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24-Year-Old Terminal Breast Cancer Patient Marries In Poignant Ceremony

24-Year-Old Terminal Breast Cancer Patient Marries In Poignant Ceremony
Vicki and Simon on their wedding day (Collect/PA Real Life)

Walking down the aisle in a stunning white gown, her beauty was breathtaking – but the most poignant moment came as bride Vicki Eastaugh vowed to love her husband “'till death us do part."

The newlyweds' friends and loved ones all knew that by marrying her beloved Simon, 25, a compliance engineer, on Friday the 13th of September at Leez Priory – a splendid former monastery in Chelmsford, Essex, England – Vicki, 24, could tick off the most important item on her bucket list.

Because, while she looked like an ethereal fairy princess with the world at her feet, Vicki is dying.

Vicki showcasing her wedding dress (Collect/PA Real Life)

She confessed: “We stuck with traditional vows and when it came to 'till death do us part,' it was hard not to think about the future. But I was very, very happy on my wedding day, so I didn't let the negativity come to the surface – I pushed it away.

“No one wants to walk down the aisle with a death sentence hanging over them, but that's the thing about Simon, he makes me forget all of that.

“We're completely on the same page and refuse to focus on the terrible things that could happen, instead we focus on the brilliant things that could instead."

Vicki and Simon with their wedding cake (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “Anyway, the doctors will never say to me how long I have – they just don't know. Something awful could happen and I'll be gone in in a flash or I could live to be in my 60s."

Just 10 months ago, on March 20, HR auditor Vicki, of Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, was told she had stage four breast cancer, and, while she was not given a precise life expectancy, she was told there was nothing more doctors could do to help her.

Shockingly, one of only 31 people under 24 to be diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK – accounting for just 0.056% of the 55,000 annual cases across all age groups, according to Cancer Research UK – Vicki first found a lump in her left breast as she showered in November 2016.

Vicki and Simon (Collect/PA Real Life)

Given an emergency referral to Hertfordshire's St .Albans City Hospital by her GP for a biopsy, on November 17, she was diagnosed with grade three breast cancer.

She recalled: “Mum was with me and while I was totally shocked, I think she'd had her suspicions.

“Still, we both just cried and cried and cried."

Vicki and Simon on her first day of chemo in 2016 (Collect/PA Real Life)

And on December 8, 2016, Vicki had a double mastectomy to stop the cancer from spreading to the other breast – an operation only performed on 50 women under 30 a year in the UK, according to the NHS.

After her operation and reconstructive surgery at north west London's Royal Free Hospital, Vicki – who has no family history of breast cancer – also had six rounds of chemotherapy and was given hormone repression treatment, to “kill anything floating around."

Ironically, before her diagnosis, after turning 21 in the January, 2016 looked set to be the best year of her life.

She met Simon in the unlikely setting of her nail technician mom, Helen's, 50th H-themed fancy dress birthday party on July 23 at Hertfordshire's Chipperfield Cricket Club.

He was having some drinks after playing cricket with pals and Vicki – dressed as a Hell's Angel – got to talking to him after her mom, in a Helen of Troy costume, played matchmaker.

They enjoyed a magical courtship until November, when she found the lump.

She said: “We were getting ready to go out and I'd just had a shower and I remember watching a video that advised women to check our breasts in the shower. When I felt mine, I found a lump. I showed Simon and he told me to talk to my mum, which I did."

Vicki just after her mastectomy operation (Collect/PA Real Life)

From there, things moved swiftly, leading to her diagnosis, surgery, a sadly unsuccessful attempt to harvest her eggs, hoping she could have IVF in the future, and finally chemotherapy, which ended in June 2017.

Keen to celebrate her treatment ending, she and Simon then spent six months traveling across Southeast Asia.

Diagnosed with a Wilms' tumor when she was three – a type of kidney cancer, affecting about 70 children under the age of five each year in the UK, with a 90% survival rate, according to the NHS – Vicki was used to showing resilience.

Vicki underwent chemotherapy in 2017 (Collect/PA Real Life)

“At primary school I was bald as an egg because of chemo," she said.

“The kids in my year looked after me, but I remember getting called a boy a lot by older kids, which at that age isn't very fun."

And her past experience helped her to cope when, at a routine check up on February 20 this year, doctors found another lump where the cancer had been before.

Vicki during her fight with Wilms aged 3 (Collect/PA Real Life)

She said: “It grew between the skin and the silicon and saline implant, so I could feel it below the nipple."

But a biopsy on February 26 led to catastrophic news.

She said: “A nurse asked me to come into the hospital and I thought 'I don't like this.' I asked why and made them tell me on the phone. Something in me wanted to hear it and my first question was 'Am I going to die?'"

Vicki and Simon (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “I just didn't think it was my turn to go through it all again. I had thought that it might come back but not until I was 30 or older."

As Vicki and her family prepared for yet another battle, Simon asked her to be his wife.

She said: “Simon proposed on March 19. I'm a massive Anne Boleyn fan and he proposed in the chapel of the Tower of London where her body was buried."

Vicki and Simon (Collect/PA Real Life)

But the emotional rollercoaster continued when a day later, on March 20, at an appointment following a full body MRI at Watford General Hospital, Hertfordshire, doctors said they had seen “a speck" on four of her spinal vertebrae.

They confirmed that she now had stage four breast cancer and that the spinal tumors were inoperable.

“I was convinced they had the wrong scan results. I didn't feel any different," said Vicki. “In my head, when cancer has spread everywhere, you should be in pain, but I didn't feel any – it didn't feel real."

On March 28 she had a lumpectomy at St. Albans City Hospital to remove the tumor in her left breast, before starting an ongoing course of oral chemotherapy medication, that she takes daily every three weeks – with a week off in between – to stop the cancer from spreading any further.

“I'll be on the treatment indefinitely, until doctors pick up on any further change in the cancer," she explained. “Compared to the previous treatment it's a lot less intense and this time around I didn't lose my hair, which made a huge difference to my confidence.

“But the side effects are still a constant struggle, especially during the third week of taking the medication."

Vicki as a child (Collect/PA Real Life)

An eternal optimist, rather than crumbling under the strain of her diagnosis, Vicki started making plans.

She said: “I didn't go off the rails after my diagnosis, instead I used it as a motivator to do everything that I wanted to do – as soon as possible.

“I've even discussed having children with Simon. I know I can't have my own biological children, but we will look at fostering or adoption down the line, but I think we need a couple of years to see how the treatment pans out first."

Vicki and her mum pony riding before she was ill for the first time (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “I also started making a short-term bucket list of things I knew I wanted to do within the year.

“At the top of it all was getting married, as well as owning my own horse, as I loved dressage, had won prizes, and had been riding since I was eight."

Wasting no time, she launched a GoFundMe page and, thanks to the generosity of family, friends and strangers raised over £14,000 (~$18,000), meaning that in June this year she was able to buy a Dutch Warmblood horse called Blitz.

Vicki getting licked by a horse (Collect/PA Real Life)

She said: “As soon as I met Blitz it was love at first sight. I knew straight away that he was a kind and happy horse before I even rode him.

“But when I did get on him for the first time it was incredible, he was so considerate, the perfect horse to ride and I think he knew from that moment on I was his human mother.

“When I'm riding him I can forget about everything and leave my troubles behind."

Vicki wants to continue competing in dressage (Collect/PA Real Life)

Then, at Simon's insistence, their initial plans to tie the knot in 2020 were brought forward by a year.

Vicki said: “After I was told it was stage four cancer, I did wonder if we should even go ahead with the wedding at all.

“It didn't seem fair on Simon, not knowing how long we would have left together. But he wasn't having any of it. He made it clear he'd stuck with me through the 2016 diagnosis and wasn't planning on running away now."

She added: “That's when he suggested pulling the wedding forward. In that moment I knew he was right. How could I say no to someone who loved me that much?"

Vicki's dream venue – the magnificent Leeds Castle, near Maidstone, Kent – was unavailable under such short notice.

But when a family friend suggested tying the knot at Leez Priory, she was lost for words.

Simon and Vicki (Collect/PA Real Life)

“Obviously I loved it. It was a monastery until Henry VIII had it dissolved, back when Anne Boleyn was on the scene," she said.

“I called them up, prepared to hear they were fully booked, when they told me they had a slot, but it was on a Friday – Friday 13.

“Suddenly it made sense why it was free with just a few months' notice, but it didn't throw me off. I haven't had much good luck in this life and I just thought to myself, 'What's one day going to do?'"

Vicki during chemo (Collect/PA Real Life)

Recalling the day she chose her wedding dress, Vicki, whose dad, Dave, 55, is a builder, and brother Ali, 21, is a car salesman, said she was “giddy with excitement."

She continued: “After being diagnosed with stage four cancer, I thought this might never be a possibility, so trying on dresses with my mum was such a special moment to share."

And in her stunning strapless gown, as she exchanged rings with her handsome husband on September 13 in front of 75 guests, flanked by five bridesmaids – her younger cousin and four very close friends – dressed in sky blue chiffon frocks, she looked incredible.

Vicki wants to continue competing in dressage (Collect/PA Real Life)

Vicki, who took a month off from her cancer drugs, so she would feel tip-top on her wedding day, said: “It was the most beautiful setting I could have hoped for. I could see the tower against the clear blue sky as I got ready in the morning – it was perfect.

“Waiting to walk down the aisle I was so, so nervous. But Simon, dressed in his morning suit – tails and everything – turned round to have a quick look before the music started and I instantly felt better. I couldn't look at him long for fear of getting a fit of giggles and losing control.

“But I think everybody in the priory took a collective breath when it came to the vows. Everyone in that room knew my story and what had happened, so not only for me, but for my loved ones to see this moment…it was particularly special."

Vicki and Simon (Collect/PA Real Life)

The new Mrs. Eastaugh – formerly Vicki Turner – had the first dance later to Pete Doherty's "For Lovers."

“Lyrically, the song spoke to both of us," she explained. “There's one particular line – 'I'm running away with you just for today'- which really rang true.

“If we didn't have anything else, we had that one day and that one dance. We couldn't have summed it up more perfectly."

Vicki has found losing her hair one of the hardest things to deal with (Collect/PA Real Life)

Now determined to enjoy married life for a while before the next bucket list celebration, Vicki and Simon have delayed taking a honeymoon until next April, when they will jet to a luxury all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic for two weeks.

“I've always wanted to visit the Caribbean, but I just wanted to enjoy a bit of married life first," she explained.

“I don't know how long I have left and I don't want to know. I just wanted to carry on, to be a normal person and not the bride with cancer."