LEBANON, Pa. — Their special day wasn't anything like Heather Miller and Brian Neff had envisioned.
On Saturday, Miller and Neff, a couple from Fredericksburg, became husband and wife in a simple ceremony in a conference room outside the intensive care unit at Good Samaritan Hospital.
That's where Miller has been undergoing treatment for bone cancer.
"I didn't think this would ever happen," the 37-year-old Miller said Friday, a day before the ceremony. "I get to marry the man of my dreams."
Hospital and Good Samaritan Hospice staff convinced Miller that she and Neff could get married inside the hospital, Dr. Neenos Al-Noor, her oncologist, said before Saturday's ceremony.
With the help of several businesses, family, friends and staff, the wedding ceremony came together in two days.
The couple had set an Aug. 16 wedding date before Miller fell ill. They chose to get married this weekend because of her worsening condition.
As a recording of George Strait's "I Cross My Heart" played, Miller's father, John, pushed his daughter in her hospital bed down a hallway to the conference room for the ceremony. The hallway was lined by more than two dozen well-wishers, including hospital and hospice staff. Some of them wiped tears from their eyes as she passed by.
Lloyd Deitzler of Jonestown, from the Open Door Mission Church in East Petersburg, performed the ceremony. Deitzler is a cousin to Heather Miller's mother, Rene Miller.
Ten weeks ago, Miller woke up with what she called "the worst pain" she had ever felt in her lower back. Initially, she thought she had pulled a muscle. Several days later, she went to her doctor, who gave her medication for muscle spasms.
"That night I screamed all night long," she recalled.
The next day, Miller ended up at Good Samaritan Hospital, and a doctor there also thought she was suffering from muscle spasms.
But the pain became worse.
"The pain was that bad I didn't want to get up," she said, noting she would have preferred to be struck by a bus than suffer the pain that wracked her body.
An X-ray and ultrasound didn't give doctors a clear image of what was causing her pain.
Then, eight weeks ago, her doctor ordered an MRI, which revealed a mass in her back. Her doctor told her the mass was cancerous and that Miller had an aggressive form of bone cancer that was not curable.
By that time, she said, the pain led her to scream and cry at the top of her lungs.
"It hurt that bad," said Miller, who had worked as a receptionist before her illness.
As Miller talked Friday about the ceremony, she thanked the hospital staff who prepared their wedding and several local businesses that donated items for the ceremony.
Enchanted Evening in North Cornwall Township provided a wedding dress for Miller, and Leitzel's Jewelry in Myerstown donated the wedding bands. Sweet Sensations in Lebanon donated a wedding cake, while Central PA Tuxedo in Lancaster provided the tuxedos. Smith's Candies in Myerstown offered candy.
Other businesses chipped in as well. Giant Food Store donated gift cards, Kentucky Fried Chicken provided food, and Blue Heron Flowers and Unique Gifts in Lebanon donated flowers for the ceremony.
"They made my dream come true," Miller said.
Miller said she is also thankful for the hospital staff and nurses who have cared for her.
"The whole staff has been absolutely wonderful," she added.
Miller and Neff met through a friend about five years ago. For Neff, it was love at sight, but it took a little while for Miller to fall in love, she said.
Neff was going through a rough time in his life — a divorce — when the couple met, he recalled. She helped him through that, and the two became the best of friends.Comment on this story
Miller credited Neff, her father and her mother for giving her strength in her battle with her cancer.
William Mulligan, vice president of strategic planning and marketing at Good Samaritan Hospital, said he is unaware of any other weddings in the hospital during the seven years he has been with the hospital.
"It's an unusual circumstance," he said. "We're so glad we're able to come together and help the family."
Information from: Lebanon Daily News, http://www.ldnews.com