For Vicki Eastaugh, love really couldn’t wait.
But, the 24-year-old isn’t simply being impulsive. She is actually one of the UK’s youngest terminal breast cancer patients, and got married as part of her ‘bucket list’ to now-husband Simon.
Although Vicki has not been given a precise life expectancy, she was told seven months ago when she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer that there was nothing more doctors could do to help her.
Vicki is 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.
The HR auditor first found a lump in her left breast as she showered in November 2016, and has since gone through a double mastectomy, six rounds of chemotherapy and hormone repression treatment. Despite all of this, at a routine check up on 20 February this year, doctors found another lump where the cancer had been before.
She said: ‘It grew between the skin and the silicon and saline implant, so I could feel it below the nipple.’
That turn of events might have broken a lot of people, but for Vicki it sparked the decision to make a whole load of memories.
And what better way to do that with her partner Simon, who she’s now been in a relationship with three years.
The couple got together after meeting in the unlikely setting of Vicki’s nail technician mum, Helen’s, 50th H-themed fancy dress birthday party in July 2016 at Hertfordshire’s Chipperfield Cricket Club.
Simon was having some drinks after playing cricket with pals and Vicki – dressed as a Hell’s Angel – got talking to him after her mum, in a Helen of Troy costume, played matchmaker.
After that they bonded and started their relationship. But it wasn’t long before Vicki – just 21 at the time – first felt the lump, and found out she had breast cancer.
‘When I felt mine, I found a lump. I showed Simon and he told me to talk to my mum, which I did,’ said Vicki.
Things moved swiftly, from Vicki’s diagnosis to her surgery, and a sadly unsuccessful attempt to harvest her eggs, with her hoping she could have IVF in the future and finally chemotherapy, which ended in June 2017.
Keen for their love story to continue, and to celebrate the end of the treatment, Vicki and Simon headed off travelling around South East Asia for six months, and later settled back into their happy life back home.
Simon proposed on 19 March this year, with Vicki saying, ‘I’m a massive Anne Boleyn fan and he proposed in the chapel of the Tower of London where her body was buried.’
It was the day later that the pair, from Kings Langley, Hertfordshire, were dealt the terrible blow that Vicki’s cancer had returned and was terminal.
‘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.’
A lumpectomy at St Albans City Hospital was the next step, to remove the tumour 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.
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.
‘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.’
Vicki was able to get her horse thanks to £14,000 of donations from friends and family, and the wedding planning followed.
Vicki said: ‘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.
‘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 in Chelmsford, she was lost for words.
‘Obviously I loved it. It was a monastery until Henry VIII had it dissolved, back when Anne Boleyn was on the scene,’ she said.
The only day they had available was a Friday 13th, but Vicki pushed on, saying: ‘I haven’t had much good luck in this life and I just thought to myself, ‘What’s one day going to do?”
Recalling the day she chose her wedding dress, Vicki, 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, who took a month off from her cancer drugs, so she would feel great 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.’
Regarding their vows, Vicki confessed: ‘We stuck with traditional vows and when it came to ’til 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.’
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.’
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 says.
What a stunning couple, who clearly mean the world to each other. We wish them all the best.