Woman with weeks to live weds on Family Day

Given weeks to live, Kandace Harry decided to get married on Family Day.

In a small ceremony in a home in Esquimalt the bride said, I do, to Donnie Musgrove.

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“She knows she has a limited amount of time left and she really wants to make the the most of every day that she has left,” said close friend Heather La Riviere.

“It’s an incredible outlook to have when you’re 39 and you have just weeks left — to not be angry, that just really speaks to her personality,” said La Riviere, describing her friend as kindred spirit, kind and loving.

Two years ago Harry, 39, asked Musgrove, 49, to marry her. It was before cancer entered their life, when the couple thought they had all the time in the world to tie the knot.

Then life sped up. Harry was diagnosed in December 2019 with cervical cancer. She had a hysterectomy, chemotherapy and radiation which wrapped up early last summer.

In the fall, Harry was prepared for an “all clear” from the ­oncologist and to jump back into her regular life and return to work as a ready-mix truck driver with Ocean Concrete. Instead, the cancer returned with a ­vengeance. In early November, her bladder and another tumour were removed.

With a terminal diagnosis and a possible 18 months to live, Harry and Musgrove flew to Tijuana, Mexico in December for ­immunotherapy. It was too late; the ­cancer too aggressive.

The couple returned to Victoria this month. Harry spent a few days in hospital. Doctors, unable to do more, allowed Harry to return home — where she wanted to be — with family.

Prior to her diagnosis, Harry didn’t have a family doctor. When she had symptoms she tried to get help through clinics and was faced with a six-month wait to see a gynecologist.

In contrast, La Riviere was called by her doctor for a PAP test in 2007. It detected precancerous cells. La Riviere was treated in a day procedure, had follow up exams, and has since been clear. She can’t help but imagine what would have happened had Harry had the same care.

Harry has four children, ages 20, 19, 18, and 15. Musgrove also has four children, ages 29, 18, 12, and eight.

On Monday, against the backdrop of a fireplace decorated in the warm glow of candles, the bride wore a long white lace dress and with a headband of flowers that framed her face and kept back her wavy long strawberry blonde hair — which earned her the name mermaid.

Harry put the past on hold and exchanged vows with Musgrove in a religious ceremony officiated by Gary Bennett, the family’s ­pastor, who is retired from the Victoria Church of the Nazarene.

“They have a really strong love for each other and it’s very special and I think it’s great they are honouring that in these last days,” said La Riviere, hours before the ceremony.

“I think it’s a real testament to how they have chosen to focus on all of the positives at this point in time.”

Harry and Musgrove met online, began dating after they were introduced by friends, and moved in together eight months later. “She’s independent and vivacious and beautiful,” said Musgrove before the ceremony. “I just love her.”

With the exception of the four days she spent in hospital this month, they’ve never been apart, he said.

La Riviere was the attendant for the bride and Jason Hennis stood for the groom. Pandemic restrictions limited who could be in the room. More than 200 watched the ceremony online as it was livestreamed.

Harry’s family — mother Valerie Mills and her husband Chris Mills, from Victoria, and her father John Harry and wife Nikki, and her sisters Madison and Tehra from Ontario — are all with her now in Victoria.

Harry is disappointed not to be able to see her children grow older and to not have the stretch of life she expected, said La Riviere, but she’s found solace in her Christian faith and she has chosen to see the beauty in the days she has remaining.

“I think the legacy they want to leave behind is that you can’t take these days for granted,” said La Riviere. “We really don’t know how many days we have left on this Earth, any of us, so do the things that are important in your life and tell the people that you love, that you love them.”

With their families officially combined, Musgrove just wants his wife to be comfortable.

Looking back over the past two years all he can advise others is: “Live like Kandy: Take the bull by the horns and do what you want to do … pursue it with all your heart.”

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

> A fundraising page has been set up to support Kandace Harry and her family.

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