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.

More
via bfmamatalk / facebook

Where did we go wrong as a society to make women feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding in public?

No one should feel they have the right to tell a woman when, where, and how she can breastfeed. The stigma should be placed on those who have the nerve to tell a woman feeding her child to "Cover up" or to ask "Where's your modesty?"

Breasts were made to feed babies. Yes, they also have a sexual function but anyone who has the maturity of a sixth grader knows the difference between a sexual act and feeding a child.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Instagram / JLo

The Me Too movement has shed light on just how many actresses have been placed in positions that make them feel uncomfortable. Abuse of power has been all too commonplace. Some actresses have been coerced into doing something that made them uncomfortable because they felt they couldn't say no to the director. And it's not always as flagrant as Louis C.K. masturbating in front of an up-and-coming comedian, or Harvey Weinstein forcing himself on actresses in hotel rooms.

But it's important to remember that you can always firmly put your foot down and say no. While speaking at The Hollywood Reporter's annual Actress Roundtable, Jennifer Lopez opened up about her experiences with a director who behaved inappropriately. Laura Dern, Awkwafina, Scarlett Johansson, Lupita Nyong'o, and Renee Zellweger were also at the roundtable.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Life for a shelter dog, even if it's a comfortable shelter administered by the ASPCA with as many amenities as can be afforded, is still not the same as having the comfort and safety of a forever home. Professional violinist Martin Agee knows that and that's why he volunteers himself and his instrument to help.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

Believe
True
Macy's