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Highland Hospice hosts heart-breaking wedding after mother-of-the-bride diagnosed with cancer

By Alan Shields

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Kim and her husband Stuart on their wedding day, with their daughter Bella, Deirdre and Izzi all present.
Kim and her husband Stuart on their wedding day, with their daughter Bella, Deirdre and Izzi all present.

Highland Hospice helped host a moving wedding after the bride's mother was discovered to have an aggressive form of cancer.

Deirdre, who asked not to have her surname mentioned, started experiencing symptoms in June last year having found a lump on her neck.

She was was eventually diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer.

Medics discovered a tumour which had grown around her wind pipe resulting in her being put on a ventilator.

When Deirdre was admitted to Highland Hospice, things were set into motion quickly so that she could see her only daughter Kim get married.

Deirdre’s sister Isanne known as Izzi has shared her family’s experience of hospice care.

She said: “Deirdre’s illness progressed very quickly.

"This was really distressing for the whole family.

"Because of how aggressive the cancer was, it was too dangerous to operate and nobody with this type of cancer in the UK who had received radiotherapy over the past year had survived.

"We were all so sad for Deirdre, who was just 61. Her only daughter Kim was 20, and her grand-daughter Bella almost a year old."

Deirdre soon had to be put on a ventilator in the Intensive Care Unit of Raigmore Hospital, where she was allowed just one visitor and so Kim went to see her every day for a week.

Izzi added: "We were then all called to the hospital as a decision had to be made about removing the ventilation.

"We were all prepared for the very worst, but agreed that the decision should only be made by Deirdre.

"Although she couldn’t speak, we were able to get her to communicate through a letter board. It felt as though we were part of a game show trying to encourage her to communicate her questions, and Deirdre herself was laughing.

"Eventually she was able to decide that yes – she wanted to turn the ventilator off and take her chances.

"When she came off it, we were all absolutely delighted that she could speak quietly and her condition stabilised to the point she was able to go to the Ear, Nose and Throat department with a Macmillan nurse in charge of her care.

"Before long, Deirdre was admitted to Highland Hospice’s inpatient unit, which she found to be much more homely and comfortable.

"With all this going on, Kim and her boyfriend Stuart decided they would like to get married so that her mum could be there. Deirdre gave them her blessing to go ahead.

"They then visited the hospital chaplain to set things in motion and Kim set about choosing a dress and bridesmaids dresses."

Izzi said old friends and family rallied around to help including helping to prepare and bake treats for the big day as well as arranging all the elements such as photography and music.

The Hospice also helped to arrange a buffet and the wedding was held in the gardens of Highland Hospice on August 22, with a service led by Raigmore Hospital’s chaplain.

Izzi said: "Norma Higgott, the hospice’s chaplain was on hand to help us out with everything too, and the hospice nurses were so good with Deirdre. They got her ready and even made her a beautiful scarf to match her dress and hide the dressing on her neck.

"It was a truly special occasion, with only closest family and friends, and it was a real struggle to keep it together because of the emotions everyone was experiencing. For this reason, we were all determined to focus on the joy of the occasion.

"Kim’s leaving song was Gerry Cinnamon’s ‘She is a Belter’, which put a smile on all of our faces. It all went perfectly, and Deirdre even managed to eat a sandwich when she hadn’t previously been eating.

"We said our sad goodbyes to Deirdre a month after the wedding.

"It was a day that none of us will ever forget, and we are so grateful to the staff of Highland Hospice for all they did to help us.

"Deirdre really enjoyed Norma the chaplain’s visits while she was a patient, and all of us as a family have been so grateful to Norma for keeping in touch since, and checking in on us.

"It was a blessing that Deirdre received hospice care so quickly and that we were able to come together as a family to see Kim get married – it gave us a little ray of sunshine in an incredibly sad situation.”

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