Jackie Page, 51, from Southampton was devastated when her daughter Amber was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the muscle. Brave Amber battled through chemotherapy to be a bridesmaid at Jackie's wedding, and here the proud mum shares her daughter's story....
"Mum I've got a lump on my chest," said my 12-year-old daughter Amber, rubbing a spot on her chest, just below her collar bone. "Here, let me have a look," I said, pulling her towards me. I rubbed my finger over it. It was a small pea sized lump underneath the skin.
I took her to see our GP, who said it was probably hormonal, and to come back in a few weeks if it had grown any bigger. We went home not worrying about it. But a few weeks later, the lump was bigger. We went back to the doctor and he referred Amber for a scan at Southampton General Hospital. He told us that it was probably a cyst and nothing to worry about.
Doctors at the hospital took a biopsy of the lump and eight weeks later we got the most devastating news we could ever have imagined.
The consultant took me to one side. "I'm afraid it's cancer," he told me gently. I just stared at him in shock. It was only a lump on her chest, it couldn't possibly be cancer. She was only 12 years old.
I just couldn't believe Amber had cancer, not my little girl. She had been tired recently, but we had just put it down to all the dancing she did. Amber had always loved dancing, and ever since she was a little girl she had always been to dancing classes several times a week.
It was a rare cancer of the muscle - Amber had just been extremely unlucky to have it.
I had to break the news to her. It was the worst thing that a mum could ever have to tell her daughter. "It's not what they thought it was," I whispered to her, holding her close. "You have a tumour."
"Do you mean I've got cancer?" she said. I nodded, not knowing what I couldn't say to make it better. She just burst into tears. She was so scared and frightened that she was going to die.
It was the most devastating thing, all I could do was hold her and promise her that she would be alright. Deep down I just had to hope I was right.
Amber had been due to be my bridesmaid seven months after her diagnosis. My partner Nigel and I had met three years previously though a friend and had hit it off. I had been single and Nigel had been widowed three years previously. He and his daughters Zoe, 14, Catherine, 26, and Claire, 25, had had to manage on their own.
When Nigel proposed, Amber had been thrilled. "I can't wait to be your bridesmaid, mum," she kept saying. Nigel and I decided to postpone our wedding. When I got married I wanted my daughter by my side, in a bridesmaids dress. I wasn't going to get married without her.
She was determined to get better. She wanted to be my bridesmaid and it wasn't going to stop her.
Amber had to start gruelling chemotherapy treatment. Luckily tests showed the cancer had been caught early and that it hadn't spread. But the treatment was so aggressive that she was very poorly. She was constantly being sick and kept complaining of a sore mouth, jaw pain and pains in her arms and legs. She lost her hair and her eyebrows too.
We went out and bought a wig and she called it 'my other hair.' She had surgery to remove the lump in May last year, followed by radiotherapy and then more chemotherapy.
Our wedding plans kept her going. I brought in brochures, and together we sat on her hospital bed making plans. She had a goal - and that was to be a bridesmaid for me. It was the one thing that kept her focused on getting better.
We planned the wedding for October, and two weeks before the big day, we got the best news that we could ever have hoped for. Amber was in remission and the cancer had gone.
Two weeks later Nigel and I got married, and I was surrounded by my five bridesmaids - Amber and four other family members. She looked absolutely amazing in her beautiful lilac dress.
Amber is doing really well now and I'm so proud of her. She was given a special day out to visit the Royal Ballet recently, organised by Make A Wish Foundation. Ballet has always been the love of Amber's life, and she just loves dancing.
When we were given the news that she had cancer, our world fell apart and I wondered whether I would ever see my brave daughter dance again. But she was so determined to get better, she never let anything hold her back.
Being a bridesmaid gave her that goal to work for. She was determined that I wasn't going to get married without her, and I think that was the best medicine she could have had.
Words: Lucy Laing at Worldwide Features
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