Their wedding day was perfect – held on a farm, Eleanor and Travis Abel’s friends and family danced under the stars.
That night Travis asked for a simple paracetamol.
And the next day the newlyweds' life fell apart.
‘There was not one warning of the nightmare that was about to follow,’ Eleanor tells New Idea.
But just hours after the pair had tied the knot, Travis stuffered stomach pains.
‘We thought it was appendicitis so we took him to hospital and from there everything went downhill,’ Eleanor explains.
‘Travis was in and out of our local hospital, he underwent test after test and then, one night when we were driving to my nephews’ birthday party, we got the call that everyone fears.
‘Travis’s blood tests came back and something was clearly very wrong.
‘From that day onwards it became a downward spiral of stokes, diagnosis of leukaemia, infections, chemotherapy and operation after operation – the most extensive of which was the removal of the left side of Travis’s skull.’
Travis was transferred to St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne – by now just a week had passed from the wedding.
‘At this stage, Travis had started to feel numb and was beginning to lose ability throughout his body – he could hardly walk, had no movement in his right arm, his vision had disappeared from the right side of each eye and his speech was heavily impaired,’ Eleanor recalls.
‘The team at St Vincent’s diagnosed Travis with a rare form of blood cancer, acute promyelocytic leukaemia.’ And as if that wasn’t enough he was also suffering strokes.
‘Because Trav had multiple diagnoses, doctors at St Vincent’s faced a conflict in his treatment – for doctors to treat the leukaemia Travis needed to undergo chemotherapy, but this could increase the risk of the strokes by causing clotting and bleeding.’
Eventually, however, the doctors decided to proceed with chemo.
After four weeks of treatment Travis was in remission.
But the impact of his illness was devastating – he couldn’t speak, move or breathe on his own.
‘I was in shock. I kept saying to myself, ‘Are you serious? Are you actually serious? This is impossible’. It felt like a movie plot, you get married to the love of your life and a week later you end up cancelling your honeymoon to spend the next year in hospital,’ Eleanor recalls.
‘Because in my mind it all seemed so impossible, I turned into a robot. I kept telling myself, ‘Just keep swimming, it’s all you can do’.
‘Of course there were times I was really struggling. I would get jealous of other couples and their partners doing fun things on the weekend, but this attitude wasn’t going to solve anything or help Travis. I was determined to be positive and I never had a doubt he wasn’t going to get better.’
During this time, in between Eleanor’s shifts as a nurse, she’d drive the three hours from regional Victoria to Melbourne to sit by her husband’s bedside.
‘It was really hard, at times I was nervous making such enormous choices on Trav's behalf because he wasn’t really there, he wasn’t himself,’ Eleanor explains.
‘I constantly reflected on how well I knew Travis and what he would want, what the best solutions would be.
‘In the end we got there, after eight months of chemotherapy, Trav was cleared of the cancer. Whilst we celebrated the relief of this, we instantly moved our focus to his physical ability and worked to regain his movement and speech.’
10 days before the one year anniversary of his shock hospital admission, Travis came home.
‘When we arrived home, our friends and family surprised us by organising the caterers from our wedding day to recreate our wedding menu – from the main meals through to desserts. It was incredible,’ Eleanor smiles.
While the couple’s life has veered off-course, they have still achieved much of what they wanted to.
‘In 2016, our beautiful daughter Sophia was born. She’s spurred Travis on to continuously better himself,’ Eleanor says.
‘In the end we got our honeymoon, we went to Queensland two years after he came home.
‘Trav has also returned to work and is thriving as a chef, funnily enough, for the same catering company who did the menu at our wedding.’