Wedding bliss for Illawarra battler Eliza

Two decades ago, Eliza de Vet captured the hearts of Illawarra residents as she battled a crippling neurological condition that forced her head to rest on her shoulder.

Last month, the West Wollongong woman stood tall as she exchanged wedding vows with John Kennedy at an intimate ceremony in Minnamurra.

It's a happy new chapter in the life of the 28-year-old who first appeared in the Illawarra Mercury in 1994 at the age of nine, cuddling her pet duck, her neck to one side.

At the time, the Mercury launched a campaign to raise funds to send Eliza and her parents overseas on a medical pilgrimage, and $150,000 was donated by the community in less than three months.

While no cure was found, neurologists were able to diagnose her condition as symptomatic torsion dystonia and by late primary school Eliza's head and neck had straightened naturally, although other symptoms remain.

The Mercury has followed Eliza's journey through university - and now into married life - and she said that both she and her family were forever grateful for the community's interest and support.

"It's nice to know that the community can band together in such a way to give support to an individual, and have that strength as a group," she said.

"I still get stopped by people in the street who want to talk to me about my story - including a bus driver a few months ago - and I think it's nice to see that such a community effort can lead to a positive outcome."

For Eliza, her March 15 wedding day was "perfect in every way". The bride wore a stunning ivory lace dress with a latte-coloured sash and was walked down the aisle at the ceremony at Minnamurra headlands by her father Guy with her three sisters as bridesmaids.

"It was one of the most relaxed days of my life," she said.

"I was so excited about the day and what it symbolised.

"I think it was an emotional day for my family and friends.

"I noticed a few people getting teary as I walked down the aisle."

Eliza's husband John, an artist and Red Cross worker, had been a family friend before things turned romantic seven years ago, and they got engaged in 2012.

"He's extremely creative and knowledgeable - conversations are never boring," she said.

"He's someone who always sees the brighter side of life."

After Eliza completes her PhD at the University of Wollongong this week, she and John will finally get to enjoy their honeymoon in Tasmania.

She said they wanted to devote time to each other - and their careers - before starting a family.

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