After 21 years together, woman with leukemia marries her love at hospital


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When Kathleen Welle first spotted the love of her life, Scott Kuhn, across a crowded office when she was 24 years old, she was thrilled at the sight of him. But then she found out he was married -- and well, she was too -- and dismissed the idea of romance.

Yesterday, 21 years and one child together later, Ms. Welle married Mr. Kuhn at the Western Pennsylvania Hospital, where she is being treated for a fast-moving form of leukemia. The ceremony, she said, was exactly what she wanted.

"It was really intimate and the pastor said exactly how we felt about each other," said Ms. Welle, now 45. "It was wonderful, just magical."

After falling for each other but resisting their physical attraction for 10 years, the couple began an affair that resulted in her unplanned pregnancy with their son, now 8.

Ms. Welle and Mr. Kuhn, now 53, confessed the affair to their respective spouses. Both couples, whom Ms. Welle said had been struggling in their marriages for years, divorced.

Although Ms. Welle and Mr. Kuhn, of Erie, were able to raise their son together, the years that followed were difficult -- especially financially -- as they struggled to split property and share custody of their children, she said. Mr. Kuhn has a 26-year-old daughter and a 23-year-old son from his first marriage, while Ms. Welle has 17-year-old and 11-year-old daughters from her first marriage.

In April, they were finally able to buy a home together. Ironically, Ms. Welle said, they purchased a house with income property that will help cover the cost of the mortgage, ensuring that one of them can afford to live alone if necessary.

Yesterday's wedding was a bright spot in the painful, difficult months that began when Ms. Welle began having thumping headaches and a racing pulse on June 7, her birthday. Her period started that day, too, and it didn't stop.

"By July, I was beat," she said.

Ms. Welle was diagnosed on July 26 with acute myelogenous leukemia, a fast-growing type of cancer that is the most common form of leukemia, according to hospital spokeswoman Stephanie Waite. She underwent a bone marrow transplant that day and another yesterday, and was given chemotherapy treatments to prepare for additional transplants.

The chemotherapy, she said, made a "rat's nest" of her hair just before the wedding -- like a Barbie doll's hair, suddenly tangled and unmanageable when just Sunday she was still able to get a brush through it.

Not even slathering it with conditioner helped, she said.

"I tried to wash it and it became a mat," she said. "I can't get a brush through it at all now."

Ms. Welle will find out today if additional transplants are necessary, and hopes to leave the hospital soon, at least for a while. Meanwhile, doctors are monitoring a blood clot that has formed in her brain, and keeping an eye on how she is responding to chemotherapy and the bone marrow transplants she has undergone.

"Just getting home will be a huge relief," she said.

Amy McConnell Schaarsmith can be reached at 412-263-1122 or aschaarsmith@post-gazette.com.



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