Community Helps Couple Get Their Dream Wedding After Cancer Journey: 'She Stuck by Me,' Says Groom
Holly and Eric Genzen, of Des Moines, Iowa, had only been dating for a year when Eric was diagnosed with skin cancer.
“I thought she would bail out, but she didn’t. She stuck by me through some horrible treatments,” Eric says of Holly.
Adds Holly: “It was a shock … It was hard.”
Eric, now 36, was diagnosed with melanoma in 2011. As he endured medical treatments — including prescriptions and painful surgeries — over the years, the couple’s future took a back seat as they focused on Eric’s health.
Eric has two children from his previous relationship and the couple welcomed a daughter, Lillian (now 5). However, any talk of nuptials was put on hold when doctors found an inoperable tumor on Eric’s windpipe in 2014.
“When we found out he had the tumor in his chest that was inoperable, that diagnosis hit me harder than the first one,” Holly, 30, says. Eric’s health continued to decline and in 2017, doctors found three tumors in his brain.
Despite the uncertainty of his future, Eric knew he wanted to marry Holly, and they became engaged in November 2017.
“I came to the realization that my entire journey, I hadn’t made alone,” Eric tells PEOPLE. “She had given me her everything through it. She hadn’t even missed a scan. During recovery [from brain surgery], I began realizing a lot of things I was taking for granted. She was fighting for my life as hard as I was and I was being so selfish in not seeing that. I desperately wanted to dedicate what I had left in my life to fulfilling things she wanted in hers.”
The couple originally planned to have a simple “courthouse wedding,” but as members of the community learned of Holly and Eric’s impending nuptials, they all wanted to pitch in to give them a dream wedding.
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Community members donated the wedding cake, photography services, hair and makeup, and DJ services. Holly and Eric were even able to book their wedding venue and purchase flowers at a discounted price. Family members even set up a GoFundMe page for the couple.
They wed on April 28 in a ceremony Holly says was “perfect.”
“It all came together perfectly in my eyes,” Holly says. “We just basically had a big party to celebrate our love and to celebrate [Eric] still being here with everyone.”
Holly and Eric say they haven’t been able to go on their honeymoon yet as doctors are still concerned about a tumor in his brain. But the pair says the tumor in Eric’s chest is gone.
“We’ve been together for so long and have been through so much,” Holly says.