Eryn Holl's dad, Steve, was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was in the middle of planning her wedding. The prognosis was devastating -- less than one-third of patients with Steve's form of glioblastoma survive a year.
She and then-fiance Ryan King were living in Virginia, but when she got the news, Eryn left her job and spent much of her time in California with her parents, all while continuing preparations for her marriage -- and never once giving in to the idea of not having her father there.
But the outlook wasn't always sunny. As CNN reported
, Steve's cancer is in the same family as Ted Kennedy's fatal tumor, a type in which cancer cells can linger inside the brain after the tumor is removed and grow back, usually within a few weeks.
Knowing that, the Holls elected to try a potentially risky experimental treatment
that involves removing the tumor and using cells from it to create a vaccine. Steve received the first of 14 doses last February and, last month -- on Aug. 21 -- was able to dance at his daughter's wedding.
When we heard that, we teared up -- and promptly got in touch with Eryn to hear the whole story. "We knew that this was really his only option at beating the disease," she told Lemondrop. And they were right. After the jump, all the happy details. Better grab your Kleenex.
Despite the grim prognosis, Eryn says she and Ryan never considered postponing the wedding. "We asked his surgeons -- both said to keep the Aug. 21 date because it was important for my dad to have something to look forward to," she explains. "If anything, we might have moved it up. Through this journey we have learned to not wait for second chances."
But they did keep her father's condition in mind while planning. "We had the DJ play the music at a lower tone than normal, and we also paid to have the limo waiting at the reception in case my dad needed to go back to the hotel to rest," she says. "I really didn't know how he was going to be feeling by the time the wedding day rolled around, but the minute I saw him, his face lit up. I could see just how proud he was to be my father and to be there to give me away."
On the day she was to wed Ryan, in a beautiful chapel in Monterey, Calif., she rode to the church in the limo, with her dad by her side. Sitting side by side holding hands, she said, was one of her favorite moments of her big day. "I felt like his little girl," she says, "and I had my dad back. Best. Feeling. Ever."
When the doors of the chapel opened, there wasn't a dry eye in the place. During the ceremony, Eryn and her Ryan recited their own Prayers of the Faithful they'd written -- including one for her dad and one for the UCSF medical team who had treated him.
At the reception, the first dance was to "Fathers & Daughters," by Paul Simon. "If you have never heard it, you must," says Eryn. And, in lieu of traditional wedding favors, she and Ryan made donations to the American Cancer Society in their guest's names.
Then the newlyweds and their entire families -- Steve included -- proceeded to dance the night away.
"My dad and I also share a special bond," says Eryn. "As far as I am concerned, I couldn't have ever asked for a better man as my father. He has taught me so much about life. Now when I see his strength to endure all that he has been through, I am in awe."
Steve, a biologist who studies bighorn sheep, said he's hoping for another 20 years with his daughter. Meanwhile, a now-married Eryn has a lifetime of happiness to look forward to.
Image courtesy of John Remus III.