Catherine Holm had bought a shimmering dress and a plane ticket to her son's wedding in Puerto Rico before doctors gave her the bad news: she couldn't travel from New York because she was suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Flying would be too much of a risk for her compromised immune system from the cancer, doctors told the 58-year-old woman from Long Island's North Babylon when she was diagnosed in March.
But nurses at the bone marrow transplant unit at Stony Brook University Hospital, where she'd spend weeks, decided the party would go on, so they organized a wedding in the hospital's chapel.
"I'm overwhelmed, that people would do things like this," Holm said in tears Monday. "I'll never forget what they've done for me and my family."
Christina Wood, a fellow patient, served as unofficial wedding planner.
"I think it's absolutely amazing that they got to have the wedding here because there was no other option," she said.
Mark Jr. and Joanna said their vows in a small ceremony.
There were no wedding gifts, only a request from the family: for people to get tested and join the bone-marrow registry, a simple process that could keep this family together in sickness and in health.
"Only 2 percent of our nation is on the registry right now, and it's incredibly for us to join in," said nurse Maggie Knight.
Each year, about 6,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALL, a fast-growing cancer of a type of white blood cells, according to Stony Brook University Hospital. It's the most common type of leukemia in children under 15, but it can affect people of any age. Only 3 in 10 patients get a bone marrow transplant that could save their lives.
Without a match, the Holm family knows the odds are not on her side.
"My mom means a lot," Mark said while overcome with emotion.
To find out more on how to be a bone marrow donor, visit deletebloodcancer.org.