Cancer patient exchanges wedding vows at hospital

Michelle Cox was diagnosed with leukemia in May

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In sickness and in health is something most newlyweds hear. Michelle Cox, who on a drizzly afternoon was sitting on a hospital bed with her soon-to-be husband, Gary Black, at her side, already knows a thing or two about the sickness part. But she was optimistic Wednesday.

“It’s good luck to have rain on your wedding day,” she said.

Before the 20-year-old was diagnosed on May 10 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, she and Black planned to have their wedding in July. Soon after she started chemotherapy, however, she decided to have the wedding Wednesday night instead, at the small chapel at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Patient weddings in the hospital isn't something that occurs too often, spokesman Tom Moore said.

Cox, who has been in the hospital for 23 days, said the chemotherapy treatments left her exhausted and she wanted the official ceremony sooner than later.

“I know this is kind of morbid, but if anything does happen to me, then [my husband] does have a right over me as well,” she said. “So I decided I might as well get it done.”

Varun Monga, a staff physician in internal medicine and Cox’s doctor, said though it’s early, so far she has responded well to her treatment.

The couple’s family and friends crowded into the small hospital chapel and watched as the bride, wearing a deep crimson dress with a purple bouquet in her hand, was escorted down the aisle by her father, Gary Cox. For him and the bride’s mother, Penny Cox, the day is a testament to their daughter’s strength.

“One moment we’re planning her wedding and the next moment we’re planning for her life,” Penny Cox said.

The bride knew it wasn’t her perfect wedding. Her three bridesmaids weren’t beside her at the Riverside Festival Stage in City Park. There were no lilies and baby’s breath and no three-tiered wedding cake with a lemon flavor – the couple’s favorite -- on top.

But a “big event” will be held in the fall or spring, whenever the bride is healthy enough for the couple to redo their vows. The two already booked almost everything for the wedding and the vendors had been gracious to reschedule when her health improved.

After saying their vows, the newlyweds celebrated in the hospital cafeteria with lemon cake, fruit punch, and a little dancing.

“I’m very proud for the both of them,” said Joan Black, mother of the groom. “I hope they have a hell of a party in the spring.”

The groom said it’s been tough for the two, but he’s done his best to be there for his now-wife.

“I guess I don’t look at this as support. I look at this as what needs to happen so I can have my wife and my kids some day and have her come home and be in my arms,” the 21-year-old said.

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