I have only witnessed one wedding that took place in a hospital room and it was profound as it was bittersweet. Another one happened this week to a wonderful couple I have come to know. It is not unusual to find love at any age, but when a cancer diagnosis places one’s mortality front and center, it does increase in prominence and urgency.
Things have changed over the last year for this couple. A cancer diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization created the opportunity to have a wedding ceremony sooner than later, although I am sure the bride and groom may have wanted to choose another venue with all the embellishments that one always desires. The staff made sure to decorate, and supply flowers and cake for the occasion even within the confines of an antiseptic environment.
Looking for references to explain the phenomenon of hospital-based weddings, I found a paucity of literature on the subject. Perhaps it is not a scientific topic to pursue research, but it does have some significance worth mentioning.
Cancer patients particularly of late-stage disease have to face their mortality on a daily basis. Having to sort through decisions of limited treatment options, hospice care, or clinical trials can be daunting. Knowing that your partner is willing to stand by and make a marital commitment in the face of those decisions can be life-affirming.
Our couple clearly was heading in this direction even prior to her hospitalization. The urgency of her emergency room visit and ultimately her admission may have sparked a conversation that led to their decision to marry. I am not sure any of us will know the intimacy of that conversation.
But many of us witnessed their conversations regarding next phases of care, the pros and cons of treatment, and the discussion with the physician team that, on more than one occasion, expressed that there would be no cure, but certainly a quality of life as best as one could hope. They chose happiness and a gratitude for whatever time was left to them.
Oncology nurses witnessed a touching moment today in the life of a cancer patient, and we are the grateful ones for being part of that experience.