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Christchurch community funds dream wedding for quake victim with terminal cancer

Kiri Reynolds married Grant Collins at a ceremony in Rangiora on July 8.

Kiri Reynolds lost her home in the Christchurch earthquake. Then life got worse.

Moving to Kaikoura for a fresh start, Reynolds and her family bought a small transport business in 2012. Their new home was damaged in the November earthquake and after returning to Christchurch, they soon had to move yet again, when the owner's son wanted somewhere to live.

Then she was diagnosed with stage four bowel and liver cancer, in March. 

Terminally ill cancer sufferer Kiri Reynolds at her wedding to Grant Collins on July 8

So the people of Christchurch gave her a modern day miracle, helping put on a dream wedding. 

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Reynolds, 49, married Grant Collins with her three children by her side this month. The community raised over $25,000 for the ceremony, which was planned in a lightning-fast eight weeks.

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Kiri Reynolds at home with two of her three children Artesia, 8, and Kiarn Collins, 10.

Collins green-lighted a friend's Facebook post asking for help to organise the big day, which was still a secret to his terminally ill soon-to-be wife.

Her tumours, which she was receiving aggressive chemotherapy for, had gone untreated for nearly 10 years. They were not discovered until she was admitted to hospital with pains in her side.

Unfortunately it was "just a case of bad luck", she said. The diagnosis came after seven already devastating years for the family.

The couple's home was red-zoned and "written off" in the Christchurch earthquakes, which sparked a lengthy battle with their insurers. Their young son Kiarn developed asthma because of the residual dust, then Reynolds' elderly parents died in quick succession.

Collins moved to Brisbane, landed several job offers, and was in the process of setting up a new home for the family to join him in. A call from Reynolds with the news of the cancer put him straight on a flight home.

Close friend Tracey Gaskell said she was desperate to help, and posted in the Christchurch Brides and Grooms Facebook page asking for help make Reynolds "wishes come true". She was "swamped" with offers of support. Over 50 commenters offered to provide a venue and decor, a cake and to officiate the "elegant and classy" wedding.

"Everyone started saying, we'll donate that, we'll give that and it went from there really. So then I went round there and said, would you get married if we could do your wedding for nothing, and they said yes yes yes," Gaskell said.

Reynolds said without the community support, the Rangiora wedding "just would not have happened".

"When I found out, we thought about having a bit of a backyard barbecue thing because we've always talked about getting married, but even that would have been expensive and even if we had that kind of money, I wouldn't spend it on that. I want to do things with the kids, maybe take them on holiday and just spend time with them."

The community response had been "incredible", Collins said. "It really shows there are good people out there, and they were willing to do anything for us, it was pretty overwhleming."

When the idea was first thrown around "we thought it would just be nice tables with a tablecloth", she said. "But they had beautiful big flowers, a runner and bows on the chairs. All the details were there, no one treated us as second rate," Reynolds said.

The bridal party, including the couple's children Kiarn​, 10, Artisa​, 8, and Reynolds' daughter Savannah, 20, were gifted outfits for the day and the dress was lent to her by a local bridal shop. 

Reynolds said she hoped sharing her case would highlight bowel cancer as the "silent killer". She said there was a lack of publicly-funded testing for the disease in a country with one of the highest incidences of bowel cancer in the world. More than 3000 people are diagnosed, and 1200 die from the disease each year. 

It was shocking how she had gone from perfectly healthy to nearly bed-ridden in mere weeks, Reynolds said.

Givealittle page has been set up to support the family.

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