Shared cancer experience helped couple bond

Last updated 13:00 03/03/2014
Graham Woodward and Lorna Russell

UNITED STAND: Cancer survivors Graham Woodward and Lorna Russell met over the internet and attended the Cancer Society Relay For Life at Saxton Field.

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Cancer could not stand in the way of love for one technologically savvy Nelson couple who attended the Cancer Society Relay for Life.

Lorna Russell, 75, and Graham Woodward, 77, were at the Saturday event at Saxton Field where the community came together walking laps all night to fundraise for the Cancer Society and "remember, celebrate and fight back" for those who have been affected by cancer.

Lorna and Graham met three years ago through the internet dating site Friends and family had signed them up.

Lorna had looked at Graham's profile, but saw he lived in Geraldine so she did not think there would be much point in contacting him. But, she did anyway and "nearly fell off" her chair when she got a reply.

On the day of their first date, just before they were due to meet at the former Oasis Cafe in Nelson, Lorna found out she had breast cancer. She told Graham to be clear about what she was about to go through and what it could mean for him.

She said she was "nervous as hell".

"I said to him, ‘Before we go any further I do have to tell you that I had a mammogram yesterday and they think it's cancer'."

A survivor of melanoma and having lost close family members to cancer he told her, "Oh that makes no difference".

Lorna thought he was just being nice and gave him another opportunity once her biopsy came back showing the extent of the cancer.

"I thought he would accept that, but you know he didn't. He's been there all the way through, looking after me," she said.

"When I was having the chemo one of the oncology nurses said, ‘Oh - how long have you guys been together?' Lorna said before turning to Graham to ask "What was it?"

"About six weeks," they both answered. It was on from the first moment of interaction.

"We met on Tuesday morning for coffee. I had arranged to meet another lady on Saturday and on Thursday I cancelled Saturday. We just clicked like that," said Graham snapping his fingers.

"We've just been together ever since, over three years," said Lorna resting her hand on Graham's thigh.

She said a few people had looked sideways at their story, but they took no notice.

It hasn't been an easy journey for Lorna over those years. She said losing her hair and the radiation therapy were particularly hard, but there were uplifting moments such as when her results came back all clear and the support and love of Graham and her family through her treatment.

Lorna said she was impressed with the oncology unit at Nelson Hospital and how quickly she was operated on after she was diagnosed.

"Nelson's very lucky. We have a brilliant breast surgeon," she said.

Both said the Relay for Life was a great event for cancer survivors and those who were fighting cancer or had lost a loved one. Their advice for others was to go for regular checks to keep any threats at bay.

Graham said often people put off going to the doctor when they knew something was wrong and by the time they went it was too late. "Men were dynamite for that," he said.

It was also never too late to find love despite age and a life-threatening disease.

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- The Nelson Mail

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