Wedding vows, in this charming tale about a cancer patient who marries in the hospital, talk of the intense love we have when we discover our life mate, regardless of how long or short our time together may be. When the groom, who was battling stage 4 cancer, was married in the hospital, the doctors received incredible news.
The phrase “Til death do us part” probably acquired a priceless new significance for Zack and Madison Stroup. Zach was battling both Crohn’s illness and Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Like many couples, Zach and Madison began their relationship as friends. A few years after they first met in high school, they fell in love.
As they started to create a life and a future together, the pair believed they had the world at their fingertips. Zach worked as an insurance agent and bodybuilder, and Madison trained as a hairdresser.
After dating for a few years, Zach suddenly started to feel off. He discovered he had Crohn’s disease two days later. The couple accepted the diagnosis and made an effort to control it. His health continued to deteriorate in spite of the medical care, and eventually he was only a shell of the man he once was. He was in a lot of discomfort and had lost a lot of weight.
He awoke one night with severe chest pains and a fever. When Madison hurried him to the hospital, they were given bad news that ended their future as a couple.
"*" indicates required fields
Madison said, “Cancer never crossed our minds, being 22 and 24 years old. The doctor came in, and he looked like he had just seen a ghost … He told us, ‘I believe you have cancer.’ It felt like the walls were closing in.”
When Zach was identified as having Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the couple was subsequently given the death penalty. They suddenly realized how bleak their future looked and that they would be wandering through the valley of the shadow of death with no hope. Nevertheless, the pair refused to give up and finally made the decision to fight for the limited time they had left together.
Zach’s nine months in the hospital were a roller coaster of emotions. Before entering remission, he would undergo rounds of therapy, but a few months later, he would hear the disease had returned with a fury.
The spine and brain had both been affected. Zach experienced worse-than-normal symptoms one evening, and luckily a nurse insisted on a CT scan, which revealed that he had a ruptured colon and required immediate surgery. Zach’s life was spared by that nurse.
After months of struggle, Zach was prepared to give up. He was unsure of how much longer he could endure.
“At this point, knowing he had cancer that spread to his brain and then a perforation and chemotherapy on top of it, Zach was depleted,” Madison stated. “He looked me in the eyes, crying, telling me that he didn’t want to fight anymore.”
Madison just took the only action that she could. Zach needed to understand how much she cared about him. She rescheduled their wedding, which had been planned for months in advance, for one that would take place in 48 hours.
Because of her hospital family, nurses came in on their day off to help this sweet bride get dressed before she said, “I love you for better or worse, in sickness and in health,” to the man of her dreams as she walked down the hospital corridor.
It gave Zach the motivation he needed to continue fighting. “I was pretty tapped out at that point. … Our wedding definitely gave me a lot of positivity and hope. I had pretty much given up on myself, but I still wanted to fight for Maddy, and that’s what I did.”
Zach’s extraordinary recovery from his illness allowed him to have a bone marrow transplant. The couple then discovered Zach’s cancer had entered remission. The pair are realizing the value of life as they enjoy the small things, like waking up next to one other in bed, now that he is well enough to return home.
The pair made the decision to tell their experience in order to offer other people in similar situations a huge dose of faith to fight with all the strength they have after such a dark and arduous road where hope was a frail but crucial component of existence.
Madison stated, “We wanted to inspire other people who are going through similar situations – whether it’s cancer or depression or other challenging things – to keep fighting because you never know what’s behind the next door,”
We hope that their story encourages you to keep your sights on Christ and to keep moving forward one day at a time. We pray that they continue to fight the good battle of faith.