Coronavirus: Terminally-ill bride thanks politicians ahead of wedding

By Conor Macauley

  • Published
Media caption,

Terminally-ill bride thanks politicians ahead of wedding

A terminally-ill bride-to-be whose case persuaded authorities to allow weddings for people in her circumstances has thanked politicians, saying "they do have hearts".

Samantha Gamble and Frankie Byrne, from County Down, had intended to get married at the end of May.

But coronavirus restrictions meant that weddings were not allowed.

While Samantha was receiving treatment for a terminal cancer diagnosis, her family began to lobby politicians.

Last week, Stormont's First and Deputy First Ministers, Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill, said they had agreed to allow marriage ceremonies in which a person is terminally ill as part of the first steps in lifiting lockdown measures after hearing those appeals.

Samantha said she was unaware of the lobbying, which was co-ordinated over a period of ten days by her cousin Vivienne.

The first Samantha knew about it was when she was told to turn on the BBC's radio news in the hospital.

Wedding set for this week

"That was the first I really was told anything about it. I cried, I couldn't believe it, I still can't believe it," she said.

She said the couple, who've been together for 12 years and are from Loughbrickland, had always intended to get married but her cancer diagnosis and treatment had disrupted their plans.

She said she had decided to speak publicly to thank the NHS nurses in the cancer ward, whose care and attention had allowed her to proceed with her special day.

Frankie said Samantha had begun to think the wedding might never happen but he had told her: "We're not giving in yet."

The couple said they had been inundated with help for Friday's wedding which will take place at their home.

Image source, Samantha Gamble and Frankie Byrne
Image caption,
Frankie Byrne and Samantha Gamble said they had always intended to marry

Only six people can attend, including the bride and groom and the registrar. Samantha said her two children and a close friend of Frankie's will also be present.

A video-link will allow other members of the family to participate.

Samantha said Friday would mean "everything".

"Just to be able to say we did it. Through all this Frankie has stood beside me and been my rock and done everything for me."

When asked if she had a message for the politicians, she said: "Thank you, thank you, thank you, they'll never know what it means to us. They do have hearts."

The couple said they knew Samantha was very seriously ill, but did not want information about her prognosis.

"We don't want to know." Samantha said.

Image caption,
Samantha said the wedding on Friday means "everything" to her

"I know the cancer has spread, it's into my lungs and into my spine and neck.

"I just take every day as it comes. I don't want them to say you've got such and such a time because I think that would just bring me down.

"Whereas, at the minute, I can just say I'm living each day as it comes and I'm thankful for breathing."

The couple said they were not aware of any other couples who might benefit from the change in the regulations but if anyone else was in the same circumstances they hoped it would help them too.