(NEW YORK) — When any couple gets married, there’s a certain element of unknown about the future.
For Caylee and Joey Renick, that uncertainty is magnified. The 23-year-olds met when they were 10 at a camp for kids with cancer and their siblings called Camp His Kids.
Joey, who was diagnosed at 3 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), is in remission from ALL and is currently recovering from a bone marrow transplant.
Caylee’s sister, Taylor, also had cancer.
“If we let Joey being sick get in the way of getting married, I wouldn’t have the life I have now,” Caylee told ABC News.
It’s been a long road from their days as campers to their wedding on a Florida beach one month ago. In that time, the couple has repeatedly faced down adversity. Joey’s cancer has returned twice. The couple had to cancel their initial wedding plans and Joey has had to put his career plans to become a nurse on hold. Taylor died in 2008 when she was 16 years old.
But on May 14 in Seacrest, Florida, the couple wed before their families and closest friends — including their 4-year-old nephew Thomas, himself recently diagnosed with ALL. Caylee said she knew Taylor, “was watching” as the families gathered for the beach ceremony.
Over the years the couple maintained a friendship and texted often. It was when Joey’s cancer came back just before his 18th birthday in 2011 that the relationship reached another level.
“I couldn’t drive, so Caylee came to pick me up. We went for ice cream and then Starbucks. We stayed there for hours talking until they closed the store,” Joey Renick said.
“I was sitting there saying things I’ve never said out loud, how I felt about my sister passing away,” said Caylee Renick. “I knew I wanted a relationship with him.”
That first year, when Joey was at his sickest, was hard for them both.
“Joey was being treated at the same hospital my sister was treated at and many of the doctors and nurses were the same,” she said. “It brought back a lot of memories of the time Taylor was sick.”
They spent the majority of the first year of their courtship in the hospital.
“When we started dating she was phenomenal and I liked her so much,” Joey said. “I did not want my baggage to be put on her, but it made me realize she could handle this and she was there for me.”
The couple got engaged and a few months later, Joey was diagnosed again. They had to cancel the wedding they had planned.
While Joey was sick, a woman named Gail Marchbanks from an organization called Kellsie’s Hope asked Joey what he wanted. “I want to marry Caylee,” he said.
And so the planning began for the wedding in Florida — a special place to Caylee’s family. It was the last place they vacationed as a family before Taylor died.
Nicole Richardson of Sandprints Photography was there to capture the event.
“Working with Caylee & Joey was incredible,” she told ABC News. “All wedding days are important but I knew I needed to make certain that I captured memories for the entire family. Group photos were just as important as the bride and groom images. I feel blessed to have been just a small part of their incredible journey.”
It was picturing the big day that got the couple through Joey’s relapse and bone marrow transplant.
“I saw Caylee and she was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. It was in that moment, on the beach with our family and closest friends that it all hit me. Just one year ago, I didn’t know if I would make it. And now I was marrying this woman who had literally been with me through the best and worst times of my life,” he said.
The couple hopes to someday start a family. Joey is currently in remission and recovering from his bone marrow transplant well. He hopes to resume his plans for a nursing career in the fall.
“I hope he can use our story to give others hope,” Caylee said. “Out of hard times, good things can come.”
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