"It won't be easy going forward, but we know that it'll be more meaningful to go through it together."
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on March 23, 2022. It has since been updated.
Clay Slenk and Mariah Nelesen got engaged in December 2020. The couple planned to have a long engagement and get married in the summer of 2022. Their initial plan was to get married on June 10, but, just after sending save-the-dates to their loved ones, the bride and groom-to-be were both diagnosed with cancer within eight days of each other, KTLA reports.
Now, the wedding has been moved up two months, and they're getting married on April 9.
"We had a long engagement (and) were hoping to get married June 10 of this year," Slenk said. But things changed for the couple after they both received calls that altered their lives, according to PEOPLE.
"I got a phone call Jan. 11th of this year that I had ovarian cancer. That's not a call that anyone expects to receive," Nelesen, 23, shared. Slenk received a similar call just about a week later. "All of a sudden, I got a phone call at like 8 o'clock, and my doctor was like, 'I want you to go to Spectrum right now. I think you have Leukemia.' "
A post on the couple's Caring Bridge page explained that Slenk was indeed diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, which "required immediate treatment and is being followed by a long hospital stay."
This is my student who had to drop out of classes this term due to their joint cancer diagnosis. Very moving story chronicled here. Sharing in case you can support their GoFundMe. 💕💜 https://t.co/pL4tOoEsVX— Ronak K. Kapadia (@ProfKapadia) March 16, 2022
The page then shared that Nelesen was diagnosed with adult granulosa cell tumor ovarian cancer, which is "a low-grade cancer that requires treatment including both surgery and chemotherapy."
When Slenk was treated in a local hospital for more than 40 days, Nelesen took steps to freeze her eggs. "Now, we're into it deep," Slenk said. "And it's not just one person, it's both of us."
It is only natural for people to feel anger when they get caught in a seemingly unfair situation. But Slenk, still keeping an optimistic attitude, continued, "Why be angry? If I'm angry and frustrated and down and negative, all it's going to do is make this day that much worse."
He went on to share that an upcoming stem cell transplant served as inspiration for the pair's new wedding date. "We moved up our wedding date so we could be married during that time. So she would be here to take care of me and we could go through that hard part together."
As for their new wedding date, Nelesen said that their diagnoses actually helped them focus on what's really important. "I was caught up in planning and excited for all the little details, like the venue we were going to be at and the food that we were going to have," she said. "(Now), replanning the wedding, I've just thrown all of that out the window. It's going to be a special day no matter what and we're going to have burgers and brats on the grill."
My lovely classmate Mariah and her fiancé Clay. I cannot fathom what this must be like—but I’m so glad they are moving forward with their special day, earlier!— posthuman postma’am (@chicagobowles) March 15, 2022
CaringBridge is linked in the article…
…also, #fuckcancer !
"It won't be easy going forward, but we know that it'll be more meaningful to go through it together," Slenk shared, adding that his wedding vows have changed since the news.
He continued, "There'll be a little more sickness before the health, but that's alright."
A GoFundMe has been set up for the couple in an effort to cover medical bills, home payments, the income they've lost, and gifts for their wedding and honeymoon.
" 'In sickness and in health...' These are familiar words for many couples as they often are spoken on a person's wedding day," the page reads. "However, no one knows these words better than Clay and Mariah. Their steps toward their wedding day and the changes they've needed to make represent a very real commitment to each other and trust in the Lord."
Cover Image Source: GoFundMe | Clay & Mariah's Cancer, Engagement, Faith Journey