Donated marriage helps ease grief as Staten Island man, 34, undergoes treatment for terminal brain cancer

STATEN ISLAND, NY – Next week, Michelle Narducci-Aubry and Andrew Aubry will celebrate their wedding in front of their closest relatives and friends. The road to getting married was extremely difficult for the couple in love.

When Narducci-Aubry first saw Aubry when they lived in the same apartment complex in Westerleigh, she knew he would be the most important person in her life.

She quickly acted as matchmaker for herself – heading to the same convenience store when she saw Andrew passing by. And it worked. One day, they struck up a conversation in the store and started spending time together at the resort. One night, during a rare celestial event, Narducci-Aubry asked Andrew to watch the sky with her.

“Since then, we have been inseparable,” said Narducci-Aubry, 38.

The couple started dating in 2019 and he proposed on December 6, 2020. They moved into a new apartment together in Charleston and began planning their future together, starting with a wedding in October 2023.

But their world changed when Aubry, 34, suffered a severe headache six months ago.

On February 17, Narducci-Aubry rushed Andrew to Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) in Prince’s Bay because he had “the worst headache of his life in the past 24 hours.”

“He got no relief from Motrin 800. And then when he started throwing up and losing his footing, I automatically thought it was an aneurysm and so was he,” she recalls. “So I said get in the car and we drive to the [SIUH] south site and he keeps telling me, ‘If you love me, you’ll take me back to my bed.’ And I said, “I love you, that’s why I’m taking you to the hospital.”

Andrew Aubry was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer earlier this year. (Courtesy of Michelle Narducci-Aubry)

Within 20 minutes of her arrival, the hospital provided the results of her CT scan. Dr James Kenny sat the couple down and explained why Andrew was suffering from headaches.

There was a mass in Andrew’s brain the size of a clementine in his basal ganglia and thalamus – the deepest part of the brain and extremely close to his brainstem.

He was quickly transferred by ambulance to the SIUH in Ocean Breeze and given anti-epileptic medication. He remained in the intensive care unit (ICU) until February 22, and a few days later underwent major surgery with Dr. Raphael Sacho, who performed a partial resection and successfully removed 70 % of tumor.

“He only felt tingling but he was not paralyzed, no bleeding,” Narducci-Aubry said. “He was able to speak, no cognitive impairment, thank God. So I automatically took him straight to town [Manhattan] once the resection was done because a biopsy was done at the same time. And we were told it was actually smart. So it was cancer.

Aubry has astrocytoma, a type of cancer that can arise in the brain or spinal cord. It begins in cells called astrocytes which support nerve cells. Some astrocytomas grow very slowly and others can be aggressive cancers that grow quickly.

The couple went to NYU Langone in Manhattan where they received six weeks of standard treatment. But his pathology report came back and showed he had a specific mutation in his brain tumor that makes it generally unresponsive to standard care treatment.

“So over the six weeks of treatment he actually had a number of setbacks, including hydrocephalus – the buildup and accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Because the tumor was growing so quickly because of this mutation, it closed one of the brain’s ventricles and didn’t allow it to drain properly,” Narducci-Aubry said. “So he needed emergency shunt surgery. Also at NYU. It’s a VP shunt, it’s called, it goes from the brain down his neck and it flows into his abdomen, and it’s either absorbed or excreted through his urine or bowels. After that, he had to wait two weeks to heal and resumed the rest of the six weeks of treatment.

Andrew Aubry and Michelle Narducci-Aubry

Narducci-Aubry had to quit her job. A GoFundMe has been created to help with living expenses. (Courtesy of Michelle Narducci-Aubry)

The initial six-week effort took almost two and a half months due to setbacks.

Aubry went for another MRI a month after his last round of treatment, but more bad news came in: he showed two millimeter tumor growth. He started another aggressive round of double-dose chemo.

On Wednesday, Aubry is scheduled for yet another test. These results will determine if Aubry is a candidate for the LiTT procedure by Dr. Michael Schulder at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, Long Island.

The LiTT procedure is considered minimally invasive and is for inoperable brain tumors. The doctor makes an incision of less than one centimeter in the scalp under guided MRI. They enter a micro laser catheter directly into the center of the tumor, heat the laser and kill the tumor from the inside out.

The recovery time lasts about two weeks. But there are risks to surgery. Swelling and bleeding could occur, or even more extreme, Aubry could become paralyzed.

“We will try to get our honeymoon before the LiTT procedure. If not, he’ll perform the LiTT procedure and you know, months later, we’ll take it as we go. But unfortunately the cancer is terminal,” Narducci-Aubry said. “It will always come back and it will be the cause of Andrew’s death.”

A GoFundMe has been set up to help with the couple’s expenses.

Narducci-Aubry had to quit her job as a phlebotomist to care for Aubry full-time.

Andrew Aubry and Michelle Narducci-Aubry

The couple started dating in 2019. (Courtesy/Michelle Narducci-Aubry)

Aubry is still able to walk and receives occupational therapy and physical therapy once a week. But he neglects his right side of the body due to tumor growth in his brain. His short-term memory is also nonexistent, Narducci-Aubry said.

“I repeat myself all day every day,” she said. “He leaves the lights on, he lets the water run. He becomes confused. It will start a task but never finish it. I’ll walk into the bedroom and find him standing there and ask him, ‘What are you doing?’ And he’s like, ‘Nothing just standing here.’ and I’m like, ‘Okay.’ And he knows it. He knows his cognitive – he’s weakened. And he doesn’t take it well at all. He is very hard on himself. He suffers terribly from depression and he is very, very afraid. He tells me every day, ‘I’m scared. I’m afraid of dying. And every day he apologizes to me.

WISH ON A WEDDING

Narducci-Aubry explained that in February, Andrew had 12 to 15 months to live. A month later, the couple were married by their friend on March 23 in their apartment.

They celebrate their love with a wedding ceremony and reception on Sunday, August 14.

Their dream wedding will be granted by non-profit organization Wish Upon a Wedding, which offers weddings and vow renewals for couples facing terminal illness or life-altering health issues. This helps ease the financial burden and time commitment involved in planning a wedding, instead focusing on managing their treatments and spending time with loved ones.

Narducci-Aubry will look radiant in her dream wedding dress from David’s Bridal when she weds her hubby (again!) on the grounds of the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden in Livingston on Sunday, with a reception to follow. Boulevard Cleaners 2 on Amboy Road in Pleasant Plains is offering a free tuxedo and changes to Aubry for the big day.

Relish will take care of the wedding and Palermo Bakery in New Jersey will donate the wedding cake.

“It’s definitely going to be a much better wedding than the one we were able to afford. [when planning] in May, so we are very grateful,” she said.

Andrew Aubry and Michelle Narducci-Aubry

The couple will celebrate their love for each other on Sunday, August 14. (Courtesy/Michelle Narducci-Aubry)

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