In the 1990s, Joel Alsup and Lindsey Wilkerson were patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — him with a bone tumor, and her with acute lymphoblastic lymphoma. Decades later, the cancer survivors have tied the knot at the Memphis, Tennessee, hospital where their friendship began.
“I think it’s difficult for us to understand the significance of our story because, to us, it’s just our lives,” Joel tells PEOPLE. “I got to marry the love of my life, and I hope everyone can do that. If there is any significance we hope our story has, is that it lets families and kids battling cancer know that there is life after.”
Joel, 38, and 37-year-old Lindsey (now Wilkerson Alsup) wed on Sept. 1 on the St. Jude campus, marking a milestone in a love story that was more than 20 years in the making.
“The wedding was amazing! There were lots of happy tears. To know that just a few hundred feet from where we said ‘I do’ was literally where our lives were saved meant so much,” Joel gushes.
“Lindsey’s primary physician at St. Jude did a reading. Our officiant was our chaplain at St. Jude. It was beautiful and amazing to see the people and think of the events that got us to that day.”
Joel was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at 7 years old and underwent chemotherapy before having his right arm amputated. And Lindsey was just 10 when she was diagnosed with leukemia.
During their time at St. Jude, the two then-kids became close, but lost touch as they got older — Joel went to college in Tennessee and Lindsey headed to Arkansas.
Eventually, they both found their way back to the place where they had formed an early bond. Both began working with the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), St. Jude’s fundraising and awareness organization.
The love birds say they immediately knew that their friendship would turn into something more.
“I think we always felt something for each other — it just took me forever to say something,” Joel says.
Lindsey adds: “I never imagined that my childhood crush and then best friend would ever become my husband. We’ve had the blessing of growing up together, finding a deep and loving friendship that led to finding our forever love in each other. I’m so thankful for every moment with him.”
Now, the Alsups credit St. Jude for their life together, and say they look forward to sharing their lives as survivors.
“We’re looking forward to every moment together,” Joel tells PEOPLE. “From family trips to quiet nights at home, everything will be amazing because there was a time when we our futures weren’t so clear.
He says, “Every day with each other is a gift, and we’re so excited to see what adventures await!”