Ev­er­last­ing Love

Kind-hearted strangers pulled to­gether for one spe­cial wed­ding…

Pick Me Up! Special - - News - Erika Lines, 26, Glouces­ter­shire

Scoop­ing up the torn wrap­ping pa­per from the liv­ing room floor, I did my best to tidy up. ‘Come on, we’re go­ing to be late,’ I said to my part­ner, Andy.

It was Christ­mas morn­ing and we had been help­ing our one-yearold daugh­ter, Eva, open all her presents in our front room.

But we were due to head to my par­ents’ house for lunch soon.

‘They won’t mind if we’re run­ning a bit late,’ Andy smiled.

He’d been act­ing strangely all day.

As I picked up Eva and turned around, I re­alised why when he got down on one knee.

‘Will you marry me, Erika?’ Andy asked.

Burst­ing into tears, I squealed ‘yes’ and he stood up and flung his arms around me and Eva.

‘I called your dad to ask for his per­mis­sion this morn­ing,’ Andy laughed. ‘They’ll for­give us for be­ing 10 min­utes late.’

Be­ing en­gaged seemed like a fresh start for us. Life hadn’t been easy. Andy and I had been to­gether for a decade af­ter a mu­tual friend set us up on a blind date. I was just 16 and at col­lege when we met, while Andy was a bit older at 22 and work­ing as a welder. Af­ter meet­ing for a drink, I was in­stantly charmed by his good looks and sense of hu­mour.

We hit it off and quickly be­came a cou­ple.

My par­ents, Yvonne and Greg, adored him and he even got the seal of ap­proval from my three pro­tec­tive broth­ers.

Af­ter dat­ing for a few years, we moved into a flat of our own and started talk­ing about mar­riage and chil­dren.

But we sadly suf­fered three mis­car­riages. Af­ter the heart­break of los­ing our last one, we stopped try­ing and tried to take our minds off things by go­ing on a hol­i­day to

Malta. A few months af­ter we got back, I dis­cov­ered I was preg­nant again.

‘It’s pos­i­tive,’ I grinned hap­pily, when two blue lines ap­peared on the plas­tic stick in my hand.

‘That’s amaz­ing,’ Andy beamed, but we tried not to get too ex­cited, fear­ing los­ing an­other un­born child.

We kept the news to our­selves un­til the 20-week scan when the sono­g­ra­pher con­firmed all was fine.

Af­ter find­ing out we were ex­pect­ing a girl, we dashed out and bought baby­grows and booties - all in pink. Luck­ily I had a text­book preg­nancy and our healthy daugh­ter, Eva, ar­rived in April 2014. But a few months later, in Jan­uary 2015, I suf­fered some bleed­ing in be­tween pe­ri­ods.‘ it’s prob­a­bly noth­ing,’ I as­sured Andy. ‘You should go to the doc­tors though,’ he urged. ‘I will,’ I promised. I’d only re­cently had my first smear test in Novem­ber 2014 af­ter turn­ing 25, and the re­sults had shown no ab­nor­mal­i­ties. But I booked an ap­point­ment with my GP just to be on the safe side. My doc­tor kept chang­ing my con­tra­cep­tive pill, but it didn’t seem

It was a fresh start for us

to have an ef­fect. Af­ter six months of to­ing and fro­ing, I un­der­went an in­ter­nal ex­am­i­na­tion. ‘It might just be caused by the stitches you had af­ter child­birth,’ the doc­tor ex­plained.

She re­ferred me to a con­sul­tant at the hos­pi­tal for a fur­ther test. She re­vealed the bad news. ‘There’s a tu­mour in your cervix,’ she told me. ‘What?’ I stut­tered, com­pletely taken aback.

‘I’m afraid so,’ she said. ‘It’s quite big at 7mm long.’

Dev­as­tated, Andy and I clutched hands and tears poured down our cheeks.

The con­sul­tant ex­plained I had cer­vi­cal can­cer.

She told me the tu­mour may not have been picked up dur­ing a smear test be­cause it was a bit higher up in my cervix.

But, if I’d had reg­u­lar smears from the age of 18, they would have had re­sults to com­pare it to and they may have shown a slight dif­fer­ence, which could have re­sulted in the tu­mour be­ing picked up sooner.

She told me I needed to have chemo­ther­apy and ra­dio­ther­apy.

I un­der­went the treat­ment from Au­gust to Novem­ber 2015, los­ing my hair.

Thank­fully, it ap­peared to be work­ing and the tu­mour seemed to have shrunk and gone com­pletely. Now it was De­cem­ber 2015, and Andy and I cel­e­brated our en­gage­ment full of ex­cite­ment about our fu­ture to­gether. But our dreams were shat­tered, when in March, I went for an­other scan and was told the tu­mour had re­turned. Apart from some back pain, I’d been feel­ing so well. It was a dev­as­tat­ing blow, but the news got so much worse. Not only had it come back, but this time there was noth­ing doc­tors could do. ‘It’s now a case of man­ag­ing it, rather than cur­ing it,’ the con­sul­tant said. At 26, I was told it was ter­mi­nal. ‘But I have a daugh­ter,’ I wept. It was un­think­able to face the prospect of not see­ing Eva grow up, get mar­ried and have chil­dren of her own. Or to grow old with Andy like I planned. We thought that we had our whole fu­ture ahead of us. ‘We’ll fight this,’ he said, but I could see the dev­as­ta­tion in his eyes. Doc­tors told me I needed to un­dergo more chemo­ther­apy. My hair had only just started to grow back af­ter the last round of treat­ment. I was gut­ted at the thought of los­ing it all again. Andy and I had planned to tie the knot in 2018, but with the news that my tu­mour had re­turned, we de­cided to get mar­ried sooner. On the jour­ney back from the hos­pi­tal, I turned to him and said: ‘Right, we’re get­ting mar­ried now.’ ‘OK,’ he smiled. My friends and fam­ily tried to keep my spir­its up by ral­ly­ing around us and help­ing us to plan our big day – in just two weeks. My dad called the reg­istry of­fice and booked the cer­e­mony for Sun­day 10th April 2016. It meant we had a fort­night to plan the whole thing. My cousin, Kelly, set up a fundrais­ing page with the aim of rais­ing £250 to help cover the costs of the wed­ding.

In just a few days the to­tal had rock­eted to a whop­ping £5,000.

‘I can’t be­lieve it,’ I gasped when she told me. It was heart­warm­ing to know that com­plete strangers were so will­ing to help us out.

My whole fam­ily came to­gether and it was such fun plan­ning the wed­ding with ev­ery­one.

Mum came dress shop­ping with me, along with my aun­tie Jean and best friend Mel.

I knew I’d found ‘the one’ when they all burst into tears as I twirled around in front of the mir­ror.

‘It had to be the first one I tried on,’ I gig­gled.

I chose Kelly to be a brides­maid along with two of my best friends – Mel and Sam.

I picked out Cad­bury’s pur­ple floor-length flow­ing gowns for them and on the big day, Eva – my lit­tle flower girl – donned a white dress.

As I walked down the aisle to­wards Andy, I felt like the luck­i­est woman alive.

Now we just have to take ev­ery day as it comes.

Know­ing how pre­cious time is makes each moment so spe­cial and I plan on fight­ing for as much time as pos­si­ble.

The kind­ness was over­whelm­ing

Ev­ery day is so pre­cious

Fight­ing for my fam­ily

Our day was per­fect

Andy says I’m beau­ti­ful

Eva is my world

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