A woman who rushed to marry the love of her life after nearly dying in a miscarriage has suffered another brutal blow, with her husband only two years left to live – but they’re still determined to have a baby to get.
An allergic reaction to antibiotics nearly killed Alexandra Gilles on the operating table last year after surgery to remove the remains of her unborn baby from her womb at Maitland Hospital, in the NSW Hunter Region.
The 27-year-old and her then-fiancé Brendan, 37, had initially suspended their marriage due to Covid-19, but were so shaken by her near-death experience that they decided to get married in October with only a small number of guests.
“He was afraid he would lose me,” Alexandra told the Daily Mail Australia.
Six months later, they received devastating news that Brendan had peritoneal cancer — a rare form of the disease in which small tumors grow on the thin tissue that lines all internal organs — and would likely die within two years.
Alexandra and Brendan Gilles (pictured after they got engaged) got married last October
The couple (pictured at their wedding) decided to marry a smaller crowd after Alexandra nearly died
He had been in pain for months, but his symptoms were dismissed as constipation by doctors who did not realize the seriousness of his situation.
When the pain reached a “ten out of ten,” doctors performed keyhole surgery and found that his colon was full of cancer.
“I sobbed for days and Brendon was in shock – he was struggling mentally with it, but I think we’re in survival mode now,” said Alexandra.
The couple knew they wanted to start a family from the moment they met five years ago, and said cancer wouldn’t stop them.
Brendan’s sperm was frozen before starting radiation and chemotherapy to prolong his life, giving the newlyweds the opportunity to conceive a baby through IVF.
Pictured: Alexandra and Brendan when they first got together five years ago
Alexandra thanked Maitland Hospital’s medical staff for letting her sleep by Brendan’s side (both pictured in hospital)
The couple are determined to have a baby, even though Brendan probably won’t be there to watch it grow up
“We originally thought he had colon cancer, and there’s a lot of treatments available for that — it has a really high mortality rate, so we thought we’d start IVF when he was in remission,” she explained.
Even when faced with a terminal diagnosis of an extremely rare cancer, the couple did not reconsider their decision.
“It’s not just a reason for Brendan to keep fighting, it’s part of him,” Alexandra said.
“Even if he’s not with us for as long as we’d like, he can meet the baby and they can be there for everyone, even after he’s gone.”
The mental health professional has a huge support network of friends and family who live nearby, and is not afraid to become a single mother.
Pictured: Brendan receiving treatment for cancer. His internal organs are full of tumors
Pictured: The couple when they first met five years ago. Brendan is now fighting for his life
“I’ll never regret giving birth to a beautiful child with the man I love,” she said.
“And if I’m being honest with myself, I wouldn’t feel like a single mom — the support around us is amazing.”
Alexandra is now Brendan’s full-time carer and both have quit their jobs.
The family launched a Go Fund Me campaign to help with living expenses and medical expenses, and Alexandra said they were “blown away” by all the support.
“Brendan is the most gentle and kind person who would never ask for anything – he feels guilty asking for things, and he can’t believe how generous everyone has been,” she said.
She also urged people to talk about cancer and mental health and urge doctors to diagnose it.
“Be an advocate for your loved ones,” she said.
“Had we listened to the first person, we wouldn’t have known he was really sick, so it’s important to ask those questions.”