Their unconventional wedding was the perfect new chapter to this 47-year  love story.

The bride wore white. Her attendants wore scrubs.

It wasn't the first wedding to take place at the hospital, but this was a celebration of love close to 50 years in the making, and nothing, not even cancer could stop it.


Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

It was a wedding some 47 years in the making.

Bob Ceplina met Denise Rheaume in northern Wisconsin way back in 1969. He first saw her while out for a beer one night with his buddy.

"A little thing with hair down below her belt," he told Upworthy. "A hippie chick."

A shy guy, Bob got up the courage to go over. He saw a man who looked to be bothering her, so he told him she was his girlfriend.

"As I saw her, I knew it was it," he said.

Bob and Denise dated off and on but lost touch for close to 40 years — until this past July, when Denise left a note on Bob's door, inviting him to call her.

She was newly single. And he had never stopped thinking about her.

It didn't take long for them to fall in love all over again.

Denise's daughter Megan helps her mom get ready. Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

But when Denise went in for a routine surgery last October, her doctor discovered she had leukemia.

Denise underwent chemotherapy and received a stem cell transplant. Bob got down on one knee to propose in February, and the couple planned to wed this summer.

But the new stem cells were killing the cancer and her immune system, and her condition quickly worsened.

"On Mother's Day weekend, we thought she was going to die," Bob said. But he spent that Saturday holding her hand, talking to her and feeding her ice chips. Before long, he saw the light return to Denise's eyes.

"They gave her a new drug too, so we'll debate as to which was most effective," Bob said with a laugh.

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

With the future still uncertain, Bob and Denise asked if they could get married at the hospital.

Bob thought it would be a small affair in Denise's room. But the staff and team at University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center had much bigger plans.

One of Denise's nurses informed nurse manager Vicki Hubbard about the impending nuptials, and soon the staff was in full wedding planning mode. In just over a week, they pulled together a wedding to remember.

With help from her daughter and the nursing staff, Denise got dolled up for her big day.

The staff decked out her room, now a bridal suite, with decorations, flowers and balloons.

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

A frequent volunteer in the wing, who just happens to be a cosmetologist, did Denise's makeup.

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

But she hardly needed any makeup; she was glowing all day long.

Photo by John Maniaci/ UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

Her dress was perfect for the unseasonably warm Wisconsin day.

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

And nurses styled a wig from the Carbone Cancer Center's wig salon.

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

Before long, it was time to head down to the ceremony!

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

As the bride and her attendants rolled through the wings, patients, nurses, and staff popped out of rooms to see the happy processional.

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

Meanwhile, friends and family gathered at the Haberman Terrace, one of the hospital's outdoor spaces.

Hospital staffed tracked down flowers, supplies, serving tools, and even wedding decorations and tablecloths of their own to lend to the effort. (They had to be secured to the tables just incase a Med Flight helicopter arrived during the ceremony.)


The hospital's art coordinator is a harpist, and the twinkle of beautiful music floated through the courtyard.

"Patients and staff were watching the wedding from the fourth level and up," Denise's daughter, Megan Rheaume-Brand, told Upworthy.

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

When the bride entered, Bob was overcome with joy.

Seeing his bride for the first time was his favorite part of the day. "She deserves this. She really does," he said.

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

The ceremony was a celebration of love incorporating a wide array of faith traditions. Led by Rev. Andy Jones of St. Andrew's Episcopalian Church, Denise's sister-in-law read from the Bible, and a nurse delivered a piece by the dalai lama. A friend of the couple even performed "a song of love and healing on an Ojibwe hand drum," Megan said.

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

Between, family, friends, and hospital staff, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

Soon, Bob and Denise were pronounced husband and wife.

Before the celebration began, Denise took a moment to thank the crowd of friends, family, and hospital staff.

“I want everyone to know that while cancer kills, love heals," she said.

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

Soon, the party was in full swing. The happy couple celebrated with carrot cake...

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

...lots of laughter...

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

...and a champagne toast or two.

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

Banners reading "Best Day Ever" flapped in the breeze, and it was. The happy couple was overwhelmed with gratitude for the effort the staff put in to make their day one to remember.

"They did a phenomenal thing. We weren't expecting that," Bob said. "That made it so special. We're still smiling."

A few weeks later, Denise is getting stronger everyday.

Buoyed by love, top-notch medicine, and lots of support, she's come a long way since her close call on Mother's Day weekend.

"She's doing so well. It truly is a miracle how fast she's improving," her daughter Megan said.

Now a newlywed, Bob drives hundreds of miles back and forth to the hospital in Madison from the couple's home in Rhinelander, but he has no complaints.

"She's worth it, totally," he said. "Your first love is always the best, ya know?"

Photo by John Maniaci/UW Health/Carbone Cancer Center/Flickr.

UPDATE: Sadly, Denise Rheaume passed away on June 24, 2016. Our condolences to Bob, Megan, and Denise's wide circle of family and friends.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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