NASHVILLE — With just weeks to live, a terminally ill cancer patient got his dying wish: He married the love of his life.
Chris Ford and Nicole Wismer, 22, planned to wed in October, but doctors told the couple that Ford, 26, might not live that long.
“When the doctor told us, it was Nicole and I sitting in there, and Nicole just looked at Chris and said, ‘You still want to marry me, don’t you?’ ” recalled Amy Ford, Chris’ mother.
Chris Ford had been struggling with cancer for about a year. Not long after Nicole gave birth to Chris’ son, Tristan, he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the mouth and throat.
At the time, he was given an 80% chance of survival, his mother said. The Philadelphia native decided to move his family to LaVergne, Tenn., to live with his mother while he received treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center here.
“During the course of his treatment, his tumors continued to grow and grow. They also grew into his lungs and some of his other organs, said Amy Ford, tears rolling down her cheeks. “About a month ago, he was diagnosed as terminal.”
Wismer told her fiancé that they had to get married “now or never.”
But mounting medical bills and the cost of care left the couple with little money for a wedding. Undeterred, an army of volunteers from the nonprofit Nashville Chive, one of about 200 chapters worldwide that originally started as a meetup group, jumped into action.
“It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together. It doesn’t matter the circumstances; it shouldn’t matter. I love him too much (to walk away),” said the newly married Nicole Ford as she sat on a couch after the wedding, held Sunday at a donated venue.
Chris Ford’s mother and his fiancée juggled wedding plans with hospice visits and doctor appointments for Chris.
“It’s been a fast thing. We had to make it happen,” Amy Ford said. “That’s what she wanted. That’s what he wanted.”
Everything fell into place quickly.
“People we never even knew contacted us,” Chris Ford’s mom said. “We had DJs … photographers, videographers, people offering to cook, florists, our cakes. … The guy who owns City Liquors in LaVergne called and said, ‘What do you need?’ ”
Family members came down from Philadelphia for the wedding. The wedding officiant, a member of the Atlanta Chive group, drove up to perform the ceremony.
Although Chris Ford constantly needs supplemental oxygen and can’t stand for long periods, he sat patiently waiting for his bride. A pain patch was barely visible behind his ear.