The Guardian (Charlottetown)

Ottawa community rallies to put together last-minute wedding


OTTAWA — It isn’t the wedding Michelle Statham had always dreamed about, but getting married without her mom there to see it just wasn’t something she could imagine.

Engaged to her partner of almost 11 years and the father of her two daughters, the 27-year-old was eyeing dates in February 2021 for a destinatio­n wedding. Her fiancé, Tylor Gowan, wanted Jamaica; Michelle, a stay-athome mom, was fine with wherever she could get blue water and white sand.

Then her mother Nancy Statham got a call from her oncologist. Nancy, 58, had been living with Stage 4 lung cancer since 2018, forgoing chemothera­py and embracing cannabis to manage her pain (she went through chemo after a breast cancer diagnosis in 1993, and said she’d never do it again).

After a surgery to remove what cancer they could, Nancy was living in relative normalcy. It was only recently that she started getting headaches, losing weight rapidly and feeling pain in her chest.

When her doctor shared the results of her most recent lung scan in mid-July, it showed the cancer had progressed significan­tly. Nancy pressed for a timeline and was told she might have a few weeks to a few months left.

“Once they told me I had something to worry about, my brain went into — what’s important to me?” said Nancy.

“If I can only do one thing before I shuffle off, I’m going to see my baby get married.”

Nancy gave the same answer to Michelle, when her daughter asked if she had any kind of bucket list for her remaining time. Michelle — stubborn, independen­t and the furthest thing from a sentimenta­list — had a difficult decision to make.

“Up until a week and a half ago, it would have been a no, and I would have been really upset to have to do it in town, because it’s not what we wanted,” she said, in an interview with this newspaper last weekend. “But she’s my absolute best friend, and always has been.

“I don’t think I’d want to get married if my mom wasn’t there.”

Instead of a dream destinatio­n wedding in February 2021, Michelle decided to move her wedding date to Aug. 1 and make it happen locally.

“I wanted the sooner the better, because with how severe everything seems right now, I didn’t want her to look sick and I didn’t want her to feel sick.”

They started talking about options for a wedding day, with just a few weeks’ notice, in the middle of a pandemic.

“I had nightmares of it being something that looked like it was scraped together,” said Nancy. “I couldn’t sleep.

“My mind was racing, just racing. Against time.”

One night, she went downstairs and typed out a Facebook post, explaining the situation and asking for help securing what they still needed: a venue, officiant, flowers, food.

“I’m not looking for sympathy or freebies. Please, I’m looking for a miracle,” she wrote.

Within a day of posting the message to Ladies Who Lunch, a Facebook group for Ottawa women in business, Nancy had to disable commenting on the post for fear of being overwhelme­d with all the offers of help.

“I cried for most of that day … happy, grateful, wow tears.”

From the flood of businesses offering their services, the Stathams secured a planner, venue, flowers, photograph­y, hair, makeup, and more: a full-fledged wedding in a matter of days.

The plan for Saturday is a physically distanced ceremony and reception at Orchard View in Greely. While group dancing isn’t permitted because of the pandemic, they’ve been allowed dances for the newlywed couple, the bride and her dad, and the parents of the bride. The family is expecting an early night; in the COVID-19 era, they’ve been told most weddings end around 10 p.m.

“I don’t like asking for help, so seeing it … it’s astonishin­g, honestly,” said Michelle. “I never expected it in my wildest dreams.”

When the prognosis was delivered by her oncologist in mid-July, Nancy said her will to keep going was fading fast. She couldn’t keep food down, had little energy, and was also watching a close friend die of cancer.

But in the days since posting to Facebook, she describes being buoyed by a second wind.

“With all the love and outpouring that came from the Ladies Who Lunch, and all the hope and support and prayers and everything that was offered in and around that same time, I feel like I turned a corner physically,” said Nancy. “I just want to see my daughter’s happiest day, and I wanted not to be a bag of bones for that, and it looks like that’s not going to happen.

“They gave me the miracle of time.”

 ?? POSTMEDIA NEWS ASHLEY FRASER • ?? Nancy Statham, left, was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Her daughter, Michelle Statham, has moved up her wedding date so her mother can be there for it.
POSTMEDIA NEWS ASHLEY FRASER • Nancy Statham, left, was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Her daughter, Michelle Statham, has moved up her wedding date so her mother can be there for it.

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