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Elmswell: Gemma Marriage gives back to hospital unit where she got married

06:00 13 April 2013

WHEN couples agree to marry they plan on spending the rest of their lives together.

But for Colin and Gemma Marriage, from Elmswell, their married life was cut desperately short due to illness.

They were husband and wife for only 10 days when Mr Marriage passed away from cancer at the age of 40.

They had a civil ceremony at the Macmillan unit at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds on July 7 last year in front of close family and friends.

They had been planning a wedding for the following month at Alpheton Hall Barns, but as Mr Marriage’s condition was worsening they decided to bring the date forward.

Mrs Marriage, 30, said: “He was admitted to hospital on the Wednesday because he started feeling unwell again and the doctor basically said he didn’t know if he had days or weeks left or what.”

Mrs Marriage said the couple - who had worked at the same company, but grew close after joining a scuba diving club in Ipswich - were in a serious relationship when Mr Marriage was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in October 2011.

On how they coped with the news, she said: “You just have to try and do the best. My priority was him and just trying to do whatever I can to make him comfortable and happy and try and keep a smile on his face.”

Mrs Marriage said she had actually been planning on proposing to him last year on February 29 - as it was a leap year - but she “chickened out” and he ended up popping the question to her the following month during a trip to the Cheltenham Festival.

However, it turned out Mr Marriage, who worked for Foxhall landfill in Ipswich, had had the ring in his pocket all along on February 29.

Mrs Marriage, who now works for a conservation charity in Colchester, said they had 24 hours to organise the wedding, which was held in the unit’s waiting room. It was decorated with sunflowers, and there was a small buffet and cake.

“One of the things Colin really wanted to do was stand up for the ceremony, which he did, but obviously it knocked him out for quite a few hours afterwards,” Mrs Marriage said.

She added: “I think it was really important to him to be married and to have that experience because he knew it would make me happy and I think it made him happy too.”

She said the staff and volunteers on the Macmillan unit - where Mr Marriage underwent a course of chemotherapy - had been “so supportive” of her and her husband throughout his time in the day unit and on the ward.

“I was able to stay with him on the ward from our wedding day onwards, sleeping on a fold-out bed right next to his, which gave both of us comfort in his last days.”

Mrs Marriage has donated £1,500 given as wedding gifts as well as donations at her husband’s funeral to the Macmillan unit to help others “who find themselves in the same terrible situation”.

“It was not an easy place to be, and anything which can make that time more comfortable or bearable makes a massive difference,” she said.

Jan Bloomfield, executive director with responsibility for fundraising at the hospital, said the hospital was “very grateful” to her for the generous donation she has made in her husband’s memory.

Mrs Marriage described her husband as “kind, generous and loyal,” adding it is the “day-to-day things” she misses the most.

They enjoyed scuba diving and following horseracing, and Mr Marriage also enjoyed sea fishing. His boat was used to scatter his ashes just off the coast of Felixstowe.

Describing life without her husband, Mrs Marriage said: “It feels like a completely different lifetime now.”

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