"Where there's a will, there's a way" - Getting married on board Cutty Sark

As ships go, Cutty Sark is the ultimate survivor. Having faced problems at sea and fire on land, it has become stronger as a result of all the things that didn't quite go according to plan. So, when we were looking for a venue for our rather alternative wedding plans, there really was no other contender.

Why? Our wedding story is not one filled with romance, bouquets and bunting, but one about hope and survival - one defined by the things that haven't quite gone to plan in our lives.

Roll the clock back to Christmas 2013 and I really did think I had everything, after my wonderful partner of 13 years decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. What we didn't expect, was for me to be diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer just three weeks later. I was only 32. 

2014 was not the year we expected. Gone were the guest lists and favours and in came the needles, scars, surgery, hair loss, toxic drugs and strange radiotherapy tattoos. But, if you ask me now how I feel about that year, I will tell you it was still one of the best years of my life. I was so busy rushing through each day before my illness that I had forgotten what it was to enjoy each day. Cancer gave me the reality check I didn't know I needed. It also introduced me to two life-changing activities: running and volunteering.

For someone with a hip full of metal and reconstructed breast, running is perhaps not the best choice for a body like mine. But, it was running that gave Duncan and I hope during treatment. And, when I finished my first ever 10k just a week before my last chemo, I realised I would always want it to be part of our lives.

So, when Duncan nudged me on the whole wedding planning project after treatment was over, I realised the days of us having a traditional wedding were long gone. Our big day had to be about the things that kept us together at a time that could have so easily ripped us apart.

That's why we're getting married on April 23 at 7.30am on the Cutty Sark (a world first) before running the London Marathon in aid of the Willow Foundation, the only UK charity that sends young adults on special experiences to help them escape the conveyor belt of hospital appointments. Willow gave me back my smile and helped Duncan and I find a way to celebrate our engagement after the Champagne had gone on ice. Willow reminded me I was just a cancer patient. I could be the person Duncan fell in love with 14 years before.

Jackie with Bob Wilson, the founder of the Willow foundation

Then, after a thank you party back on the ship a week later, we are trekking the Great  Wall of China for our honeymoon for Breast Cancer Care, the charity that held my hand and gave me the confidence to face each day during treatment.

We are joined on the marathon course by the father of the bride, my cousin James, friends from university and my running friend Annick (who is raising money for Cutty Sark and shares the same hip condition as me). It will be a real privilege to share the joy and the pain of the big day with them.

The Jackie of three years ago would never have got married in trainers - or a dress designed by professional ice skater Frankie Seaman. But, being able to gift our wedding back to the charities that saved my life and our friendship - and that offer hope to those diagnosed with serious illnesses every second of every day - is the greatest wedding gift we could ever ask for.

And, to celebrate in style on this magnificent ship really is the icing on the cake. On 23 April, we run to offer a message of hope to all those wondering if they can in a world that keeps telling them they can't. We run to show that when you have a strong enough why, you can endure any how.

Read the history of Cutty Sark and you will read the quote: 'where there's a will, there's a way'. What a brilliant message for life this is and one we will carry with us on that grueling 26.2 miles.

And, when we do eventually get to open that Champagne, we will raise a glass to hope, health, happiness and the ship that survived against the odds. Long may she command the Greenwich skyline as a reminder to all that every day needs to be an adventure and that you can go further than you ever though possible with the right people by your side.

If you'd like to follow Jackie and Duncan's marathon journey, join Jackie on Twitter at @jackie8. To help them inch closer to their £15k fundraising target, please visit their team fundraising page. You can also support Annick as she raises money for Cutty Sark as part of her marathon efforts.