Bells will soon be ringing in St. Louis for this very special couple.
Photo Credit: Signature Studio Creative Photography
At first glance Danielle, 19 and Tony, 20 of St. Louis, MO look like any young couple in love. He has a tousled mop of auburn hair and a boyish grin. She has sparkling eyes and a warm smile. But they are not like most couples their age.
Danielle was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis more than 16 years ago at the age of three. It was just two years before she and Tony met in their kindergarten class. “ I knew when I met him we would be friends for a long time,” said Danielle. And she was right.
Throughout the years, the two kept in touch and remained close friends, despite moving to separate cities. “We talked at least once every week,” she said. “We would chat over the phone and communicate on-line.” Danielle moved back to St. Louis in 2005 due to her illness. She began to see Tony with a greater frequency. In 2008, shortly after Danielle received a double lung transplant, the couple began dating. “The transplant was such an emotional time and we had been such close friends. It was then I realized he was the one.”
Recently, Danielle’s disease has begun to progress once again. Despite the transplant, her condition continues to worsen. Her body is rejecting her donor lungs. This summer, doctors determined Danielle has less than six months to live. But that doesn’t matter to Tony. He asked Danielle to marry him on August 9, 2010.
“He came to visit me that day at the hospital,” said Danielle. “He just got down on his knee and proposed, with my great grandmother’s ring.” She, of course, said yes. “We’ve been through everything together. From setting up my first oxygen tank to laying on my deathbed, going through a terminal illness together makes you realize your strength as a couple.”
Now in a matter of weeks, Danielle will gently walk down the aisle with her father by her side, in a ceremony provided by Wish Upon a Wedding. Her sisters Samantha and Paige, as well as best friends Megan, Jessica and Sam, will serve as bridesmaids. Her blonde hair will frame her delicate face, her dress will be beautiful, and her family and friends will be in attendance. Her ever-present oxygen tank will probably be there too, but no one will notice. All eyes will be fixated on this young woman in love and about to get married. There won’t be a dry eye in the room.
At the end of the white-silk aisle will be Tony, the childhood classmate who has grown into the man of her dreams. A handsome young man, mature beyond his years, and the one who has been there to love and support her throughout her disease, almost from the very beginning. “That’s the thing I admire most about him,” said Danielle. “His compassion toward others.”
Danielle, like most young brides, doesn’t really know exactly what her future holds. But one thing she knows for certain. “September 1, 2010 will be a special day. It’s the day that I am going to marry my best friend.”