Celeste Kaka was living the dream.
In between studying and working, the 22-year-old could be found at the beach with her new husband George in the sunny paradise of Hawaii. She never imagined what would happen next.
The former Olympic swimmer was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a bone cancer commonly found in youth and adolescents.
“It all happened overnight,” she said.
“I sat down with the doctors and they looked at me with a sad look. I just sat there for a bit, cried, and then called my husband. Within a few days, I was back at home scheduling doctors’ appointments and adjusting to the cold Sydney weather. It all felt surreal.”
Celeste has only been married for six months to her sweetheart George who is from Laie, Hawaii. Their wedding last year in December was perfect, said Celeste.
“We were sealed in the Sydney, Australia Temple and then spent the evening with close friends and family at our reception. Simple and special, just the way I like it.”
When George found out Celeste had cancer, his “heart dropped”.
“The only thing I knew or heard about cancer is people dying from it or their life being disabled, changed, and very painful. Initially I felt sad, mad, and scared all at the same time,” he said.
“I just gave her a hug as she cried on my shoulder.”
Celeste has almost finished her first cycle of treatment. She has 13 more to go before she has surgery to remove the cancer which will happen after her sixth cycle.
And although living with cancer can take its toll, Celeste said it’s only brought them closer together.
“Even though we have only been married for six months, he has reminded me each day why I chose to marry him,” she said.
“He’s been an amazing strength to me by loving me, reassuring me and doing all he can to put a smile on my face. As a couple, we have grown so much together and with our unique circumstances we live to cherish each day and do all we can to be happy.”
Still, it has been hard for George watching his wife battle cancer.
“Watching my wife suffer day and night and unable to do even half the things she is used to has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” he said.
“She is the most unselfish, loving and kind person I know. I look at her every day and I still can’t believe she said “yes”. I love her because her goal every day is to make me happy even when she is strapped to a bed and has tubes on tubes connected to her body. I thought I couldn’t love her any more than I did before but somehow my love for her keeps growing and that’s why she is so special to me. “
“It’s really the unknown that is the hardest part,” Celeste said.
“Cancer treatment is different for everyone so for me I was anxious about how my body would react to my treatment cycles and how chemotherapy would feel.”
George and Celeste credit the gospel for being a source of light through this difficult trial.
“I’ve come to learn more fully that the Lord is in control, of everything and everyone,” George said.
“I have found comfort in knowing that the Lord can take care of his daughter better than I can. He hears our thoughts, our prayers, and surrounds us as we weep in our hard times. Rather than turning my back to this challenge we turn towards it with faith knowing that Heavenly Father has great things in store for us.”
“My faith in Jesus Christ has helped me recognise why we face opposition at times in our lives,” Celeste said.
“I trust that He loves me, that He knows me and wants to help me. Prayer and studying the scriptures have been powerful ways for me to more fully rely on God and remember how much He really loves His children.”
She is especially grateful for the support she has received from family and friends.
“The faith of so many people around the world who have been praying and fasting on behalf of George and I has helped so much. There truly is power in numbers, especially when that’s coupled with a loving Father in Heaven and His son Jesus Christ.”
Celeste and George plan to one day start their own family. Celeste hopes that her own experiences will help others who might be struggling.
“Remember you aren’t alone, and you don’t need to get through it alone,” she said.
“If there is one thing I know, we have both gained love, humility, gratitude and dependence on the Lord and many other wonderful lessons that have helped us progress spiritually,” said George.