Heartbreak after wife was ‘cancer-free’


cancerBEN and Leah Debono were starting their lives together when hers tragically ended.

Just three months after they were married, Leah, 29, passed away from melanoma in January this year.

On what would have been their one-year anniversary, Mr Debono, from NSW’s Central Coast, has opened up about losing the love of his life on 60 Minutes as he searches for answers surrounding her unexpected death.

Aged 25, Leah noticed an unusual mole on her arm. Like any sunsmart Aussie, she immediately had it examined by two separate doctors. They both reassured her the mole was nothing to be concerned about.

But after meeting her husband-to-be, Leah decided to get the lump removed for cosmetic reasons. A biopsy revealed it was stage-four malignant melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer.

“That’s the worst one you can get,” Mr Debono told 60 Minutes.

Leah had the surrounding lymph nodes removed and was eventually given the all-clear. She had regular check-ups over the next three-years, the last one being just a week before her wedding.

When Leah started to feel unwell about a month after the big day, the couple excitedly thought she might be pregnant. However, a doctor told them her symptoms were nothing more than post-wedding stress.

It was only after she collapsed at work that doctors discovered the cancer had spread throughout her body. She was admitted to hospital and died three months later.

“She rang me up and she was all hysterical — like she knew straight away that something was wrong,” Mr Debono said.

“At the time of our wedding she was riddled with cancer. She would have had a brain tumour at that stage as well.”

Mr Debono said the image of Leah in hospital after she had been diagnosed with a brain tumour “haunts me”.

“I never thought I would be thrown into any of this,” he said.

cancerr“I was holding onto her till the end.”

He and Leah’s parents are desperately trying to figure out how the medical system could fail the young Aussie, who was told she was cancer-free.

“We watched her take her last breath. You don’t ever want to have to go through something like that, it’s really cruel,” Leah’s father, Lex, told 60 Minutes.

“The GP looked at it, assured her that there was nothing … Some trained professionals may not have done their job properly.”

They are also sharing Leah’s story to spread awareness around melanoma and warn Australians about the risks of this deadly disease.

Mr Debono is currently living the dream he and Leah shared — travelling Australia with their dog.

It’s a bittersweet experience for the young tradie, who in on what should have been the couple’s honeymoon.

“Sometimes you can’t even drive. You’ve just gotta pull over on the side of the road and have a moment … you can’t breathe,” he said.

Quitting his job and selling their house, Mr Debono and his kelpie Turbo packed up their Landcruiser 4WD and hit the road with her photo by his side. He is currently in far North Queensland.