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Mum is planning her wedding and funeral at the same time at the age of 29

When I walk up the aisle on my wedding day in just a few weeks’ time, I’ll be holding my wee boy Zeke by the hand.

He’s only three but he’ll be the most important guest there when I marry his father, the love of my life, in a Scottish castle.

I know it’ll be the happiest of days, but it’ll be tinged with sadness, too.

Because while I’m busy organising my dream wedding, I’m also planning my funeral service after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Everything had been going so well for me until I found out I had breast cancer 18 months ago.

I’d been best friends with Idrees for years until our friendship developed into something deeper.

Finding out I was pregnant was a happy surprise and by the time Zeke was born we knew we were made for each other, soulmates for life.

Natalie and Idrees had been friends for years before starting a family together

The three of us were a perfect little family.

Then when Zeke was two, I noticed a sharp pain in one of my breasts whenever Zeke brushed against me.

I knew from previous trips to the GP that my boobs were lumpy, but I was reassured that if the lump moved around it meant it wasn’t cancer.

Thinking I had an inflamed cyst, I went to the doctor, who thought the same but ordered blood tests, which came back clear.

But weeks later, the pain became excruciating.

This time I was sent for a mammogram and biopsy and, finally, in October 2019, I went for an appointment with Idrees where I was told the news everyone dreads – it was breast cancer.

I laughed nervously, thinking, “I knew I wasn’t just imagining something was wrong.”

It felt surreal, as though it was happening to somebody else when the consultant told me I had triple negative breast cancer, the most aggressive type.

I had the BRCA gene, which made it much more likely I’d develop breast cancer.

I’d need a lumpectomy – surgery to remove the tumour – as well as a course of eight chemotherapy sessions and a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery to ensure the cancer wouldn’t come back.

Will you marry me?

It was terrifying but I stayed calm, reassured there was every reason to expect the treatment would be a success.

I might have a bad year, but the prognosis was good and hopefully everything would get back to normal.

One particularly bad day in January 2020, when I was lying in bed feeling exhausted after a chemo session, Idrees called me downstairs.

Him and Zeke were both standing there, dressed up smartly in suits. In front of them was a jigsaw puzzle with a picture of us on it and the words, “Will you marry me?”

I hurried back upstairs to get my wig, thinking, “I’m not going to be bald for my romantic proposal.” It was so special.

Because the prognosis looked hopeful, we decided we’d save up and wait a few years to marry.

I pictured a snowy wedding in Switzerland surrounded by all our friends and family.

Then in the midst of my chemo treatment, Covid struck.

Suddenly I had to stay inside to protect myself from the virus – I couldn’t see any of the friends or family who’d been so supportive.

Worst of all, my chemo treatments and the double mastectomy were cancelled.

I was terrified what this meant for my recovery but in May last year I was told the lumpectomy and the six chemo sessions had been enough.

The cancer hadn’t spread and I was given the all clear. I was thrilled and so thankful my ordeal was over.

There was still a niggling pain in my breast, though. Doctors thought it was a build up of fluid which would clear in time.

But the pain worsened and by September last year, my breast felt so swollen and sore I couldn’t sleep.

Even the staff were crying

More tests and a CT scan followed. When the breast cancer nurse suggested I bring Idrees with me for the appointment the next day, I knew what was coming.

“I know the cancer’s back but please just tell me it’s not stage four,” I pleaded to my consultant. Her face told me all I needed to know.

My world came crashing down. We were all in tears, me sobbing in Idrees’s arms – even the staff I’d got to know were crying. It was horrific.

I was told I only had between six and 12 months to live. All I could think of was my son not having a mummy to look after him.

Telling friends and family was so hard. We were back in lockdown by then so I made some difficult phone calls and, of course, there were no comforting hugs.

I was determined to stay strong for Zeke. We agreed not to talk about cancer in front of him and concentrated on making family memories – walks and parks and zoo trips.

But when Idrees and I were alone, the tears flowed.

I’d wake in the night panic-stricken at the thought of leaving him and Zeke. Idrees held me, saying, “I’m here, I’m not letting you go.”

Immediately after the diagnosis, Idrees said he wanted us to get married straight away. Who knew how long I had left?

Crossbasket Castle, where the wedding will take place
A family friend has offered the use of a picturesque castle for the wedding

Friends rallied round and a charity called Wedding Wish Makers heard our story and stepped in to help.

Since then, firms have come forward offering photography, flowers, bagpipes, hair and make-up. It’s been incredible and I’m so grateful.

My lovely cousin Charlene bought me my wedding dress and a friend of my cousin’s offered us the use of Crossbasket Castle for the wedding ceremony on 8 May.

It’s such a stunning venue, the stuff of dreams. We’ve chosen Halo sung by Ane Brun as our special song for the first dance.

Inside the Scottish castle where Natalie Sanders will get married
The Scottish castle is the stuff of dreams

It’s so sad to think that my loved ones who’ll be dancing at my wedding will be wearing black just a short while later.

Amid the excitement of the wedding, I’ve had to be practical and plan for my funeral.

Idrees wants to know what my wishes are and so far I’ve told him I want a Catholic service and for him to be buried with me, eventually.

I’d like him to carry my coffin, too, if he feels able. I’m making notes for him.

I’ve asked for the song You Are My Sunshine to be played. It’s something I’ve sung to Zeke since he was born.

Idrees and I have talked about it and we’d both like our son to be there, but I’ll let Idrees make that call when the time comes.

I’m not scared of dying, but the thought of leaving my son without a mum really breaks my heart. I want him to know I’m fighting for him.

At the moment I’m on a newly licensed Pfizer drug called Talzenna, which I’m hoping will give me some extra time with my family.

Preparations for the wedding are in full swing
Preparations for the wedding are in full swing

We won’t know for a while if it’s working.

I’m taking some pure cannabis oil, too, which is expensive but really helps with the pain and is hopefully fighting the cancer.

I could never have imagined I’d be planning my wedding and my funeral at the same time.

But I know I’m lucky to have had a good life, to have found love and a family.



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