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June 23, 2020

Stories from Big C: Rute and Andy’s story

Rute and Andy's Story

Rute Picao, who lived in Norwich and was suffering from terminal breast cancer, managed to summon ‘superhuman’ strength to achieve what had seemed an ‘impossible dream’ when she married partner Andy Ralph on May 15th, just a couple of days before her tragic and untimely death at the age of 44, at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

Husband Andy tells their story…

“Rute was Portuguese, born in the Algarve and had just returned from a trip home to the carnival before Easter in April 2019, when she discovered a lump in her breast.

“At this stage the outlook appeared fairly positive, but very sadly the first round of chemotherapy Rute had to hopefully shrink the tumour wasn’t successful. The tumour had grown and she was in considerable pain. Her cancer had unfortunately progressed. There was concern she wouldn’t be able to have surgery, but Rute did go on to have a mastectomy and another round of chemotherapy, but sadly soon after it was discovered that her cancer had spread.

“Before the outbreak of the pandemic, we had originally planned to get married on April 10th at the Coleman Gallery at Norwich Castle, where we hoped Rute’s three daughters, who live in Portugal and her friends and family there, or her ‘heart family’ as she fondly called them, would also be able to attend. Rute had bought her wedding dress from the Big C shop in Timberhill in Norwich. While she was undergoing treatment and during visits to the hospital, Rute would regularly visit the Big C centre on site and the team there were a big support to us.

“Very early on, around the time of Rute’s diagnosis, we walked into the Big C centre and thought ‘this is nice’; but it is so much more than that and it went on to become our second home. When at the hospital, we’d call in to say hello, have a cup of tea and chat and generally find some respite from the more medical surroundings of the hospital. Rute also made good use of the relaxation group and complementary therapies on offer at the centre. Rute had a lovely outgoing Portuguese character, she was warm, open and straight-talking and easy to engage with. She wanted to volunteer for Big C at one of their shops if she had recovered and I plan to donate our refund from our original wedding to Big C.”

Tragically Rute became increasingly poorly during the early months of this year, but typical to her positive mindset was determined to realise her dream of marrying Andy. ‘With how poorly Rute was and the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, we just didn’t think it would be possible, but with the help of the wonderful staff at the NNUH, we made it happen.

"I desperately wish the circumstances had been different but marrying Rute was one of the proudest moments of my life and I am very pleased that she managed to realise her dream in her final days."

“Our friends, Helen and Bill were witnesses and the hospital staff did Rute’s hair and make-up. Despite being so poorly, Rute managed to put on her beautiful wedding dress and summon unimaginable strength to stand and take part fully in the ceremony. There was just this sea of positivity at the service, which was so appropriate to the person Rute was. It was a beautiful day. We didn’t think we’d be able to have guests of course, but the room Rute was given at the hospital looked out over a courtyard and on the day of the wedding the staff said it was fine for a couple of people to join us from there which was amazing! I am a member of Good Gym in Norwich and run with them once a week. Whilst we were shielding at home, the members had been wonderful in visiting the shops and pharmacy for us and I knew I could rely on them to make it for the ceremony at short notice. They certainly didn’t let me down and it was a lovely moment to see them appear looking so stylish outside the window. I desperately wish the circumstances had been different but marrying Rute was one of the proudest moments of my life and I am very pleased that she managed to realise her dream in her final days. Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen.”

Very sadly Rute’s health deteriorated quickly soon after the service and she passed away peacefully on 17th May 2020.

Big C support is available for people diagnosed with cancer and those close to them. If you need support, please call us at 0800 092 7640 (free to call, Monday to Friday 9am-5pm).

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