Cas Willow and Heather Richards may be the country’s first couple to hold a same-sex wedding next week, but the reason why is absolutely heartbreaking.
Cas and Heather, from Victoria, have been together for 17 years and after Australia finally said ‘Yes’ to marriage equality and legalised same-sex marriage this month, they can now tie the knot.
But while Australia’s first same-sex weddings weren’t expected until January, the couple have been given special consideration because tragically, they are running out of time.
Cas, 53, has breast cancer and just days before the results of the marriage equality survey were revealed, she received the devastating news that her cancer had metastasised to her brain.
Her condition is now terminal and she was told she may not see out the year.
"I had to really get my head around it," Cas told The Age.
"I really thought I was done. I knew I had to keep my eye on it for the next couple of years but I thought I had time."
Having gone through invasive treatment including a bilateral mastectomy, having her ovaries removed, and undergoing dozens of radiation and chemotherapy sessions, Cas had thought she had beaten the disease.
Sadly though, that was not the case, and the pair got engaged just after the stroke of midnight the day Parliament legalised same-sex marriage and will now possibly be the first gay couple to be married in Australia.
Usually couples have to give one-month's notice that they are wanting to get married, but a handful of people have been given permission to tie the knot sooner, although registries haven’t confirmed any wedding dates.
Cas is a mother of three and has been married before when she was just 16, although she says she knew she was gay but felt she couldn’t come out.
Heather, 56, has never been married and says it will finally make their relationship complete, and allow her to carry on Cas’ legacy.
"We were playing house for a long time," Heather says.
The ceremony will be held on Monday afternoon at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, with the help of its suppliers who have donated catering and other services.
With Cas’ condition deteriorating rapidly to the point that in recent months she has at times lost her ability to speak, the pair will be able to pledge their vows to each other before her health deteriorates further.
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