Devoted Eastbourne couple wed two days after tragic diagnosis

A 27-year-old married the love of his life in an emergency ceremony after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Wednesday, 13th December 2017, 3:10 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th December 2017, 3:15 pm
Tristan and Rebecca SUS-171213-140905001
Tristan and Rebecca SUS-171213-140905001

Tristan Hoedemaker wed Rebecca MacDonald at St Wilfrid’s on December 8, just two days after finding out he had an aggressive cancer which could not be treated.

The veterinary nurse, who works at St Anne’s, was told he had weeks or even days to live after visiting his GP over a stomach ache only three weeks ago. Tristan was transferred to Hastings and then Royal Marsden Hospital in London where he was told on December 6 doctors could not help him.

Tragically, Tristan passed away on December 11 – three days after the wedding.

Tristan’s dad Frank Hoedemaker said on his son’s wedding day, “As soon as he heard the news he immediately asked her to marry him. I know I am his dad but they are the most amazing, lovely people, they are so kind. Tristan would stop to save an animal on the road. He can’t walk by if he sees a snail on the path, he has to put it back on the grass. He does all he can to help others. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself, it’s about the other people.”

Mr Hoedemaker praised the staff at St Wilfrid’s who enabled the wedding to happen. He said, “They are amazing those people.”

Rebecca, a nurse at Eastbourne A&E, said before she tied the knot, “He’s in shock, he’s never cried, he never complained, he said to me, ‘I’m so sorry, you have got to promise me you’ll look after yourself’. It’s been a stressful three weeks. He first became unwell with flu-like symptoms, a week later I took him to A&E in Eastbourne. They took him for a CT scan and found multiple tumours in his abdomen. He was transferred to Hastings where he was treated with pain relief. Then a week ago he was diagnosed with cancer, he moved to Royal Marsden Hospital. He became very unwell.

“It has spread everywhere, doctors said they had never seen anything like it in a 27-year-old. We were told on Wednesday they wouldn’t be able to do anything. They said you need to do what you want to do. Then he asked me if I wanted to marry him.”

They decided to get married back in Eastbourne and asked St Wilfrid’s to provide a service. Friends and family, including Tristan’s sisters Dominique and Angelique, rallied together to organise the wedding and make the day as perfect as possible in less than two days.

Rebecca said, “My dad’s a vicar so we organised an emergency wedding because we don’t know how long we’ve got. Friends and family helped provide the food, the band, and the bridesmaids got their dresses a day before. If the worst happens we’ll hopefully set up a dog charity for Tristan. That’s always been our dream, it’s going to have to be my dream for him. We were saving to buy a house and we have just moved in together. We have had to bring everything forward.”

A Justgiving page raised more than £8,000 in 36 hours. It is available at:

• The Herald heard today (December 13) the tragic news that Tristan had died at the weekend. We have accordingly amended this story since it was first uploaded. Our thoughts are with Tristan’s family and friends.