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Cancer Patient Walked Down The Aisle By Her Cancer Doctors

By: Grace Liu

On June 11, 2023, two cancer doctors walked their former patient, Sheri Shaw-James, 70, down the aisle at her wedding in North Carolina. “Without them and their hard work, there might not have been a wedding to celebrate,” Shaw-James said. “I am here today because of God and because of them.”

In February 2021, Shaw-James was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the rectum, a rare malignancy. “Cancer was the last thing on my mind because I’d recently had a normal colonoscopy,” said Shaw-James, a retired high-risk obstetrics nurse. “It was shocking to get such a serious diagnosis.”

Shaw-James had just started a relationship with Bill James, 77. But after her diagnosis, she decided to break up with Bill so he could “ be free to do all the things he wanted to do and move on with his life.”

Bill refused to break up with her though. “I wanted to be there to support her through it, no matter how long it took,” he said.

Shaw-James decided to get treatment at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. After 48 hours, the doctors discovered she had Stage 3 cancer, and they developed a treatment plan.

It was during one long treatment days that Shaw-James started sharing her fears with her radiation doctor, Emma B. Holliday. Not many people were around, and Holliday seemed kind, so the two became friends. They shared stories of their children and grandchildren.

Something similar happened with Shaw-James’s other doctor, Van Karlyle Morris. Shaw-James was adopted when she was an infant, and told Morris that she had recently started to search for her biological family. Morris became excited for her, and asked questions and cheered her on.

Shaw-James and her doctors shared a very strong bond. “When I was feeling nauseous and weak and could barely eat and hardly walk, they were always there to offer encouragement and hope,” she said. “We became partners in getting through it.”

After two months of treatment, Shaw-James rang the hospital bell to celebrate, and at her next appointment, in June 2021, she was declared cancer free.

James proposed to Shaw-James in January 2023. As the couple made wedding plans, Shaw-James wanted her two doctors to walk her down the aisle. “When she asked me, I definitely teared up,” Holliday said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever been invited to participate in a patient’s wedding.”

On June 11, Shaw-James got married with Holliday and Morris right by her side. Shaw-James said she felt triumphant, battle scars and all. “It took a lot to reach this moment, but I didn’t do it alone,” she said. “I’ll feel a special connection with the people who gave me a second chance for the rest of my life.”

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