A woman who was diagnosed with cancer just days before her wedding has told how she and her fiancé came to the decision to keep her condition a secret and go through with their ceremony.
Charlotte Drake, 34, from Oxfordshire was diagnosed with breast cancer after discovering a lump while checking her breast while lying in bed.
The brand manager, who had dreamed of being a wife and mother since the age of ten, decided to go through with her nuptials to Luke Drake, now 32, in May 2014 because she wanted to have ‘a wedding, not a funeral’.
Despite having no family history of the disease, Charlotte was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that could have killed her within two years.
Charlotte – who was initially told by doctors that the lump was just a fatty cyst – admitted she was concerned about going through with the marriage after tests revealed the lump could be deadly.
When I was diagnosed I was 30, had no family history, I didn’t smoke, rarely drank and was very healthy.
Moments before I went into hospital for my results, I was agonising over which colour dress to buy online for my honeymoon. An hour later I was told I had cancer. It put everything into perspective and I couldn’t believe I had been worrying about a dress.
I was convinced my life was over and told Luke I didn’t think we should get married. I thought I’d ruined his life and didn’t want to become his wife, only for me to die.
‘I felt like I was taking away his wedding day. But he was amazing and told me we were going ahead with it no matter what.
‘In the days leading up to our big day, instead of sorting the last-minute details I was looking into where to have treatment.
I’d been planning my wedding since I was a little girl. I had been so excited for the day to arrive, so I could finally slip into my dress and exchange vows with Luke. But now my life was on the line.
I remember thinking, at least if I die everyone will have seen me at the wedding looking the best I was ever going to look. I would be going out with a bang.
The stress of juggling wedding arrangements along with coping with the cancer diagnosis caused Charlotte to have a panic attack.
Charlotte’s mother Elizabeth Johnson, 66, who along with her father, sister and bridesmaids was the only person aware of the diagnosis rushed her to hospital.
Luckily for me, a breast cancer surgeon was at hospital that day. He booked me in for surgery three days after the wedding and knowing I had a plan of action made me feel better.
As our wedding approached I remember thinking, this could be the last time people see me looking my best so let’s make it a really great day.
Luke and I didn’t tell our guests because we wanted it to be a happy occasion. We didn’t want their pity, it was a wedding not a funeral after all.
‘I found the morning of the wedding tough. It was the day I’d been dreaming of for years – and I had cancer. But I managed to shake off my sadness and told myself the day wasn’t just for me, it was for Luke and my family too. I had to suck it up and get on with it.
‘For the rest of the day, the only thing that was hard was that people kept hugging me, which really hurt because I had just had a biopsy.’