Joanna Taylor noticed her mother Valerie losing control over her movements and becoming weaker over the years. Joanna made the decision to make the most out of her mom’s remaining time.
Image: Paul Jones)
When Joanna and her partner Brian booked their wedding in a stunning overseas location, they couldn’t wait to tie the knot.
After having met at work 10 years ago, the Darlington couple waited for their day to finally get married.
“The first time we met was around 2006 but Brian was already married so we were just friends,”Joanna, now 41, shared her story with The Mirror.
However, years later Brian’s marriage ended and he got back in touch with Joanna on Facebook for support.
“We were just friends like before for a few months, but it developed into a relationship,”She spoke.
The couple decided to marry and booked their wedding in Paphos, Cyprus, in the summer 2018.
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But just months later, Joanna’s family received some devastating news that made her even more determined to make her wedding day perfect.
Joanna’s mum Valerie was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND), a degenerative illness that slowly causes brain cells and nerve endings to stop working, leaving a person trapped in their own body.
“Months earlier she’d been out for food with my stepdad and she’d tripped – but there was nothing there for her to trip up on,”Joanna recalled.
Valerie began losing more control over her movements. She started seeing doctors to get tested.
“Looking back when mum tripped up, the muscle was weakening in her foot and it gave way,”Joanna. “But we didn’t know that at the time.”
Her daughter started to suspect that her mother might have MND as her mom became more frail and relied on a walking stick.
“A woman I worked with had just lost her husband to motor neurone disease, and she mentioned to me that mum might have the same thing,”Joanna has been remembered.
As her mum’s speech began to slur, Joanna said she “put two and two together”Valerie also started to suspect she was suffering from MND.
But her suspicions didn’t make Valerie’s diagnosis any less upsetting for the family.
“Mum was devastated,”Joanna recalled. “She’d already been frightened enough that she might have Parkinson’s or cancer.”
Joanna was more determined than ever to make Valerie’s special day memorable after she learned her mum had two more years to live.
She said: “I thought she would be too ill to fly, and I wouldn’t have done it. But she was so determined to be there, it was almost like she was living for it.”
Joanna found it difficult to watch her powerful mother lose her independence.
“I used to say she was like a Rottweiler,” Joanna joked. “She was really fierce and worked all her life as a job coach.
“She could be brutal but at the same time she was lovely. My mother would have done anything for me.”
Joanna began to plan for her big event through The Wedding Travel CompanySurprised to discover that a Cyprus wedding planner was available for her, she was delighted.
While she devoted herself to caring for Valerie, Joanna didn’t have spare time to plan her wedding – and she was also wary that her mum might not be well enough to fly out to Cyprus.
“I thought, ‘I’m not going to get married without mum there’, so I warned the company I might need to cancel and they were really good about it,”She spoke.
Joanna also added that her Cypriot wedding coordinator made sure all aspects of the wedding were accessible for those with disabilities, since Valerie was still in a wheelchair when the big day arrived.
Joanna reported that her trip went smoothly, despite concerns about her mother’s health on the flight and in Paphos.
“There were only about 18-20 people at the wedding so it was intimate, but it was beautiful,”Joanna.
“The ceremony was on a terrace with a covered roof, but it had breath taking views overlooking the pool and the beach, with a wonderful cool breeze.
“It was the most beautiful venue, it was sunny, and I could tell that mum was at peace.
She said that the house was almost dry when she spoke her vows.
“Mum was in tears the whole day and that was the second time I’d seen her cry in my whole life. It was so emotional for everyone,”Joanna.
“Some weddings can have 200 people as guests, but that wasn’t for me.”
“I wanted a small wedding where mum could be a part of it. She sat with me and I interacted with her. I didn’t want her to feel like just another guest.
“She got the holiday she wanted and got to spend it with me.”
Joanna added Valerie’s hotel even had a mechanism to allow her to get into the swimming pool, despite being immobile.
“They had one of those graduated pools so mum could get in. My brother and sister-in-law put her in a rubber ring and she floated around – she had the time of her life,” Joanna said.
Valerie passed away in October 2020, two years after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
While Joanna misses her mum terribly, she’s glad Valerie was by her side on her wedding day and that she could give her the trip of a lifetime.
She said: “Mum loved it. It was just as much about her as it was about me.”
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