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WEDDED DISS

I married my best friend’s husband after she died – friends says it’s a betrayal but I know it’s what she’d have wanted

BEST friends Katrina Hawes and Kelly Velt were bridesmaids at each other's weddings, and often double-dated with their husbands Corey and Nathan.

But when Corey and Kelly both died from cancer within 18 months, Katrina and Nathan found comfort in each other.

Katrina Hawes was bridesmaid at her best friend Kelly Velt's wedding in 2005
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Katrina Hawes was bridesmaid at her best friend Kelly Velt's wedding in 2005Credit: Medavia
Kelly at her wedding to Nathan
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Kelly at her wedding to NathanCredit: Medavia

Just a year after Corey passed away, they decided to start dating - they're now happily married and raising their four kids together.

Although some friends have fallen out with them, calling it a betrayal, Katrina says she knows Kelly would be happy.

Speaking exclusively to Fabulous, Kelly, 41, from Newcastle, Australia, tells her story...

Kelly and I met through work at a law firm in 2001 and instantly clicked. We even had nicknames for each other – she called me ‘Chicky’ and Kelly was ‘My Pretty Lady’.

In 2017, after their spouses both died from cancer, Katrina and Nathan married each other
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In 2017, after their spouses both died from cancer, Katrina and Nathan married each otherCredit: Medavia

My best friend, she was bridesmaid when I married Corey in October 2003. Two years later, I returned the favour at her wedding to Nathan.

I was thrilled - the four of us all got on and often double-dated.

In June 2005, I gave birth to Riley and the following year Kelly had Ella. By 2010, Corey and I had expanded our brood with Maddison, and Kelly and Nathan had Oliver.

Then one day, Kelly mentioned she’d been getting excruciating headaches.

"I can’t do anything, I’m in bed all day," she said. And when Kelly went to the doctor for her results, she got terrible news.

"I’ve got an advanced brain tumour," she told me. I was distraught. She was only 29. Her kids were just three and one – babies.

Katrina married Corey in October 2003
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Katrina married Corey in October 2003Credit: Medavia
Kelly was also bridesmaid at Katrina's wedding to Corey
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Kelly was also bridesmaid at Katrina's wedding to CoreyCredit: Medavia

Bursting into tears, I held her in my arms. "You can fight this," I said.

Doctors operated but the tumour was too advanced and her health continued to decline.

"All I want is for Nathan and the kids to be happy," she sobbed to me.

Eventually Kelly was admitted to hospital and Nathan messaged to say she didn’t have long.

Rushing to her side, I tried to put on a brave face. "I’m not saying goodbye, I’m saying catch up soon," I choked, as we clutched on to each other.

A week later, Kelly took her last breath aged 31. It was devastating, especially for Nathan and the kids.

Just five days after Kelly’s funeral, I went with my husband Corey to a doctor’s appointment.

He’d recently donated blood, which revealed his platelets had abnormalities, so it had been sent off for testing.

I like to think they’re looking down on us, pleased that we’ve found love and happiness again

Katrina Hawes41

"You’ve got pancreatic cancer," the doctor said. I couldn’t believe it. Cancer had stolen my best friend and now it was attacking my husband.

"I’m going to fight this," Corey said determinedly. Our kids were seven and four – he had to be here to see them grow up.

Corey flew to Germany to have special chemo but when he got back, we were crushed with more shocking news.

We discovered he'd actually had liver cancer, and the tumours had already spread to his pancreas. "It’s worse than we thought," the oncologist said.

Nathan was so supportive, telling us about the healthy meals he’d made Kelly when she was sick.

Katrina on the left with Nathan’s kids Oliver & Ella, Nathan on the right with Katrina’s kids Maddison & Riley
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Katrina on the left with Nathan’s kids Oliver & Ella, Nathan on the right with Katrina’s kids Maddison & RileyCredit: Medavia

Despite Corey’s positive attitude, he started to go downhill and, just 16 months later, he was taken into palliative care.

"It’s only going to be a matter of days," the doctor told us, in December 2013.

Heartbroken, I couldn’t find the words to tell the kids, so a family counsellor told them for me as I held them close.

Afterwards, they gave Corey lots of kisses and cuddles. "Goodbye Daddy, we love you so much," they sobbed.

While my parents looked after them, I slept on the ward with Corey. In a bed next to his, I held his hand.

"You’ve fought so hard and we’ll love you forever," I told him through tears. "But you can go now, I promise I’ll look after the kids."

The next morning, I woke to discover that my darling Corey had passed away, aged just 35. It was so painful, but I had to be strong for the kids.

We have lost some friends who didn’t agree with our relationship. But I know I’m not betraying Kelly. I’m looking after her children

Katrina Hawes41

Nathan checked in with me often. "I know how it feels Chicky, I’m here if you want to talk," he'd message. But all I wanted was to be alone.

One day, I was going through Corey’s paperwork when I found an envelope with my name on. Ripping open the letter, I began to read.

"This is extremely difficult for me to say, but I want you to move on, to live a full and happy life. I hope one day you may find love again, someone deserving enough to share in your life and life of my children. I give you my blessings, I want you to be happy again…"

I didn't know how to feel - I couldn’t even imagine kissing another man.

Then, four months after Corey’s death, Nathan came over with Ella and Oliver.

"We’re going camping, you and the kids are joining us. You have to get out of the house," he insisted.

I was reluctant, but it helped. Riley and Maddison’s little faces lit up with happiness as they splashed around in the water.

And it was nice to chat about Corey with Nathan.

Katrina and Kelly were friends from work
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Katrina and Kelly were friends from workCredit: Medavia

After that, we started to do things with the kids on the weekends. I found it comforting that Nathan had been through the same experience.

"You can call me whenever, day or night," Nathan said.

So, struck with loneliness in the middle of the night, I’d pick up the phone.

"I can’t bear to be alone any more. How do you do it?" I cried to him.

"You’ll have bad days, but there’s still life ahead. You can’t give up," he told me.

Sometimes I’d even forget Corey was gone. When our friend had a baby, I grabbed my phone and dialled Corey’s number. Then I remembered and the grief hit me all over again.

"I miss Kelly too," Nathan would say. "But we have to keep positive. It’s what they would want." 

At night, we’d point out the brightest stars in the sky to the kids, saying they were Corey and Kelly.

Nathan and Kelly pictured on the day they got engaged in 2016
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Nathan and Kelly pictured on the day they got engaged in 2016Credit: Medavia

One evening, Nathan and I were out in the garden as the kids slept, reminiscing about the old days with Corey and Kelly.

As I broke down in tears, Nathan wrapped me in his arms. Pulling away, Nathan looked into my eyes.

Then, he kissed me on the lips and I kissed him back. "That was unexpected," I said after.

It felt a bit awkward. We were meant to just be friends. We quickly started talking about something else.

But in the days afterwards, I couldn’t stop thinking about the kiss – especially because Kelly was my friend and Corey was Nathan’s mate.

Somehow I knew they’d be happy for us.

"I think there’s something there and I’d like to explore it," Nathan texted me. "But only if you want to."

I was hesitant, I realised how much I liked him. "We’ve both lost our soulmates. What have we got to lose?" I said to Nathan.

A year after Corey passed away, we made things official. Then we sat down to tell the kids.

"We haven’t forgotten about Daddy and we’ll love him forever," I told Riley, now 13, and Maddison, now 11. "But Nathan and I have decided we’re more than friends."

When I experienced the same butterflies I’d had with Corey, I knew I was falling in love with Nathan. I’d never expected to feel this way again.

Two years after we’d got together, in September 2016, we were at a music festival with the kids when Nathan handed me a cider. As I got to the dregs of my drink, I noticed something at the bottom of the glass.

"What the hell is this?" I said, scooping out a ring.

"Chicky, will you marry me?" Nathan said, taking it and sliding it onto my finger. "Yes, yes I will!" I cried.

The couple found comfort in their shared experience
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The couple found comfort in their shared experienceCredit: Medavia
Katrina and Nathan were both given their partner's blessings to date again
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Katrina and Nathan were both given their partner's blessings to date againCredit: Medavia

In September 2017, we got married. In my vows, I told Ella and Oliver, "Although I didn’t give you the gift of life, life gave me the gift of you."

It was such a beautiful day.

Despite our happiness, we have lost some friends who didn’t agree with our relationship. But I know I’m not betraying Kelly. I’m looking after her children.

"And I’m keeping her man in line!" I joke to Nathan.

Our blended family means the kids don’t miss out on having a mum or dad figure.

Katrina, right, at Kelly and Nathan's wedding
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Katrina, right, at Kelly and Nathan's weddingCredit: Medavia

Nathan’s taught Riley about motorbikes and cricket – things I know nothing about – and I’ve helped Ella, 12, with the girly things.

"Chicky, can I start calling you mum?" Ella asked me one day at home.

"Sweetheart, I’d be honoured," I said tearing up,  "but check with your dad first."

An equally emotional Nathan agreed and Oliver, now 10, soon copied his big sister.

Nathan and I have taken two very negative situations and turned them into a positive. But not a day goes by when we’re not talking about Corey and Kelly.

We have photos of their beautiful faces dotted around the house.

I like to think they’re looking down on us, pleased that we’ve found love and happiness again.

Kate Ferdinand previously shared her agony at being rejected by Rio's family and his late wife's parents.