A devastated groom whose fiancé died just two weeks before having to walk down the aisle courageously took his wedding vows at his funeral.
Ryan Dixon, 25, met Kate Wignall when they were just 15 after moving to his hometown of Lost Withiel in Cornwall. The couple fell in love as a teenager and began to plan for their future together.
On May 30, 2020, after nine years together, Ryan asked the question – and to her delight, Kate said yes.
But the next day, she started to experience excruciating chest pain that seemed to come out of nowhere.
After seeing various doctors and being sent for tests, Kate received a devastating diagnosis just six weeks after the proposal. She had skin cancer.
Further tests revealed that it was stage four melanoma that had spread to his brain, spine, spleen, kidneys and lungs.
Last year, shortly after her diagnosis, Kate said: “It was heartbreaking to tell Ryan this. We had been so high and now our lives were suddenly taking a different direction.”
Kate’s treatment seemed to work well at first, but soon after spending Christmas with Ryan and his family at home, her condition worsened.
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Ryan recalls, “Her CT scan in January showed a significant decrease in her cancer, which means her chemotherapy treatment was working as well as expected.
“But then things happened very quickly.”
Later that month, Kate found a lump in her chest, which doctors confirmed to be melanoma. Her cancer had spread again.
She was put on immunotherapy.
But she started having severe headaches, sickness and high temperatures, and on March 7, 2021, she was taken to the hospital. There she received devastating news.
“Just two days after she was hospitalized, Kate’s oncologist called to say there was severe brain bleeding from a tumor,” Ryan said.
“They told us she might only have a few days to live.”
The next day, Kate was allowed to return home where Ryan became her full-time caregiver. Soon Kate seemed to be recovering and doctors were hoping the treatment had started to work.
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“When she got home we got to talk again and we started trying to get married,” said Ryan, adding that they had brought their wedding date forward and changed it to a little ceremony in the Kingdom. – United instead of Rhodes, where they had originally planned to get married.
“We went to the registry office and we had the rings and the venue all ready.”
But while they were excited to finally tie the knot, the couple received one last devastating blow as Kate began to decline rapidly again.
Sadly, Kate passed away on April 14, 2021, just 14 days before she married the love of her life. She was 25 years old.
“We weren’t quite successful,” Ryan said.
“Only three and a half weeks after being home, she passed away with me, her mother, father and sister by her side at home.
Kate Wignall / Ryan Dixon / BPM MEDIA)
“Kate’s last memories were of planning our wedding, which is a little heartwarming as she was so excited about it.
“She was very willful and she didn’t want to be married at home. She wanted the venue and the dress and, typical of Kate, she didn’t want it any other way.
“But neither do I.”
Instead of planning a wedding day, Kate’s family began to piece together the details of her funeral, making sure everything was “bright and colorful” as she had always wanted.
Her mother and sister wrote poems and messages that were read aloud.
And Ryan stoically took the wedding vows he wrote for his teenage girlfriend.
He said, “Although these are the vows we could not take, they will be ours forever, to cherish and to keep.
“I feel so privileged to have felt true love. To have loved you and been loved by you, to have lived our lives so fully, together.
“You already gave me the world, Kate. I will always love you and my heart will always be yours.”
Ryan said the ceremony was exactly what Kate, who was “always smiling”, would have wanted.
Then on May 30, exactly one year to the day he knelt down, Ryan returned to the spot in the Cornish Headlands where he offered to scatter Kate’s ashes, as he wanted.
“I felt like I was fulfilling a goal, but at the same time, I felt completely broken,” he said.
“It was an absolutely beautiful day. We had the place to ourselves and it was just so peaceful.
“It was as if it was the end of his physical presence, then the start of all that will follow.”
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In the last few months of her life, Kate compiled a “live list,” containing the things she wanted to do while she still had time. Now Ryan is filling out this list for her.
Ryan said: “With the lockdown there wasn’t much we could do. Kate wanted to go back to the movies, go back to camp and hike to Snowdon.
“One wish was to have a dog, which we managed to do. We had Coby, our beautiful little golden red Labrador puppy for Kate’s 25th birthday on January 19th, 2021.
“He’s eight months old now and he’s cheeky, full of personality. He was one of the biggest ticks.”
In memory of his fiancee, Ryan has also started fundraising for Cancer Research UK and recently completed the Three Peaks Challenge, raising £ 5,300 for the charity.
“I knew Kate wanted to hike all the way to Snowdon so it came from there,” he said. “I’m sure she was with us, bringing us some sunshine, the whole weekend.”
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He added: “We did Ben Nevis first because it’s the hardest, longest and highest.
“It took us five hours and 54 minutes total, while Scafell Pike took four hours 40 minutes total, and we were able to climb Snowdon in five hours 20 minutes – including a leisurely descent and a stop to swim. “
Along with other Kate’s memory fundraisers, the family has now raised an incredible £ 13,000 for Cancer Research UK.
Speaking about the future, Ryan said Kate would like him to enjoy life.
He said: “She told me that she wanted me to really live my life, raise Coby and live for her too.
“She even told me that she wanted me to find someone to love again someday. I hope that happens when the time is right, but what I’m trying to do now is to make the most of every day.
“I know too well that life is so short and that none of us are sure of a tomorrow.
“Kate and I knew that. We have explored so many worlds together, we have lived each day as fully as possible with each other for the past 10 years.
“And I will carry her in my heart and I will carry her positive opinions with me throughout my life.”