Meet the Brave Breast Cancer Brides
30 Oct 2015
A wedding day means so much more than a huge party with family and friends. It’s a celebration of two lives uniting, and in this feature we pay tribute to two incredibly brave brides who survived breast cancer and made it down the aisle to marry their true loves
One in eight women in the UK will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. So we’re showing our support for Breast Cancer Awareness at Bride by sharing the real wedding stories of two inspirational women and breast cancer survivors who celebrated wonderful weddings, despite their fight with the disease
Nicole Porterfield, from Edinburgh, had just become engaged to her boyfriend of three years, Dave, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2012, aged just 26. When she found out about her diagnosis it came as a big shock and at a time when she should have been planning for her wedding.
“It was our third anniversary and Dave had cooked a three-course meal in our flat,” says Nicole. “I had no idea but he had bought me flowers, which he never does, so I thought he was up to something!”
Juggling treatment with wedding planning
Nicole juggled gruelling radiotherapy and chemotherapy with the wedding plans, all with the great support from her fiancé. Nicole watched a lot of her friends walk down the aisle during this time, which spurred her on even more to have her special day.
By the time Nicole’s wedding day arrived, she wore a wig due to hair loss from chemotherapy. Yet she was determined for the day to not be about the cancer, but simply about her and Dave.
“The wedding was at St Andrew’s Church in the Square in Glasgow,”Nicole explains. “There was no real theme but it had quite a wintery feel and my bridesmaids were in navy. It was quite traditional – we had a piper and ceilidh dancing and I had my something old, new, borrowed and blue, which included my gran’s pearls.
“I apparently ran down the aisle,”remembers Nicole. “I walked down to the piper playing and there's a really nice picture with my dad. We had a humanist ceremony and a few friends did readings. As we took to the floor for our first dance, I told Dave ‘This has been the best day of my life.’”
A beautiful day to remember
In her beautiful day to remember, Nicole overcame her initial worries and fear of losing her hair on her wedding day by using a special hair treatment. She says: “I lost my hair in March 2013 and was getting married in February 2014, so I would say that was my biggest fear. Luckily I found out about Hair Solved who specialise in hair loss and they created a system which gave me long hair in time for the wedding.
“I was also really worried I wouldn't fit in my dress. I had already bought it before I was diagnosed and some treatment can cause weight gain. Luckily that wasn't an issue,”she adds.
Having something to focus on, like a wedding, helped Nicole get through her rigorous treatment and she and husband Dave, have since been involved in fundraising –including Nicole taking part in the Breast Cancer Care Scotland Show in 2014.
“I actually think having the wedding to focus on was a big help throughout treatment, as it gave me something else to think about,”she says. “The day was a lot more emotional because of what happened the year before, especially for my family. My husband and I ended up raising a lot of money for Breast Cancer Care with him running marathons and me taking part in the show in 2014.”
Nicole has had a full clearance of her lymph nodes, and after having found out that she had the BRCA2 gene, had a double mastectomy and reconstruction in April 2015. She remains positive about the future and how having survived cancer has changed her outlook.
“I feel I'm a lot more relaxed these days and don't worry too much about the small stuff,”she says. “Being positive and doing the things I want to do in life are my priorities. You worry so much about things that ultimately you cannot change,”says Nicole.
Her advice for other brides with breast cancer is to stay positive: “There's always a solution to the problem. Stay positive and use all the help that is out there as it's there for a reason. Don't Google things, use Breast Cancer Care and everything they offer, even if it’s just to read information.
“I was involved in the Breast Cancer Care Scotland Show last year, which has just won an award, and it was the best experience. Breast Cancer Care looked after us so well and I got to meet some amazing, strong women and men going through the same thing but have a very different story to tell. I even got to wear a wedding dress again as one of my outfits.”
Just days after rekindling her romance with a former childhood sweetheart, Elaine McMillan Vivers found out she had breast cancer. Elaine was diagnosed in June 2012, aged 41, after finding a lump in her left breast, with further tests revealing a second lump in the same breast.
Elaine hadn’t seen her sweetheart Ian for almost 30 years before they reconnected online, as his family had moved to Wales when they were in their teens. After her diagnosis, she told him she fully understood if he wanted to walk away. Instead of leaving Elaine to face cancer alone, Ian not only did everything he could to support, but he gave up both his business and his home to move 400 miles away from Powys, Wales to Scotland to be by her side.
A rekindled love
“He was my rock from the beginning and I love him so much,”says Elaine, who lives in Livingston, West Lothian, Scotland. “Ian and I met in our local amusement arcade San Remo in the village of Linwood where we grew up. I was 14 and Ian was 15 when we met. We used to meet up and go to the local disco where all the kids of that age went to.”
However, their childhood romance was not meant to be initially, explains Elaine: “One night we were out and I lost track of time. My parents turned up in the car looking for me as they were worried I had not come home on time. Obviously they were angry and they took me home in the car and I was grounded for about two weeks. I never saw Ian again after that. I went back to the amusement arcade and the local disco but he was never there again, I didn’t know what had happened to him.”
Elaine later learnt that Ian’s parents had split up and his mother had moved the family to Wales.
“Around 15 years after I had last seen Ian, I found his details on Friends Reunited,”says Elaine. “Isaw that he was living in Wales and that he was in a relationship so I just thought it wasn’t meant to be. In May 2012 Ian’s profile came up in ‘friends you might know’on Facebook and there he was again. This time he was single. I sent him a friend request and we started chatting. I decided I would go down to Wales to meet him and see if we still had ‘the spark’we had when we were young.”
A wedding with Scottish spirit
The spark still remained between them, and in 2013 during a holiday to Fuerteventura, Ian proposed. Later they were married in a small wedding at the Holiday Inn at Glasgow Airport as they planned to buy a house together. The couple chose a kilt for Ian in true Scottish spirit and Cadbury’s purple for the bridesmaids’ dresses, flowers and table arrangements.
Elaine had a lot to deal with before her big day arrived she says, following her first mastectomy with reconstruction and then chemotherapy.“I had another mastectomy with reconstruction again in February 2014 as a preventative measure,”she says. “This time my body took longer to heal as it was still recovering from the chemotherapy.
“There were times in the lead up to the wedding that I wasn’t sure I was going to be fit enough for the big day and was worried going away for two weeks on my honeymoon in case anything went wrong. Everything was fine but I was very tired after our big day. Everything about the day was magical,”Elaine recalls.
A true love meant to be
Having gone through such an experience together, Elaine believes she and Ian were meant to be. “I feel I am very lucky to have been able to cope with the cancer diagnosis and get my true love in the end,”she says. “I felt as if Ian had come into my life at the time he did, to help me through what I was about to go through. It was definitely meant to be. We seem to think the same things, he’s the other half of me that makes me complete.”
A show with a difference
On 4 November, 2015, Elaine will be walking down an alternative kind of aisle, joining 21 other models who have all been diagnosed with breast cancer on the catwalk at the Breast Cancer Care Scotland Show in Glasgow at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Argyle Street. The uplifting event will feature food and entertainment with afternoon and evening shows. The event raised more than £195,000 in 2014 to support people facing breast cancer.
Elaine is excited to get down the aisle for a second time: “I can’t wait to strut my stuff on the catwalk and prove that you can look and feel amazing after a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment,”she says. “I think having had breast cancer has made me a stronger woman and has given me more confidence.”
Eleganza Sposa, Scotland's leading luxury bridal and occasionwear boutique, is supporting the Breast Cancer Care Scotland Fashion Show by designing couture gowns for the models to wear in the finale of the show.