Jess Phillips may have received news that rocked her world only a month ago, but she says she has much to be thankful for and a lot to look forward to.
The 30-year-old from Pelaw Main, in the Hunter’s coalfields region, was diagnosed with aggressive stage 4B cervical cancer nine days before Christmas.
So she and her fiance Luke Sidebottom decided to bring their wedding forward from September to February 6.
Since then, the pair has received overwhelming community support and kindness, with a crowdfunding effort to raise $5000 for Jess’ dream wedding dress almost reaching its target in less than a fortnight.
Their celebrant and her friend from Elope or Wed With A Twist have also gifted the pair an all-expenses paid wedding at Mystwood Retreats at Wollombi.
Jess said she knew the community would rally for her, Luke and kids Jayden, 13, and Lacey, 9 – as it always did for people in need – but she “definitely didn’t expect” people to go to such great lengths to support her.
The pair had been engaged for 12 months when they received the shattering news last month.
They had been together for a decade before Luke popped the question.
“I’ve been hinting, pretty much since we got together, to have a wedding,” Jess said.
“Finally he did the proposal and pretty much from that day I was like ‘OK, I’m planning this wedding now’.”
After some irregular bleeding about two weeks before Christmas, Jess went to the Maitland Hospital emergency department.
A gynaecologist eventually saw her and told her that she found a lump that was soon confirmed as cancer.
“I was just crying. I don’t really know what I was thinking. It was just a shock,” Jess said.
“I don’t think I comprehended it for a little while. I thought ‘nobody would tell me that’. It’s stage 4b, which is one of the worst stages. People have beaten it before but people haven’t.
“It really now just depends how I handle it. We’ve heard so many positive stories.”
Jess will start treatment next month and faces a tough battle – she expects to begin chemotherapy the week after her wedding.
But she says the diagnosis has influenced her outlook on life.
“We’re just being really positive and really happy – that’s all I want,” she said.
“I haven’t actually been close to anybody who’s had cancer.
“I thought I’d be a mess and that it would be a really sad situation. So I don’t like being sad.”
She says her philosophy is: “happy times, I’m planning a wedding, think of the positive outcomes – live today happy.”