle. “When the speeches came around, I got a bit emotional, it was just so much to process. We didn’t even get a chance to have a honeymoon, we went straight into battling cancer.”
Following their wedding, Rochelle started chemotherapy treatments to help ease her pain, and give her as much time as possible with her new family, which included the couple’s three kids Lachlan (16), Sophie (9) and Bradley (6).
“A couple of months ago in April Rochelle was going through a really bad time,” Dermot said.
“We spoke with our oncologist and asked her if we would see our first wedding anniversary and she said that she couldn’t give us any guarantees. That was a really hard thing to digest,” he said.
Despite their challenges, the couple have stayed by each other’s side, taking each day as it comes.
“I’m feeling good, I’m in a happy place,” said Rochelle. “We have our ups and downs, as do all newlyweds, but we’re doing it together and supporting each other as much as it can.”
“The last couple of months, the pain has gotten a lot better, however fatigue still has a big impact. The most important thing for me now is the gift of time, and that’s what the treatment is giving me,” she said.
“You don’t know what’s ahead, it could be one year, and it could be three or four years,” said Dermot. “We make an effort to make every day to count and remember how lucky we are that we found each other.”
This Daffodil Day, Dermot and Rochelle are sharing their story in an effort to raise awareness and encourage donations to fund further cancer research.
“The work that’s being done with this horrible, horrible disease is phenomenal and some of the greatest breakthroughs are being made right here in Australia. Our oncologist, Bodga Koczwara is absolutely incredible. She told us she won’t give up and neither will we – we’ll keep fighting for as long as we can,” said Dermot.
“Research is just so important,” said Rochelle. “For me, knowing that there’s money constantly going towards research means the possibility of a cure, maybe not in time for me, but in time for others.”
Cancer Council SA Chief Executive Lincoln Size urged South Australians to get behind Daffodil Day, with all funds raised going towards life-saving cancer research.
“Sadly, Rochelle and Dermot’s story is a reality for far too many South Australians, which is why Daffodil Day is so important.”
“The money you donate, however big or small, will enable us to continue to fund leading South Australian researchers who are working towards the next cancer breakthrough that will not only give those with cancer more time now, but will also one day, help us achieve a cancer free future.”
Daffodil Day is today, with sites located across South Australia.
To find a site near you or to donate online visit www.daffodilday.com.au.