A couple managed to arrange their lockdown wedding in just over a day after the groom was diagnosed with a deadly brain tumour.
Loved up pair Stuart and Esther Bathers booked the registry office, got marriage papers drawn up, invited guests and even ordered flowers and rings in time to tie the knot – 36 hours after Stuart had proposed.
The 39-year-old knew time was against him after being given the dreadful news that he had an inoperable, cancerous tumour in his brain.
He and Esther had already talked about getting married and having children one day, but with the awful prognosis that meant Stuart might only live for three months, Esther was desperate to become his wife as soon as possible.
His gruelling treatment regime was also due to start soon, meaning they were even more up against the clock.
So, after asking her mother’s permission, Stuart then told close family to meet them both in a park in their home town of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. There, he got down on one knee and proposed – just two days after his diagnosis.
Esther said yes, and the couple set about organising their super speedy wedding.
They went to Shire Hall in Chelmsford to get the marriage licence papers drawn up, and signed the paperwork the same day. The next day they were to be married at Stroud Registry office.
With less than 24 hours to go, family and friends sprang into action to help them prepare for the big day.
Esther, 41, told Walesonline: “My friend and florist business partner ordered me a jumpsuit from ASOS which came the morning of the wedding. She also did my bouquet.
“The jeweller who was asked to make our wedding bands stayed up till 3am to make our rings. Stuart had already had his suit and a photographer and friend who I have worked with in the past came down to do the wedding photos.”
The day was magical for them despite the rush, but almost straight afterwards they had to return home so Stuart could have a biopsy.
“They admitted Stuart as an emergency patient and he had a two-night stay,” said Esther, who knew from their very first date in June 2020 that they were made for each other.
They’d only been together for six months when Stuart was told he had a tumour in January this year.
He’d been complaining of headaches for several days but had struggled to get an appointment with his GP, so decided to call the NHS 111 service for advice.
By that point Stuart, who works for a renewable energy company, was finding it difficult to talk and forgetting things.
“He could remember my first name but not my second, and I was asking him other questions like the name of his niece which wouldn’t normally be hard for him to recall,” added Esther, who initially thought he might have suffered a stroke.
Stuart was referred for a CT scan at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital where a “mass” was found in his brain, believed to be an aggressive brain cancer called glioblastoma.
“Our relationship went from zero to 100 after our first date – and then it went from 100 to 1,000 after his awful diagnosis,” Esther explained.
“We feel things could have been dealt with more quickly. People didn’t want to make a fuss during lockdown, and because of his age he wasn’t really seen as at high risk of cancer.
“We were just totally shocked when we were told. Stuart didn’t say much, and I was there crying and trying to ask as many questions as I could. He was kept in hospital over the weekend and then came home on the Monday, and we weren’t given much more information as it had to go through the multi-disciplinary team in Bristol.”
After the wedding, Stuart was placed under the care of an oncology team and received six weeks of intense chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Since his diagnosis, he has been unable to read, write or text and has had problems with spatial awareness.
“Sometimes he needs a lot of reassurance. I will ask him to pass me a jumper which is by him and he questions if it is the right one,” she said. “Other times, where we would make a cup of tea, he would get everything ready and wonder where the cup was.”
Despite their difficulties however the couple are already trying for a baby.
“I’ve never had a brilliant track record with men, but the moment I went for that first picnic date with him in June I knew I’d hit the jackpot,” recalled Esther, who works as a florist.
“He is the kindest, funniest, most positive person I could hope to meet. We just connected straight away and – as insane as it sounds – talked about how we both wanted to have kids on that first date.”
While Stuart chose not to hear his prognosis, Esther researched his condition and discovered that life-expectancy was typically between three and 15 months with standard care.
In the hope that more personalised treatment might help Stuart live longer, a JustGiving page has been set up by friends to raise money for pioneering immunotherapy in Germany, which is likely to cost at least £70,000.
“This treatment has given us so much hope. I’ve spent my whole life trying to meet the man of my dreams, and neither of us want to give up now,” Esther said.