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Doctors Walk Cancer Patient Down the Aisle at Wedding

By: Eva Luo

On her wedding day, Sheri Shaw-James was given away by her doctors: Emma B. Holliday, and Van Karlyle Morris. As she was married to Bill James, she felt that she came a long way from the start of her journey from illness to health, and truly has.

Sheri Shaw-James, a retired nurse, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), an uncommon malignancy, or cancer. This was shocking since she recently had a normal colonoscopy, but she had rectal bleeding. SCC forms at the lower end of the intestines, and symptoms include bowel habit pain, weight loss, and rectal bleeding.

While her doctors said she had nothing to worry about, she pressed for more tests, and found that she had cancer. Shaw-James decided to seek treatment at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Bill James accompanied her to Houston, and through her battle against rectal cancer.

James and Shaw-James first met online, then began dating a month later. When Shaw-James got her cancer diagnosis, she wanted to break up with him because she knew that if he stayed with her, James wouldn’t be able to fulfill his dreams of traveling. “I told her, ‘No, I’m not going anywhere.’ I wanted to be there to support her through it, no matter how long it took,” said James.

In Houston, they checked into the Ballard House, a free family housing complex for people undergoing long-term medical treatments. The next day, Shaw-James did testing. Within 48 hours, they found she had Stage 3 cancer. The staff also developed a treatment plan for Shaw-James. She received radiation and two types of chemotherapy, one that lasted 24 hours a day, five days a week, and a separate weekly chemotherapy infusion.

It was during Shaw-James’ treatment that James fell in love with her. “Little did I know that our friendship and our love would actually blossom during cancer treatment,” said Shaw-James. Every morning, Shaw-James would go to the cancer center, and go back to the Ballard House around 7-8:00pm. “Sheri was exhausted, but she was also determined. That’s when I really fell in love with her. She was so incredibly courageous and wouldn’t give up,” explained James.

During her days at the center, Shaw-James started to talk to Emma B. Holliday, her radiation oncologist, they soon became friends. The same happened with her other oncologist, Van Karlyle Morris. On June 5, 2021, Shaw-James was declared cancer-free, and James proposed to her in January 2023.

As they made plans for the wedding, Shaw-James requested her two doctors to walk her down the aisle. “When she asked me, I definitely teared up,” Dr. Holliday said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever been invited to participate in a patient’s wedding.” Dr. Morris also happily accepted, and on June 11th, 2023 the doctors walked Shaw-James down the aisle to wed James.

After the wedding, Shaw-James stated, “It took a lot to reach this moment, but I didn’t do it alone. 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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