As Ena Raaymakers flutters her eyes opens, she feels her sister brushing her long, golden locks making sure the delicate veil sits perfectly a top her head. Today is Ena’s wedding day, but it’s a far cry from the way she pictured it as a little girl.
Instead of wearing a tux and tails, before her, the man of her dreams stands in shorts and flip-flops. His hair slicked back with hairspray and gel from a gift shop a few doors down and in his pocket sits a ring he purchased that afternoon at the local Wal-Mart.
She too is not dressed as one would imagine a blushing bride. She does not slip into a long, white dress made of satin and lace. Instead, her gown is a cotton blend with an open back and thin halter-style straps to secure to hold it securely around the neck.
Ena is a patient at Moffitt Cancer Center and she is preparing to say her vows in room 202 of the Intensive Care Center.
At 27, Ena was looking forward to marrying her fiancé Steven Ballinger in April 2017. Everything was on track for her dream wedding until she developed a bad cough shortly before Valentine’s Day. Ena worked in healthcare and decided to seek treatment for what she thought was pneumonia. After spending more than a week in the hospital a test revealed that the mass on her lungs was actually cancer and she was transferred to Moffitt Cancer Center.
Ena collapsed after arriving at Moffitt and the medical team admitted her to the Intensive Care Unit in critical condition. Steven called their priest and set about getting the marriage certificate. He even arranged for Ena’s sister to get the veil and wedding band she was looking forward to wearing at their spring wedding. Steven grabbed a decent shirt from the back of his truck, rushed to the Walmart to buy his ring and stopped by Moffitt’s gift shop on the way back to the ICU for hair products to look his best for his beloved.
Ena and Steven said, "I do," before friends, family and their priest, with the vow to care for each other in sickness and in health taking on a more powerful meaning.
Doctors believe the cancer on Ena’s lung is a secondary cancer that spread from a different tumor. She is undergoing chemotherapy while doctors develop a plan of action. The couple still plans to have a more formal wedding on April 24, 2017, but will always celebrate Feb. 17 as the day they said, "I do," in Moffitt’s ICU.