A terminally ill bride-to-be refused to let a rare type of incurable cancer stop her from marrying the love of her life.
In hospice, surrounded by loved ones, Madisonville, Tennessee, resident Ronda Bivens married the father of her two young children Thursday in an impromptu service organized by family and friends.
“She wanted to have a beautiful wedding, and I wanted to give her that,” Ronda’s husband, Matt Mager, told HuffPost.
Ronda’s best friend, Amanda Dalton, was among those who helped organize the nuptials.
“It was friends calling friends, getting everything together,” said Dalton, who helped get Ronda into a donated wedding dress. “We called the county clerk’s office ― they sent someone out ― and we got a preacher. It happened literally within a couple hours once we got it rolling.”
Ronda’s wedding day, which was also her 28th birthday, came after more than a year of chemotherapy, radiation and the amputation of her right leg, with Matt all the while by her side.
“He is like one of a kind,” said Dalton. “He’s been there nonstop for her since the beginning. He loves her unconditionally. That’s the truth.”
Doctors in February 2016 diagnosed a lump on Ronda’s ankle as epithelioid sarcoma, a rare type of a cancer that affects only 1 in 2.5 million people. Unfortunately, doctors years earlier had misdiagnosed the lump ― first as tendinitis and then as a torn tendon, Matt said.
Ronda’s doctors amputated her leg in May 2016, but by then the cancer had spread to her lungs.
“They told us right off the bat there was no cure,” Matt said. “They said, ‘We can just do what helps.’ But everything they’ve done has just made it worse. It’s financially wrecked us, and I’ve had a front row seat to my best friend dying. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s very emotional.”
Because epithelioid sarcoma is so rare, it’s not a disease doctors were aware of until the 1970s, and even today many doctors are reportedly not as familiar with it as perhaps they should be.
In an online post after her diagnosis, Ronda urged anyone who comes across a lump or bump to take it seriously.
“Never in a million years would I or anyone else thought this would be cancer but it is,” she wrote. “So please everyone, if you find a bump of any sort go to the doctor. Go to a bunch of doctors for second opinions. Maybe if I did, instead of believing all these other misdiagnoses, things would be different.”
When her condition worsened last week, Ronda was admitted to the intensive care unit at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, where the couple received devastating news: Her cancer had spread to her brain.
“The doctor told us they found a tumor on her brain and the cancer had basically taken over her lungs,” Matt said. “They said the left lung had stopped…