Northern Ireland

Community rallies to help Co Tyrone mother with terminal cancer stage her dream wedding next month

Danielle Donnelly (35) and her fiancé Darren Collins with their children Kayla (12), Shanice (14), Tianna (3), Jamie (1) and Edward (17).
Danielle Donnelly (35) and her fiancé Darren Collins with their children Kayla (12), Shanice (14), Tianna (3), Jamie (1) and Edward (17). Danielle Donnelly (35) and her fiancé Darren Collins with their children Kayla (12), Shanice (14), Tianna (3), Jamie (1) and Edward (17).

A Co Tyrone mother with terminal cancer has thanked the local community for helping her achieve her dream of getting married next month.

Danielle Donnelly (35) from Drumquin was diagnosed last July, just weeks after she had given birth to her youngest child.

After enduring chemotherapy and the heartbreak of not being able to watch her children grow up, she is set to marry her fiancé Darren Collins (36) at the Silverbirch Hotel on July 28.

Having already started a fundraiser last year, the couple, who have five children, are not asking for more money but were worried about finding wedding vendors at short notice.

An appeal on the My Omagh page has since been inundated with offers of help from cakemakers, DJs, venues and many more.

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Offers of wedding dresses even came from a woman getting married in September, as well as a man who lost his fiancée to cancer two years ago. 

Overwhelmed by goodwill

Speaking to The Irish News, Ms Donnelly said she had been overwhelmed by the flood of goodwill towards her family as they face unimaginable difficulties.

Having just celebrated her son Jamie’s first birthday, she recalled the shock of her cancer diagnosis last year.

“I kept saying to doctors and midwives that I wasn’t right, I was in so much pain and vomiting (as well as) pain across my breastbone,” she said.

Her symptoms had initially been brushed off as “the joys of pregnancy,” but by September she started intense chemotherapy sessions in Belfast City Hospital which left her feeling very sick.

The latest chemotherapy session took place this week in Derry’s Altnagelvin Hospital, with doctors stating it would extend her life by nine to 15 months if it is successful.

“We plan to get married on July 28 as my time is limited and before I’m not fit to enjoy any of it,” she said.

Getting engaged last October, she said the initial help from a fundraiser had been a huge help to support the family.

“It’s been totally overwhelming,” she said. 

“But from the bottom of our hearts, we can’t thank everyone enough. As you can only imagine, I’m only 35 and having a young family our hearts are broken in a million pieces that I will not see my children grow up.”

“Darren is only a year older than me as well so you can imagine the heartbreak we are going through.”

Support of community

Her mother Donna Logue also told The Irish News of how important the practical and emotional support for the community had been for the family.

“It’s really been uplifting and overwhelming,” she said.

“Everyone wants to give you their good wishes. It’s just heart-breaking and it’s a horrible situation but we have this to look forward to.

“They wanted to get married from last year but Danielle just hasn’t been well enough with chemo.”

She added: “The first couple of days after the diagnosis was absolutely horrendous. We had our suspicions as things were changing in the wrong direction.

“Those days she was just crying. It wasn’t even crying, it was more like a wail at the thought of being taken away from her kids. 

“She’s worried about the smaller ones not remembering her.”

In the initial weeks after her son’s birth, Danielle was constantly in and out of hospital with her newborn.

Ms Logue said: “It was just an absolute nightmare, I can’t explain it any other way.

“It’s unbelievable to think where you get the strength to do it, but you do.”

Looking forward to the wedding, she said the family's focus has to keep things as normal as possible and enjoy their time together.

'Blown away' by donations

Sarah Gallagher runs the My Omagh page and told The Irish News the response to the post on Thursday had been "unbelievable".

“They were blown away by the amount of people who wanted to donate yesterday, but they didn’t think it was right as they already had the fundraiser last year,” she said.

“One girl offered her wedding dress and all her bridesmaid dresses even though she’s not getting married to September. 

“Isn’t that amazing? Another man lost his fiancée to cancer two years ago and had her wedding dress hanging in the wardrobe.

“He said he could never bear to part with it, but he would be willing to give it to Danielle. I could cry about this because I lost my own sister to cancer last year and that’s why I feel compelled to really help her as much as I can.

“Yesterday was a happy-sad day but I think people should be very proud of themselves.”