Kind-hearted strangers pulled together for one special wedding…
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