Zach, a 26-year-old, was on the brink of marrying his high school sweetheart, Madison, when their lives took a devastating turn. Doctors diagnosed him with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his liver and lungs.
The news shattered their dreams, especially since Zach had always been health-conscious. Despite the diagnosis, the couple got engaged. However, later that year, a spinal cord tumor was discovered, forcing Zach to undergo five rounds of chemotherapy. By March, an MRI revealed that the treatment was ineffective, with cancer spreading to his brain.
Madison recalls, “I felt like my worst nightmare was coming true. All of the worst thoughts were going through my head, thinking, how am I going to do this life without him? But I knew he was a fighter.” Madison leaned on her faith in God during this challenging period.
The couple had already postponed their wedding twice due to Zach’s illness, but they desperately wanted to be married. The idea of a hospital wedding emerged from social workers, and within two days, everything was arranged. Hospital staff helped organize the cake, decorations, and Madison’s bouquet. The bride’s parents collected the wedding attire, and Madison’s father, Chris, assisted Zach in getting ready in the hospital. Meanwhile, Madison prepared for the ceremony in the bone marrow transplant ward, one floor below the oncology ward where Zach was.
One of the nurses even did Madison’s hair and makeup on her day off, using safety pins to fit her dress. Before the wedding, she went up to the fourth floor, where her emotional father stood. As they walked through the hospital hallway, patients emerged from their rooms, nurses and doctors dressed up, capturing the special moment. Zach, in his wheelchair, connected to chemo treatment and a pain pump, wore a smile that Madison will never forget. She said, “I knew he was fighting so hard to just be there…Being able to get married to him that day was the best day of my life. Even though it wasn’t the wedding we initially thought, it couldn’t have been any better.”
Madison’s concern about Zach’s central nervous system turned out to be peripheral neuropathy from chemotherapy. An immediate spinal cord surgery was needed to prevent permanent paralysis, and it was a “true miracle,” according to a colorectal surgeon. The procedure left Zach with a feeding tube and an ileostomy bag. Their biggest victory came when Zach was approved for a bone marrow transplant, which turned out to be a success, leading to his declaration of being cancer-free.
Madison never stopped praying for her husband, and her prayers were answered when doctors declared the brain lesion “completely gone,” and the spinal cord lesion reduced to residual scar tissue. Madison reflects, “It was hard for me to comprehend that chemotherapy and hospital visits were over. We finally were at the light at the end of the tunnel; it was the most amazing thing.”