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Terminal illnesses lead families to focus on making wedding dreams come true

Published: Monday, Aug. 5 2013 11:10 a.m. MDT

In July, Jen Bulik, 35, who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, married her longtime partner, Jeff Lang, in San Francisco after a wedding planner used her connections to create Bulik's dream wedding. (Facebook) In July, Jen Bulik, 35, who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, married her longtime partner, Jeff Lang, in San Francisco after a wedding planner used her connections to create Bulik's dream wedding. (Facebook)

Christine Swidorsky and Sean Stevenson of Jeanette, Pa., smiled as they exchanged vows during a simple backyard ceremony Saturday. But the traditionally "happy day" was be bittersweet for the couple.

Swidorsky wasn't escorted by her father; rather the best man fulfilled the traditional role. So, Swidorsky made her way down the aisle cradling a tiny, bald child — Logan, the couple's 2-year-old son, who only has weeks to live.

Logan was born with a rare genetic disease called fanconi anemia that often leads to cancer. Doctors first diagnosed the toddler with acute myeloid leukemia and recently found a tumor on his kidney that indicated clear-cell carcinoma.

The couple told CNN they had originally planned to marry next summer. Learning that their son only had weeks to live, Stevenson and Swidorsky moved up their wedding date so their son could walk down the aisle with them.

Rachel Wolf arranged to have a faux wedding, complete with the dress, so she could capture a father-daughter dance with her father, Dr. James Wolf, who has pancreatic cancer. (Courtesy of ABC News) Rachel Wolf arranged to have a faux wedding, complete with the dress, so she could capture a father-daughter dance with her father, Dr. James Wolf, who has pancreatic cancer. (Courtesy of ABC News)

“The only thing that keeps us going is our family and our love," Stevenson said in an interview with local station KDKA. "That’s what we’re here for, for our son, until God says so.”

Family, friends and the community came together to help the family quickly put together the wedding. A fund was even started to help cover Logan's medical expenses.

"All the help and donations from everybody, we thank you so much. There’s such kind people out there. You don’t even know who cares," Swidorsky told KDKA.

"I’ve learned so much from Logan," she continued. "He’s made me a better person. He’s an angel from heaven, and I’m going to miss him."

Christine Swidorsky and Sean Stevenson's 2-year-old son, Logan Stevenson, who will play the role of best man, has only weeks to live. (Facebook) Christine Swidorsky and Sean Stevenson's 2-year-old son, Logan Stevenson, who will play the role of best man, has only weeks to live. (Facebook)

The story is just the most recent of bittersweet weddings to make the newsstands this summer.

In July, Jen Bulik, 35, married her longtime partner Jeff Lang in San Francisco.

Doctors diagnosed Bulik with Stage IV lung cancer in January after a persistent cough. Bulik told NBC's Today she was given four to six months to live.

"When I heard that I said, 'Let's get married' because I wanted to focus on life," she said.

The couple quickly got engaged and began planning a simple backyard wedding.

But when wedding planner Erica Ota learned the couple's story, she had other plans.

Ota saw a wedding board on Bulik's Pinterest page and began using her contacts to create Bulik's dream wedding. Ota was able to find 40 vendors to donate nearly $52,000 worth of products and services to make the dream a reality.

In July, Jen Bulik, 35, who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, married her longtime partner, Jeff Lang, in San Francisco after a wedding planner used her connections to create Bulik's dream wedding. (Facebook) In July, Jen Bulik, 35, who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer, married her longtime partner, Jeff Lang, in San Francisco after a wedding planner used her connections to create Bulik's dream wedding. (Facebook)

"Honestly, I didn't even think twice about it," Ota told the Huffington Post. "We have the opportunity to do something extraordinary for someone else almost every day, but we get so wrapped up in our daily lives that we don't see them. I wanted to do something extraordinary."

While the couple doesn't have much time together, the groom told the Today Show, "I always think about the future but it's not the time to think about it today. Today's the time to think about this now and enjoy this now."

For Rachel Wolf, 25, of Auburn, Calif., time was too short to wait for a groom to appear.

Wolf's father, Dr. James Wolf, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2011. After years of treatment, he was failing fast.

Wolf had always dreamed of her wedding and the traditional father-daughter dance.

"I always told him I would have a religious wedding, but I never told him how important [the dance] was because I thought he was going to be around for a lot longer. You don’t think about these things until they are too late," she told ABC News.

Wolf arranged to have a faux wedding, complete with the dress, so she could capture that moment with her father. After meeting her father at a local park, the two danced to "Cinderella" by Steven Curtis Chapman.

Many community members also attended the event as a way to say goodbye to James Wolf, who had practiced medicine in the town for 25 years.

"It just grew into this magnificent event," Wolf's mother told ABC News. "She just really loves her dad and he loves her and she just wanted this moment."

Katie Harmer is a journalism graduate of Brigham Young University and writes for Mormon Times. Email: kharmer@deseretnews.com Twitter: harmerk

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