The bride-to-be organizes a photoshoot before the wedding date because her mother has incurable cancer

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Claire Bullimore, 38, asked if any friends had a wedding dress she could borrow for a photoshoot with her mother, who has terminal cancer, as she wanted to keep happy memories with her.

Claire Bullimore with her mom Eileen

Dressed in her elegant wedding dress and holding a bouquet of flowers, Claire Bullimore looks like the epitome of a radiant bride.

But her marriage did not take place and her wedding date has not yet been set. Behind her beaming smile, there’s a deeply poignant reason for the pre-wedding photo shoot.

Claire, 38, says: “When my boyfriend Ioannis was talking about getting married, I got angry because I couldn’t imagine my wedding without my mother.

“Mum has incurable liver, spine, lung and brain tumors and is being treated in a hospice. Ioannis and I don’t have enough money to get married yet. So he came up with the idea of ​​having professional photos taken before the wedding to make sure mom is included.

“Within ten days, friends, family and neighbors all pitched in to help with our photo shoot. And mom was so happy.






Claire and her boyfriend Ioannis

Claire, from Norbury in London, has always been close to her mother Eileen, 72, and their bond grew stronger when the two received devastating health news.

In 2008, when Claire was diagnosed with a brain tumour, Eileen and her father Patrick immediately returned home from a vacation in Australia to be by her side. They arrived minutes before she was due for surgery to remove a 10cm tumour.

“After the shock of the diagnosis, all I wanted was mom,” Claire explains. “I had 24 hours before the operation and the flight from Australia was 22 hours. I was supposed to be taken to the theater at 8am but the doctors held on as they knew mum was on her way. She arrived at 8am so we had a few minutes to say a quick hello and then we said a sad goodbye because no one knew if I would make it.

After the ten-hour operation, Eileen barely left Claire.

“Mom was my rock,” Claire says. “She was always strong and adventurous, doing everything from skydiving to being a passenger queen during her and her dad’s many motorcycle adventures.

“But because I lost speech and mobility, I became a needy child again. Mum didn’t just take care of all my health needs by helping me eat, dress and bedtime, she lifted my spirits when I was going through a rough patch, she was always there.

Claire received intensive therapy to regain her speech, mobility and memory. Seizures and side effects from strong drugs prevented a rebuilding of her PA career in the oil and gas industry and she retired medically.

She got into brain tumor research and supporting others facing complex recoveries and created her own Aunty M Brain Tumors website.






Claire’s mom has incurable cancer





A family photo taken during the pre-wedding photoshoot

Claire says: “I went for an interview as a volunteer radio host at Croydon Radio and, because my speech and memory could fail at any time, mum came with me.

“When interviewers asked me what my plans were for the show, I was completely blank. I looked at mom and said, ‘This is a mother-daughter show to support people with injuries. cerebral”.

“Mom didn’t know until then. But on the spot, she said: ‘Yeah, OK!’. And for the next four and a half years, we interviewed brain tumor experts, charities and patients on the radio together.

In a cruel twist of fate, Eileen, a retired public relations manager, was later diagnosed with lung, spine, liver and brain cancer. Claire’s knowledge was a blessing and a curse when it came to hearing the news from the doctors last August.

“It happened very quickly and we are all still coming to terms with it. Mom’s cancer is advanced and spreading rapidly. Because I had done so much research on brain tumors after mine, I knew how it would end.

“But I swore to myself that I wouldn’t really let myself down. I hold on. Because crying and sitting around feeling bad is such a waste of time when mom is around and we can spend some very precious time together.

Claire was comforted by Gatwick airport services worker Ioannis, whom she met on a dating site just before the lockdown in March 2020. They talked for hours on daily video calls, but restrictions prevented their first meeting, in a park, until three months later. Ioannis is also dedicated to caring for Eileen.

The happy couple have discussed getting married next year when their Mauritius-based family can attend. But Ioannis felt Claire’s sadness.

She says: “Ioannis is terrible at keeping secrets but lets slip that he hopes to propose with a ring on my birthday March 27. But I was really starting to cry that my mum wasn’t with me when I’m getting married. Two weeks ago he said, ‘I thought – we can’t have a full wedding until next year, but let’s do the pictures with your mum while she’s with us’.

“I thought it was such a lovely idea, and more importantly, mum too. For the past few weeks she has been cared for at St Christopher’s Hospice in Sydenham. Talking about the photos has really captivated her, especially when the staff said mom could pick them up from home.

Claire asked if any friends had a wedding dress she could borrow before Ioannis gifted her a new dress from online retailer Asos. A neighbor found the photographer, Amanda Purchase, who donated her services for free. And on Sunday, February 13, a family friend arrived to do Claire and Eileen’s hair and makeup to make sure they looked and felt special for their pre-wedding photos.

Plans to stage the photos under a flower arch in the garden were dashed by the wet weather, so Claire and her family pushed furniture out of their front room and posed inside for their special photos.

Claire says, “I felt overwhelmed by the number of people who came together to create such an unforgettable experience.

“Our make-up artist Hayley Evans also works as a scientist at the Royal Marsden Hospital, who treated mum. She did a wonderful job of making mum look great and ruffled her hair, which is thinning from the chemo. Mom wore a dress she last wore 40 years ago and loved being able to slip into it.

“My aunt Liz bought my fake hydrangea flowers for £7 on eBay and made my dog ​​Noodles her own wedding outfit. Whenever the emotion started to build up, Noodles would do something to make us all laugh. She was a complete scene stealer.

“Ioannis was delighted that his idea worked and his family and mine are really proud of him.

“Best of all, mom was so excited. It was a day we will never forget. We have created photographs and memories that we will always cherish.

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