Jemma, 26, loses leukaemia fight before wedding

Jemma Valentine with her son Archie. Picture: contributed
Jemma Valentine with her son Archie. Picture: contributed
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HER wedding dress was chosen and bought, the venue booked – her devoted groom was waiting to say “I do”.

But Jemma Valentine’s dreams of marriage were cruelly snatched from her when earlier this month she finally lost her battle with leukaemia.

The 26-year-old had been fixated on her big day since going into remission on Valentine’s Day last year and had begun ratcheting up plans on the one-year anniversary of the joyous news.

Just days later, relief turned to heartbreak when medics confirmed the cancer had returned. Nuptials fell by the wayside as Jemma steeled herself for yet another bout of chemotherapy.

It was her final hope of life but she would never recover to walk down the aisle.

Army veteran Scott Marshall, 23, dropped to one knee on the banks of the Shore in Leith months before Jemma’s diagnosis. The pair had met on a blind date arranged by their sisters. He always thought she was out of his league.

When Jemma fell ill, the soldier with two tours of Afghanistan under his belt left military life behind to care for his future wife.

“She loved the idea of getting married on a paradise island and we thought about having a small family wedding in St Lucia before she became ill,” he said.

“I’m so lucky to have met her, she was absolutely perfect; a wonderful girl who welcomed everyone with open arms and never had a bad word to say about anyone.

“She was a great person and a great mum.”

Jemma’s “best buddy” was four-year-old son Archie – known as “Archie B” – who will inherit the engagement ring when he’s older.

He now lives with his aunt Lisa and is struggling to understand what happened to his doting mum.

Her other best friend is Jenna Cairns, 29, who was to be a bridesmaid at the forthcoming marriage ceremony.

“Jemma never got well enough to fulfil her wedding day dream,” she said.

“She lived with her mum Margaret when she was ill and couldn’t look after Archie B anymore.

“She had hoped to go to Disneyland with Archie, and her niece and nephew, when she was well enough – unfortunately she was unable to.

“Jemma was totally devoted to Archie and he would visit her in hospital and climb into bed to give his mum a kiss and a cuddle.

“She told him that his mummy would be going up to the stars but she would always be looking down on him.

“It’s a lot for a four-year-old to take in and the poor wee soul is asking where his mummy’s gone.”

Jemma, who worked at Warren James jewellers in the St James Centre, was diagnosed with leukaemia two years ago.

Always believing she would beat the illness, the Mortonhall girl not only bought her wedding dress but those for her bridesmaids too.

The outfits had arrived ahead of their big day which would see the couple tie the knot at The View, in Bathgate, before jetting off on a honeymoon in the sun-drenched Caribbean island of St Lucia.

Aware of Jemma’s illness, venue bosses had kindly agreed to host the wedding at a moment’s notice any day during the week.

The couple had bought a house near Jemma’s mum in Pumpherston, West Lothian – a marital home for after the wedding.

Last week, Scott moved in alone – a first step on his journey without Jemma.

The cherished engagement ring – chosen by Scott – has been kept for Archie so he has a permanent reminder of “how lovely a person she was”.

“Jemma’s mum Margaret has her wedding dress and put a gold band on her wedding ring finger before her funeral, which meant a lot to me,” said Scott, who served with the Royal Signal Regiment.

“It’s been a difficult time for everyone but we’re all determined to keep her memory alive.”

When doctors at the Western General finally told Jemma, from Mortonhall, that she only had weeks to live, the young mum faced the reality that she would never be well enough to walk down the aisle.

She died on June 4 at home.

Along with Jenna, Jemma’s parents Margaret Dick and Lewis Valentine, and her sister Lisa, Scott is now focusing his attentions on Archie and the future he faces without his mum.

Scott continues to play a huge part in Archie’s life.

A series of fundraising events is being held next month to contribute to his trust fund as well as the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research charity.

Living with his aunt Lisa – who was to be another of Jemma’s bridesmaids – and her children Joseph and Leah, it is hoped Archie will one day visit Disneyland – a holiday destination Jemma had dreamed of one day taking her son.

So fond was Jemma of Disney that her family selected Let it Go – the theme song to Frozen – at her funeral.

Other songs at the bright pink humanist ceremony included How Long Will I Love You, by Ellie Golding, All of Me, by John Legend and finally Eva Cassidy’s version of Over The Rainbow.

Bright and bubbly, Jemma was a devotee of Dominos Pizza and would even get them delivered to her hospital door.

Jenna said: “Jemma loved butterflies, rainbows, tattoos and a cheeky wine and pear cider. She was a such popular young woman with a gentle nature that made her the heart and soul of her friends.

“Never judgemental but always willing to offer an honest opinion, she was very much a fun, girly girl who loved to surround herself with 
girlfriends.

“She loved life and all she had to say when she was told there was nothing more that could be done for her was that ‘it is so unfair’.

“Her strength throughout her battle with leukaemia has been inspirational to all that have known her – she was never without a smile on her face even through the tough times.

“Jemma was so brave and dealt with her illness with a tremendous amount of dignity – she was a total inspiration.”

The former Gracemount High School pupil enjoyed memorising and reciting quotes.

Her favourite towards the end was: “Fall in love with being alive.”

It is a saying her friends will now always associate with Jemma.

• To donate, go to https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/6o0cb

Charity events in Jemma’s memory

In memory of Jemma Valentine, her friends and family have organised three fundraising events throughout July.

Money raised will go towards a trust fund for her four-year-old son Archie, and to the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research charity.

On Saturday 19, a charity boxing night will be held at Holyrood Boxing Gym, on Gorgie Road, at 7.30pm. Entertainment includes eight challenges, a mystery guest, a buffet and prize auction. Tickets cost £20.

A “fun disco” (£10) on Sunday 20 at 7pm at Cargo, on Fountainbridge will see guests enjoy sponsored waxing, raffles, quizzes, a DJ, mystery guest and much more.

On Sunday 20, between 12pm and 4pm, a family fun day will also be held at Cargo. Events include facepainting, a bouncy castle, games, a raffle and more. Admission is free.

Local businesses – or individuals – wishing to donate prizes are welcome to do so. For information, and tickets, e-mail jemmasbattle@hotmail.com.