Bride, 24, dies from cancer one week before her wedding

·5-min read

With all of her bridesmaids cheering her on via video chat, Mikayla Green slipped into her dream wedding dress and beamed at her reflection.

After a classic white veil was pinned in her hair, the bride-to-be could barely contain her excitement to marry her high school sweetheart.

Tragically, the 24-year-old never made it down the aisle.

Mikayla Green in her wedding dress while wearing a veil and holding a bouquet.
Mikayla Green picked out her dream dress, but was never able to wear it down the aisle. Source: Supplied

Soon after — and just a week before her Byron Bay wedding — Mikayla died from a melanoma that had spread throughout her body, forming multiple tumours.

Now, a photo of her magical moment in a Sydney bridal salon is a bittersweet memory for her fiancé Ryan Clarke, also 24.

“She got leave from the hospital to go. By that stage she was in so much pain and so tired but was still so happy,” the grieving groom tearfully told Yahoo News Australia.

“She was beautiful. I’ll never get to see her in it.”

Fall leads to devastating diagnosis

The couple, both from Ballina in the NSW Northern Rivers, met in Year 11 and began dating.

Just a year later, Mikayla was working on a school drama performance when she slipped and bumped her head, creating a hematoma that refused to go down.

“It would shrink and grow here and there. It was around for a really long time,” Mr Clarke said, adding it was painful to the touch and would often bleed.

Over the next few years Mikayla visited several doctors to have the large egg-bruise removed, but they declined to perform surgery, believing it would go away with time.

Mikayla Green and Ryan Clarke wearing 'happy holiday' shirts.
The couple, both from Ballina in the NSW Northern Rivers, met in Year 11 and began dating. Source: Supplied

In November 2019, the 24-year-old was referred to a plastic surgeon, who removed it later the same week.

“That was on a Friday. By Monday, he called us in to tell us it was a melanoma,” Mr Clarke said.

It was believed the melanoma was surrounded by the blood clot, he detailed, admitting doctors told the couple “it was a really weird case”.

Hoping the clot had contained the cancer, Mikayla was sent for a full-body scan. It was then a tumour roughly the size of a tennis ball was found in her liver.

At the age of just 21, Mikayla was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic cancer.

'Given four to six weeks to live'

The university student almost immediately started immunotherapy treatment and underwent routine scans to see how her body was responding.

They showed that the tumour on her liver wasn’t growing or shrinking, prompting doctors to remove the mass which was 9cm in diameter.

Having removed all of the cancer, Mr Clarke said they hoped the treatment had stopped the diseased cells from spreading.

However, their dreams were dashed just a few months later when several small tumours were discovered throughout her body, including her neck and thigh.

“She tried a trial drug for a while, but with more scans we saw it was just progressing further and further,” Mr Clarke said.

Mikayla Green, who was diagnosed with a melanoma in 2019, and Ryan Clarke after they got engaged.
In 2019, Mikayla Green was diagnosed with a melanoma. Source: Supplied

Although he had always hoped to propose to his high school sweetheart at her beloved Disney World, the medical school student realised he was running out of time.

On February 22 this year, Mr Clarke got down on one knee at the jetty in Coffs Harbour — where Mikayla lived as a kid.

“I proposed in the rain with a ‘conditions of engagement’ scroll I made, which is the contract from The Hobbit. It was the movie we watched on our first date,” he said.

Soon after, Mikayla travelled to Sydney to undergo a clinical trial, but was told a tumour in her heart had excluded her.

“A couple of days later she was given four to six weeks to live,” Mr Clarke said.

“We were told there was no treatment that could meaningfully prolong her life.”

Bride dies a week before wedding

Refusing to give up on their dream wedding, the couple, with the help of family, friends and a GoFundMe fundraiser, began planning their big day.

They booked an outdoor venue in Byron Bay for April 16 and searched for a home to rent so Mikayla could be comfortable during the last few weeks of her life.

However, just days after being transferred to Ballina, the 24-year-old went into liver failure and died on April 8.

Mikayla’s funeral was held at Boulder Beach Headland Cliffs on what would have been her wedding day.

“When they said four to six weeks, the caveat was that a tumour could change the timeline if it grows in a really bad place,” Mr Clarke explained.

“We were hoping that she would not get unlucky this time.

“Ideally it would have been a much happier day, but either way we celebrated her life,” he said of her funeral.

Mikayla Green undergoing treatment in hospital.
The 24-year-old went into liver failure and died on April 8. Source: Supplied

In the days leading up to her death, Mr Clarke said he saw his “stubborn” fiancée cry about her diagnosis for the first time.

“One night we were alone and just told each other how much we loved each other and how we were the people we were because of each other,” he said.

“Which is very true — we’ve been together our entire adult lives.”

In an effort to save others, Mr Clarke, who is now considering going into oncology, said he decided to tell Mikayla’s story with the goal of convincing “even one person to get their weirdly shaped mole checked out”.

“If this can prevent one person from going through what Mikayla and our families have been through, then it’s all worth it.

“The Melanoma Institute of Australia has the goal of zero melanoma deaths by the end of the decade, which I’d love to contribute to.”

For more information about the Melanoma Institute Australia, click here.

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