​​​​​As we look back on 2013, we celebrate the courage ​that lives at UHN with the ‘Celebration of Courage’ series.
​ In this first part, we honour the courage of a special bride and groom. On Sept. 12, 2013, Dawn Richards and Greg Berghofer, a palliative care patient, married at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. It was a joyous day. Sadly, Berghofer, 52, passed away on Nov. 4, 2013. Read the original story below, first published on Sept. 24, with an update to follow.
Dawn Richards and Greg Berghofer, a patient on the palliative care unit, pose after being married on Princess Margaret's rooftop 

Dawn Richards and Greg Berghofer, a patient on the palliative care unit, were married on
Princess Margaret's rooftop patio on Sept.12. (Photo: UHN)

It took 25 years to pop the question, but only one week to plan a very special wedding held Sept.12 on the rooftop garden at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. For groom Greg Berghofer, a patient on the 16th floor palliative care unit, and bride Dawn Richards, the day was pure joy as family, friends and the palliative care team gathered to watch the couple celebrate their lives together.

Catherine Dirks, an occupational therapist, decorated the groom's wheelchair 

Catherine Dirks, an occupational therapist at Princess Margaret made sure the happy couple
 left the ceremony in style. (Photo: UHN)

The longest, shortest engagement


The miniature dollar store tin cans attached to Berghofer's wheelchair were carefully woven with a white ribbon – attached was a "Just Married" sign –  a nice touch added by Catherine Dirks, occupational therapist at Princess Margaret. A spread of fruits and vegetables, finger sandwiches, champagne and two-tiered cake was prepared for the intimate gathering.

"We're calling it the longest, shortest engagement," said Richards. "Most people are celebrating their Silver Anniversary by now!"

Berghofer and Richards met 25 years ago in Toronto at a mutual friend's euchre game. Berghofer asked for a date and took her to the Planetarium to see a laser light show featuring the rock band Genesis – "It was very romantic," said Richards.

The palliative care team at Princess Margaret pose at the ceremony

The palliative care team at Princess Margaret helped organize the special day and attended
the intimate ceremony and reception. (Photo: UHN)

'Happily ever after' starts where you make it

Berghofer's sisters sprang into action immediately after the proposal, arranging for the cake, wedding dress, and rings, while his inter-disciplinary team, Dirks, and Cynthia Chung, physiotherapist, helped him prepare to sit comfortably through the ceremony and reception in a special wheelchair funded by The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.

Leading up to the big day, Berghofer and Richards met with Princess Margaret spiritual care counsellor, Sharon Konynen, who helps guide patients and families through their cancer journey. During the ceremony, SarahRose Black, music therapist at Princess Margaret, played the violin and piano, and serenaded the couple.  Black uses music to help patients on the palliative unit  manage pain and anxiety. Trish Murphy-Kane, Clinical Nurse Specialist placed "groom" and "bride" signage on two hospital rooms, designating areas for Berghofer and Richards – giving the day an extra special feel.

"The wedding has made everybody really happy," said Berghofer. "There's so much joy from my family, Dawn's family, and the people here – it's nice to bring joy to people who might not see it too often."

"It's so amazing to have that outdoor space available for patients," said Berghofer. "It's so peaceful and beautiful –​​ you forget where you are and why you are here."


UPDATE: ​Sadly, Greg Berghofer passed away on Nov. 4, 2013. His obituary stated:

“Greg had a great sense of humour, faced life full on, raised others' spirits and brought people together. He was a friend you could count on, a font of wonderful ideas, and a joyful storyteller. He was grateful to the caring team on the palliative care unit at Princess Margaret. He was much loved and will be dearly missed.”


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Check out the wedding album on Facebook 

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