Terri-Lee Governor-Wiremu and her husband Joe Wiremu married 10 days before she died after a six-year battle of cancer. PHOTOS/KIRI RIWAI-COUCH PHOTOGRAPHY

Friends, family put on dream wedding for terminally-ill woman

BECKIE WILSON

beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

Terri-Lee Governor-Wiremu was planning for her dream wedding next year to long-time partner Joe Wiremu when she was told she had terminal cancer.

So, her friends and whanau came together – with help from the community – to bring the date forward and make sure the couple would enjoy their special day before she died.

The Masterton mother of three celebrated the occasion on September 30 by exchanging vows at an emotional ceremony in front of friends and family.

She died on October 10.

“It was a perfect day,” said her aunt Makuini Kerehi yesterday.

“She was so healthy — no one would have thought 10 days later she would be gone.

The couple’s wedding day was thanks to the fundraising and donations from the Wairarapa community. PHOTOS/KIRI RIWAI-COUCH PHOTOGRAPHY

“She was a very determined person . . . she was always a positive person, right through her sickness.”

Terri-Lee, 40, was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2011.

She completed all treatments but the cancer returned in July 2015.

Terri-Lee and Joe had got engaged last year and planned to get married in Rarotonga in October 2018.

She recently visited the island with a group of friends and family to find a venue.

But when doctors told her in May that she had just months to live after the cancer had spread from her breasts to her liver, Mrs Kerehi, cousin Marlene Harris, and other members of the kapa haka group, Te Rangiura O Wairarapa, got together and started planning the wedding.

They held many fundraisers, but the major one was the art fundraiser held at the end of August.

“We talked to different artists, local and national, to see if they would donate anything and we got about 50 [pieces],” Mrs Harris said.

Over $10,000 was raised at the auction, which was “pretty mind-blowing”, Mrs Kerehi added.

Once the auction was over, they had one month to plan the rest of the wedding.

After the auction, they wrote a letter to local businesses asking for donations.

They received discounts, gift cards for food, Trust House donated alcohol for the day, other businesses such as Premium Beehive donated meat.

They were overwhelmed by how many donated to a family “they didn’t know from a bar of soap”.

The ceremony was held at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori O Wairarapa in Masterton, and the reception at the Gladstone complex.

Mrs Kerehi said her niece was involved with all the planning and fundraising.

“She definitely still wanted to get married, although some people would think ‘what’s the point’.”

The wedding day portrayed her as happy and healthy, and that was how she would have wanted everyone to remember her, she said.

She even stayed in her wedding dress all day — “it was a happy day”, Mrs Harris said.

“They both loved it, and was better than they imagined.”

They had nine groomsmen and nine bridesmaids each.

The wedding was always going to happen, but without the fundraising it would have been hard, Mrs Kerehi said.

The wedding was the “goal posts” for Mrs Governor-Wiremu, which Mrs Harris believes was what she was holding on for.

“A lot of cancer patients don’t get the opportunity to have fresh photos and we are quite fortunate that she did have that, she had that wonderful day, she looked beautiful, happy and looked healthy.”

Mrs Governor-Wiremu and her family wanted to thank the community and businesses who donated to the special day, and to the nurses who cared for her in her final days.

She is survived by her husband and three children aged 20, 18 and 11.