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'I wanted a wedding not a funeral': Bride who was diagnosed with breast cancer just a WEEK before her big day kept it a secret from guests because she 'didn't want their pity'

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 3/18/2019 Julia Sidwell and Latoya Gayle For Mailonline

a group of people in a room: Charlotte Drake, 34, (pictured) from Oxfordshire was diagnosed with breast cancer a week before her wedding to Commercial Manager Luke, 32 © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Charlotte Drake, 34, (pictured) from Oxfordshire was diagnosed with breast cancer a week before her wedding to Commercial Manager Luke, 32 A  woman who was diagnosed with cancer just days before her wedding has told how she and her fiancé came to the decision to keep her condition a secret and go through with their ceremony.

Charlotte Drake, 34, from Oxfordshire was diagnosed with breast cancer after discovering a lump while checking her breast while lying in bed. 

The brand manager, who had dreamed of being a wife and mother since the age of ten, decided to go through with her nuptials to Luke Drake, now 32, in May 2014 because she wanted to have 'a wedding, not a funeral'. 

Despite having no family history of the disease, Charlotte was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that could have killed her within two years.

Charlotte - who was initially told by doctors that the lump was just a fatty cyst -  admitted she was concerned about going through with the marriage after tests revealed the lump could be deadly. 

a group of people posing for a photo: Charlotte (pictured with Luke on their wedding day) discovered a lump while checking her breast which was initially dismissed by doctors as just a fatty cyst © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Charlotte (pictured with Luke on their wedding day) discovered a lump while checking her breast which was initially dismissed by doctors as just a fatty cyst a group of people posing for the camera: The senior brand manager (pictured right with Luke and their seven-month-old son Henry) pushed for a referral and decided to keep the cancer results secret from her wedding guests © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited The senior brand manager (pictured right with Luke and their seven-month-old son Henry) pushed for a referral and decided to keep the cancer results secret from her wedding guests

She said: 'When I was diagnosed I was 30, had no family history, I didn't smoke, rarely drank and was very healthy.

'Moments before I went into hospital for my results, I was agonizing over which color dress to buy online for my honeymoon. An hour later I was told I had cancer. It put everything into perspective and I couldn't believe I had been worrying about a dress. 

'I was convinced my life was over and told Luke I didn't think we should get married. I thought I'd ruined his life and didn't want to become his wife, only for me to die. 

'I felt like I was taking away his wedding day. But he was amazing and told me we were going ahead with it no matter what. 

'In the days leading up to our big day, instead of sorting the last-minute details I was looking into where to have treatment. 

'I'd been planning my wedding since I was a little girl. I had been so excited for the day to arrive, so I could finally slip into my dress and exchange vows with Luke. But now my life was on the line.

'I remember thinking, at least if I die everyone will have seen me at the wedding looking the best I was ever going to look. I would be going out with a bang.' 

a man wearing sunglasses posing for the camera: Following the breast cancer diagnosis, Charlotte (pictured with Luke) suffered a panic attack in the days leading up to the wedding and was rushed to hospital

Following the breast cancer diagnosis, Charlotte (pictured with Luke) suffered a panic attack in the days leading up to the wedding and was rushed to hospital
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited

The stress of juggling wedding arrangements along with coping with the cancer diagnosis caused Charlotte to have a panic attack.

Charlotte's mother Elizabeth Johnson, 66, who along with her father, sister and bridesmaids was the only person aware of the diagnosis rushed her to hospital.

Charlotte said: 'Luckily for me, a breast cancer surgeon was at hospital that day. He booked me in for surgery three days after the wedding and knowing I had a plan of action made me feel better.

"This could be the last time people see me looking my best "

'As our wedding approached I remember thinking, this could be the last time people see me looking my best so let's make it a really great day. 

'Luke and I didn't tell our guests because we wanted it to be a happy occasion. We didn't want their pity, it was a wedding not a funeral after all.'

'I found the morning of the wedding tough. It was the day I'd been dreaming of for years - and I had cancer. But I managed to shake off my sadness and told myself the day wasn't just for me, it was for Luke and my family too. I had to suck it up and get on with it.

'For the rest of the day, the only thing that was hard was that people kept hugging me, which really hurt because I had just had a biopsy.'

a man standing next to a mountain: Following the wedding day on the Friday, Charlotte (pictured on holiday with Luke) had surgery on the Monday to remove her tumour and another operation a week later © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Following the wedding day on the Friday, Charlotte (pictured on holiday with Luke) had surgery on the Monday to remove her tumour and another operation a week later Charlotte decided to shave her head after she began losing hair (pictured); she also asked doctors to remove both of her breasts but was refused © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Charlotte decided to shave her head after she began losing hair (pictured); she also asked doctors to remove both of her breasts but was refused

'I'm most proud of how my parents and Luke held it all together when I'm sure they wanted to crawl away and cry. 

'Instead they were all smiles and made sure the day went exactly as I had planned since I was a little girl.'

Following the wedding, the couple postponed their honeymoon so Charlotte could have surgery just three days after they exchanged vows.

A week later she had a another operation so the surgeon could get a clear margin, then she began chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

The newlywed urged for her breasts to be removed following the experience but was refused by surgeons - who explained that a double mastectomy wouldn't stop the cancer coming back because she didn't carry the BRCA gene. 

She added: 'When I started losing my hair I bought an electric razor from Argos and told Luke he would have to shave my head. 

'We had fun with it, cutting my hair into a bob, then a mohawk, before taking it all off. After that I wore a a hat most of the time.' 

a man smiling for the camera: Brand manager Charlotte (pictured on holiday with husband Luke) underwent nine months of chemotherapy, two months radiotherapy in addition to one year of taking herceptin

Brand manager Charlotte (pictured on holiday with husband Luke) underwent nine months of chemotherapy, two months radiotherapy in addition to one year of taking herceptin
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited

Charlotte who had nine months of chemo, two months radiotherapy and then one year herceptin, feared the treatments had affected her chances of becoming a mother. 

Chemotherapy damaged her ovaries and only two eggs were retrieved, both of which were bad quality. The newlywed turned to IVF and fell pregnant after just one free round. 

She recalled: I was actually out on a work lunch when I first got a positive result. I was overwhelmed and desperate to tell Luke, but he was abroad with work. I avoided talking to him over the next few days so I didn't have to tell him over the phone. 

'Then when he got back, I handed him a box containing two pairs of booties, one pink and one blue. His face was a picture when he realised we were going to have a baby.' 

At 30 weeks into her pregnancy, Charlotte hemorrhaged due to having a low-lying placenta and was kept in hospital for the last six weeks to be closely monitored. 

a group of people looking at each other: Charlotte (pictured) and Luke returned to the same church where they were married to christen their son Henry last month © Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Charlotte (pictured) and Luke returned to the same church where they were married to christen their son Henry last month

Then at 36 weeks, she had a C-section and their son was born.

'As I looked at Henry and then at Luke, it felt like everything we had been through had been worth it. There are so many miracles that have happened and Henry is the greatest one.'

Last month, the pair held Henry's christening in the same church that they got married in. They also returned to Blenheim Palace - this time with their son.

'It was so strange being back in the place where I had broken down in tears over a year earlier, desperate for a baby. This time around, I was thrilled to be there with my very own family.'

Now Charlotte has regular check-ups and scans and is encouraging everyone to check their breasts regularly.

She said: 'My mum has always taught me to be breast aware and check my breasts, even though we have no family history of breast cancer. I am convinced she saved my life.

'If you do find a lump, act quickly. When I found mine, my doctor thought it was a fatty cyst but I pushed to be referred to a specialist so I could be checked further. 

'My cancer was an aggressive type and if I hadn't pushed, I was told I could have been dead within two years.'

Charlotte is raising funds to support people affected by breast cancer by walking 20 miles at the Breast Cancer Care Pink Ribbon Walk in association with Skechers. To sign up, visit breastcancercare.org.uk/ribbonwalk 

Video: Breast cancer survivor can't contain excitement at leaving hospital (CBS News)

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