Help­ing put a ring on it

Beach wed­ding on bucket list for cou­ple with lit­tle time be­fore tragedy struck.

Herald on Sunday - - ON THE TRAIL - By Sarah Har­ris

To watch video go to nzher­ald.co.nz

THwo women in love, who met on a Face­book “lost cat” page, are des­per­ately fundrais­ing to get mar­ried be­fore one of them dies.

In July Su­san John­ston was given just months to live when a tu­mour the size of a grape­fruit was found in her brain.

“It’s both of our dreams to get mar­ried,” her fi­ancee Nikita Ring­dahl told the Her­ald on Sun­day.

“I want to get that ring on her finger and I want her to be my wife.

“We wanted to have ba­bies and ev­ery­thing, but that’s not go­ing to hap­pen.”

John­ston, 42, and Ring­dahl, 31, want to have a hum­ble wed­ding in a registry of­fice or at the beach then go on a me­mory-mak­ing trip to­gether.

If John­ston isn’t al­lowed to fly, they want to drive a Kombi van around the South Is­land.

“Mar­riage is first and fore­most,” Ring­dahl said. “Then we want to go some­where re­ally cool with lots of wa­ter. Some­where we can be com­pletely on our own.

“I re­ally want to get mar­ried on the beach,” John­ston added. “I’ve al­ways loved the beach. It’s on my bucket list to learn to surf.”

Ring­dahl added, “The beach is her happy place.”

The ro­mance started when Ring­dahl lost her cat in an area near John­ston’s Waltham home late last year. She posted about it on­line.

Af­ter a bit of ban­ter back and forth, the two met up in a ceme­tery where it was love at first sight.

“The cat was never found but true love was,” Ring­dahl said.

The cou­ple got en­gaged early this year and put rings on hire pur­chase.

But their care­free “hon­ey­moon pe­riod” didn’t last long be­fore John­ston de­vel­oped stroke-like symp­toms in June.

She was dis­ori­ented, un­co­or­di­nated and had in­tensely painful headaches. Af­ter vis­it­ing an af­ter­hours clinic they im­me­di­ately packed her into an am­bu­lance to Christchurch Hospi­tal for an MRI.

There they dis­cov­ered a tu­mour the size of a grape­fruit in her brain.

Sur­geons oper­ated to re­move the tu­mour but, like “ten­drils in a trel­lis”, there was only so much they could take out with­out dam­ag­ing her brain.

John­ston is now un­der­go­ing ra­di­a­tion, chemo­ther­apy and tak­ing up to 30 pills a day. She will then have a four-week break be­fore start­ing a dou­ble dose of chemo­ther­apy.

A large scar carves around her skull. She wasn’t both­ered un­til a large chunk of her hair fell out last week.

“I had to shave it all off. I was in tears all night. And there’s a mas­sive scar from my ear to the top of my head then back down to my neck.”

But Ring­dahl was sup­port­ive: “She’s ob­sessed with her hair but she’s rock­ing the bald look.”

Ring­dahl has given up her work as a cleaner to care for John­ston full­time. But it was hard go­ing emo­tion­ally and fi­nan­cially. They thought it would only cost a few thou­sand to ful­fil John­ston’s last wishes, but with nei­ther of them work­ing it’s out of reach.

“We cry ev­ery day. Ev­ery sin­gle day,” Ring­dahl said.

Ring­dahl’s cousin, Nick Ring­dahl, has set up a Givealit­tle page to help the cou­ple get mar­ried and send them on a hon­ey­moon.

“I’d love if we could help these two tick some items off on [John­ston’s] bucket list, make mem­o­ries and most im­por­tantly make one of her dreams come true by be­com­ing each other’s wives,” he wrote.

Martin Hunter

Su­san John­ston has a mas­sive brain tu­mour but wants to marry her fi­ancee Nikita Ring­dahl in her last months.

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