It was supposed to be the happiest day of her life, but as Lauren Jones stood in front of the church minister and took her wedding vows she could feel herself choking up and the tears beginning to flow.
And as the crucial moment came – “till death us do part” – her throat tightened and she couldn’t help but stumble over her words. Just a few days earlier, the then 31-year-old had undergone her second operation to remove a tumour after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Lauren, from Brunstane, wasn’t due to get married for another nine months but doctors had warned her it might be a good idea to bring the wedding forward – in case the worst happened and she didn’t survive long enough to walk down the aisle.
It was the start of a long, hard battle with an aggressive cancer that had already spread to her lymph nodes by the time doctors diagnosed her.
She said: “I had five weeks to organise my wedding and I was angry. I didn’t feel like a bride. I had scars, I was swollen from the surgery and it took me a while to get over the anaesthetic, so I was feeling ill.
“I walked down the aisle trying to come to terms with the fact I had breast cancer and didn’t know if I was going to survive. During the vows I got really emotional at the part where I had to say ‘till death us do part’ and I was in tears as I stumbled over the words.
“I knew I wanted to marry my husband Eric, but I just felt everything was compromised. I couldn’t get married in the church I had originally planned to and I couldn’t get the reception I really wanted.”
But after four months of intensive chemotherapy – a period she says had an emotional impact on her akin to being “hit by a bus” – she was able to walk down the aisle once again on the exact date in December 2013 she had originally planned.
The “second wedding” – a blessing ceremony – took place at St Mary’s Parish Church, Whitekirk, East Lothian, and was partly a celebration that she had made it through the months of treatment.
“I just went for it at the reception,” she said. “I must have danced with everyone that night and I wanted to make sure everyone enjoyed themselves. Now I’ve had 18 months of what they describe as ‘no evidence of disease’.”
And the 33-year-old is determined to raise funds for Breast Cancer Care Scotland to ensure other women don’t have to go through the same painful ordeal.
Tomorrow, Lauren will see more money being drummed up for the charity when she attends the intu Braehead shopping centre’s Ladies VIP Day Out event in Glasgow.
The mall is donating proceeds from the day to Breast Cancer Care Scotland, as well as organising a bucket collection and handing Lauren and her mum a £150 gift card each to spend – following a session with personal shopper and fashion stylist Jade Halbert.
Lauren said: “Breast Cancer Care Scotland has been a lifeline, helping me understand what I was going through. I’ve seen me on their internet forum at four in the morning getting advice on how to cope. They help you get control of your life back and deal with the disease. They gave me the tools to take control of my life and regain my dignity and confidence. It’s fair to say they gave me back who I was, because cancer had taken that away from me and they helped me come back stronger.”
Lydia Brown, marketing manager at intu Braehead, said: “Lauren has been very courageous telling her story, which I’m sure will help others realise that you can survive breast cancer.”