Stacy and her friends were tailgating at a May 2007 NASCAR race in Virginia when the rain hit. Not a big deal-they had a tent. But the nice group of people they'd been chatting with a couple of trucks away were getting soaked.
"We invited them under our tent," remembers Stacy, who then lived in Galloway Township, N.J., and was a casino host in the marketing department at the Borgata.
Jared lived in Manheim, Lancaster County, and was then a machinery operator for a construction company. He generally watched NASCAR from the comfort of his couch, but when a friend had an extra ticket, Jared was up for the trip south.
Both Jared and Stacy like to talk. They took a few steps away from their rowdier friends and perched themselves on Stacy's car bumper, beneath the open hatch door.
"She was easy to talk to, and I think it's important that two people can talk openly to each other about things," Jared said.
Stacy handed Jared her card before they parted. They began talking for hours every day. During one such phone call about a month after they met, Stacy heard a knock on the door. "I opened the door and he was standing there!" she said.
Stacy, who is now 43, and Jared, now 27, never went on fancy dates. Sometimes, Stacy and Timber, a Lab/chow mix, would pile into the car and drive west. "We rented a lot of movies," Jared said.
When Jared rode his motorcycle east, his request was always Papa John's, since there aren't any near him. And there was plenty of beach time.
Within six months, she had met his parents, Gary and Lynne, and he met her mother and stepfather, JoAnn and Bernie. Stacy's father, James, died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma when she was 19.
The couple's comfortable routine ended on September 11, 2008.
"A guy I was working with . . . asked me a question about who services our dump truck," Jared remembered. "I looked at him with a blank stare on my face. I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn't say it."
It took about five minutes before Jared's speech came back. A week later, he was at lunch with colleagues when he went to say something and couldn't. He excused himself to go back to the truck and tried to read a list of names out loud. He couldn't do that, either.
Stacy and Jared's mother were done with him waiting to see what happened and made him a doctor's appointment. The doctor wasn't taking chances, either. He ordered an MRI.
At 23 years old, Jared was told he had a brain tumor. Days later, a surgeon said "there was nothing he could do, and if Jared was his son or nephew, he'd advise him to go home and live for the next few months," Stacy said.
"He wrote me off," said Jared.
But an oncologist from Lancaster referred Jared to his current team at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.
In January 2009, Jared had 9 1/2 hours of surgery to remove the anaplastic astrocytoma. The surgical team woke him periodically to make sure they weren't harming the speech center of his brain.
The surgery went well. Chemotherapy and radiation treatments followed, and what was left of the tumor-which may have been just surgical scar tissue-remained stable.
But after a year, Jared's doctors stopped the treatment over concern that it would damage his organs.
On November 23, 2010 - the night of his birthday - Jared had a grand mal seizure. The tumor had started growing again.
Jared's doctors got him into a drug study. In the roughly two years since, the tumor has not returned. He was exhausted for the first six months, he said. Now, his muscles ache sometimes if he tries to do too much, and "I bruise like a peach," but he is otherwise good.
Jared has been cleared to return to work, but because he must travel to Maryland three weekdays every month, finding work has been hard.
Stacy took leaves of absence from her casino job when Jared had surgery and needed help. In 2009, she left her job and moved to Lancaster County. She now works for a swimming pool construction company, running the store and scheduling maintenance for customers.
How does forever sound?
One year for Christmas, Jared gave Stacy a snow globe. "Believe, and all things are possible," it says along the bottom.
In December 2011, Jared decided to re-gift Stacy with the same snow globe.
It's a tradition in Jared's family that one gift may be opened Christmas Eve, and that night, Jared encouraged Stacy to pick a box. She picked her snow globe, which now bore the inscription: "Will you marry me? A. Yes. B. No."
"Yes, of course!" Stacy said, and started hugging him.
"Are you going to look for the other thing, or not?" Jared teased.
Stacy had forgotten all about a ring until he prompted her. She found it at the bottom of the box.
Christmas was Stacy's father's favorite time of year.
"I didn't get to meet her father," Jared said. "But this is something she and I can share."
It was so them
Nurses and doctors have frequently called Stacy Mrs. Forry.
"One day, I stuck up my hand and said, 'I don't have a ring yet!'" Stacy said.
The nurse told Stacy if she and Jared ever decided to get married, they should look into Wish Upon a Wedding.
Through that organization, wedding service providers give a wedding to couples who are dealing with a terminal illness or have lived through life-altering events. The national organization was founded in 2010, the Philadelphia chapter shortly thereafter.
Stacy applied a few days after they were engaged.
"When dealing with medical situations like Jared's, a wedding is typically the first thing to get pushed aside," said Wish Upon a Wedding Philadelphia founding board member Rebecca Richman of Queen of Hearts Weddings. "Stacy and Jared made so many sacrifices throughout the last few years as they've been dealing with Jared's medical issues and we didn't want their wedding and that special commitment to each other to be another sacrifice that they would have to make."
The couple met with Wish Upon a Wedding Philadelphia founding president Mark Kingsdorf, also of Queen of Hearts, and board member Mark Moore, a physician who verified Jared's medical information.
Stacy and Jared said they love water and the ocean. "I'm a shark nut," Stacy said. She and planner Joelene Museousky Russell of In Your Shoes Event Design discussed other details-including the bright coral color Stacy wanted to use-through Facebook.
The wedding and reception for 47 was at Adventure Aquarium in Camden.
This didn't happen at rehearsal
Toward the end of the reception, Jared and Stacy stepped outside the aquarium for some fresh air, and gorgeous fireworks shot from across the river lit the sky. "It couldn't have been planned any better, and we had nothing to do with it," Jared said.
Stacy and Jared, who now live in Mount Joy, are always together, so the 12 hours or so they spent apart between the rehearsal dinner and their wedding felt very strange. "It was the hardest part," Stacy said.
But it also added to the joy she felt when she was walking up to Jared, whose back was turned in anticipation for the big reveal. "Seeing him for the first time, and him seeing me, it was like, 'OK, this is real now,' " Stacy said.
The couple's wedding guests found stones on their seats. Chaplain Patrick Anthony had collected them from the river, Jared said. After the ceremony, the chaplain led everyone to the railing alongside the aquarium that overlooks the Delaware. He said the little ripples made when everyone threw their stones would form one big ripple, and this was like the community of friends and family standing together for the couple's happiness. He counted to three, and everyone tossed their stones.
Eight days in Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic.
BEHIND THE SCENES
The following goods and services were donated through Wish Upon A Wedding Philadelphia:
Chaplain Patrick Anthony,
an ordained, nondenominational officiant serving south
New Jersey, North Delaware and Philadelphia.
Adventure Aquarium Events and Catering, Camden
Lindsay Docherty Photography, Philadelphia
Blossom Productions, Philadelphia
Ceremony: Shawstrings, West Chester. Reception: Synergetic Sound and Lighting, Bensalem
Eventions Productions, Aston
Rose Garden Florist, Barnegat Township, N.J.
Ciao Bella Cakes, Hatboro
Hair Event, Haddonfield
Amazing Times Photo Booths, Kennett Square
A1 Limo, Princeton
Little Woman Design, Philadelphia
In Your Shoes Event Design, Philadelphia
DO YOU HAVE THE DATE?
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