Wendy Wilton, 48, from Wincanton, Somerset wanted to say ‘I do’ before it was too late…
My partner Mike came up behind me and gave me a cuddle as I did the washing-up.
‘When are you going to make an honest man of me?’ he laughed.
‘Get off, you daft beggar,’
I grinned, flicking bubbles at him. ‘I’d marry you tomorrow, but we’ve more important things to spend the money on.’
‘Don’t say I didn’t ask,’ he chuckled, holding up his hands in mock surrender.
Me and Mike, now 53, had been together for 23 years. We’d three daughters – Chelsea, Sasha and Cody.
Mike was such a good dad and partner. We just didn’t have the money for a wedding. The girls always needed new clothes, or money for school trips.
‘I’d rather go away with the kids than blow money on one day,’ I’d say.
And we loved our holidays to Devon Cliffs.
Money was even tighter after Mike fell down a pothole. Damage to his spine left him with osteoporosis, unable to work.
We were happy, though, until January 2013, when I felt a lump in my left breast while showering.
‘I’m sure it’s nothing,’ I told Mike.
But I saw my GP anyway. And, before I knew it, I was having scans, blood tests…
‘I’m afraid it’s breast cancer,’ my consultant said eventually.
I had a lumpectomy and eight lymph nodes removed from my left armpit, followed by two months of intense radiotherapy.
It was gruelling. And the 70-mile round trip from our home to the hospital in Taunton took its toll, too.
Thankfully, it worked, and doctors said I was in remission.
‘It’s made me realise how much I’d love to be your wife,’ I said to Mike.
‘I know,’ he sighed.
But the main thing was that we were healthy and we still had each other.
Time ticked by. Soon, we had three lovely grandchildren. But then, in November 2015, I found a lump in my neck.
An X-ray showed a shadow on my lung, and, after further scans, the results were devastating.
‘I’m so sorry, it’s stage-four cancer,’ my consultant said.
The tumours were everywhere apart from my brain.
‘How long?’ I choked.
‘Two to five years,’ he said.
‘I’ll make the most of every day,’ I vowed.
But, when chemo failed to slow the cancer, I was told I’d just six months to live.
Suddenly, I was staring death in the face.
‘Now I’ll never be your wife,’ I wept to Mike.
‘You are in here,’ he sobbed, covering his heart with his hand.
Telling the girls was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
‘You can’t die,’ Cody, 20, cried.
I held them in my arms and wished I could kiss it better like I’d done when they were little.
After, I noticed the girls were always whispering with each other, and, if I walked into the room, they’d shut up.
‘What’s going on?’ I frowned.
‘Nothing,’ Sasha, 23, would say.
But she was always on the computer, taking Mike aside.
They’re probably talking about how I’m coping, I thought. I was getting weaker, finding it hard to stand up.
At the beginning of June, I went to hospital after a funny turn.
‘We think you’ve had a mini-stroke,’ doctors explained.
‘Have I not suffered enough?’ I sobbed.
Back home, Sasha popped round, a big smile on her face.
‘You’re getting married tomorrow,’ she announced.
‘What?!’ I cried.
I listened as she explained she knew marrying Mike was important to me.
‘So I set up a GoFundMe page,’ she smiled. ‘I’ve got £950 – someone even donated a cake.’
‘But I can’t!’ I babbled. ‘I’ve no dress. What about my hair..?’
So this was what all the whispering had been about!
‘Did you know about this?’ I asked Mike, and he nodded sheepishly.
Next day, Sasha, Cody and Chelsea, 25, helped me into a beautiful, ivory dress, did my hair and make-up.
‘I feel like a nervous teenager,’ I giggled as we headed to church.
I’d dreamed of walking down the aisle, but now, confined to a wheelchair, it didn’t matter.
As soon as I saw Mike standing at St Peter and St Paul Church, I felt more in love than ever.
‘You look beautiful,’ he smiled.
We were both choked saying our vows. There wasn’t a dry eye.
Afterwards, we celebrated at a local hotel, and we had a short honeymoon in Bournemouth.
Currently, I’m responding well to treatment, so could have another nine months.
But, when the time comes, knowing I’ve got that ring on my finger will make it a little easier.