9 January 2024

"Let's not wait for the perfect date": when love trumped disaster for Cooktown couple

| Chisa Hasegawa
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David, Nathalie and their children at their wedding

After the endless obstacles illness and a cyclone threw at them, David and Nathalie got married surrounded by close friends and family in Cooktown. Photo: Supplied.

Not many couples can say they’ve survived a cyclone and a cancer diagnosis just shy of two weeks into their marriage, but Cooktown couple David and Nathalie have faced all the challenges life has thrown at them with graceful optimism.

In November 2023, devoted partner and mother Nathalie was suddenly diagnosed with Stage 4 triple negative breast cancer which had spread to her liver after finding a lump when camping in late September.

The aggressive form of cancer which had already spread to her liver at the time of discovery, is treatable but incurable.

The course of the happy couple’s life changed forever that day, bringing questions of whether they should go ahead with the wedding, but they ultimately decided to live their life with as much joy and normalcy as possible.

“Most people that find out they’ve got cancer, I think go in because they’ve lost a lot of weight or they’re feeling sick, but we were just camping,” David said.

“She’s still got her health and we said, why give up? That’s not teaching a good message to our kids.”

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing to the 19 December wedding from there, with surgery in Cairns booked on the 15th and Cyclone Jasper due to hit on the 13th.

When it was clear to David that the cyclone would bring an enormous amount of rain, news about the Kuranda Range closure had already spread. Just in case there was a short moment of clearing, David and Nathalie decided to try anyway and wait at the top of the range.

“As luck would have it, when we got there the SES had just chopped the tree and got to the top, and they were turning around to go to the bottom to shut the road totally,” he said.

“We told them how urgent it was for us to get down and they let us follow the SES car down. We were the last car down the road.”

While still stuck in Cairns at the Colonial Club Resort, the wedding day rolled around, but the couple hadn’t given up yet.

They booked flights for the marriage celebrant and some immediate family members to be part of a small wedding in Cairns instead before disaster struck again.

“That morning or the night before, the Cairns Airport flooded and closed so the family and the marriage celebrant all couldn’t get there,” he said.

“We finally had to cancel. We’d been through a lot and said it’s beaten us and we’re cancelling all together.”

The couple made it back to Cooktown the following week to find their house damaged by the flood and their bush block, where the wedding was supposed to be held, had been 1.5 metres underwater.

Wedding portrait

David and Nathalie’s perfectly imperfect day. Photo: Supplied.

In a spur-of-the-moment decision, they decided to try and have the wedding at the original location if they could clean up the block.

“I said let’s not wait for the perfect date,” he said.

“I went out the next day, that was on the 28th, and I struggled and struggled.”

“I got the lawnmower going, mowed as much lawn as I could, and we rang the marriage celebrant and asked if she could do it the next day and she said no problem!”

On the morning of the 29th, a wedding was finally happening for David and Nathalie.

“We wrote a messenger message and gave all our mates three hours’ notice that we were having a wedding, and we pulled it off,” he said.

“It went off without a hitch. It was smaller than we wanted, but it was at the right place, just 10 days late.”

For now, David and Nathalie will keep on living every day to the fullest while she still has her health, never waiting for a perfect moment.

“Time becomes a bit more important when you know that somebody you love is sick,” he said.

“If life is cut short, you’ve lived it to the fullest, regardless of the length of it, and if it’s not that short, you haven’t been sitting around waiting to die.”

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