I have been writing and re-writing this post over and over again in my head for the last week. I’ve said it before but never meant it as much as I do now: I truly don’t know where to begin. You see, telling Lisa & Juan’s story perfectly is really important to me. And, though I may not do a perfect job at it, the best I can do is try.
As Father Sam said in his homily at their ceremony, Lisa & Juan’s tale could truly be a Lifetime movie. So, please bear with me as I attempt to recount the details. And, though this might be text-heavy, I assure you that you will want to read the whole thing. The story begins about 2.5 decades ago, when Lisa was a child. At age 10, she was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma. After a year of chemo, radiation, and an eventual bone marrow transplant, she miraculously survived. Nine years later, she was in nursing school at West Chester University when she was diagnosed again. This time with osteosarcoma of the right leg; it had to be removed. As Lisa said herself, “Friday nights, while most students went out to parties, [she] would receive [her] own cocktail of chemo in the dorms.”
After recovering and staying in school, she went on a trip with her church group to volunteer at an orphanage in Mexico. And while she was there, she just so happened to meet the love of her life, Juan. He had been a former orphan at the home and, as an adult, returned there to help mentor the orphan boys still in the program. It’s no surprise she was able to steal his heart with her stunning blue eyes and eventually convince him to move to Philadelphia. Despite all the roadblocks, Lisa stayed in school and went on to graduate - committed to dedicating her life to children of cancer. She went on to become a pediatric nurse at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) – the same place she was treated as a child.
Several years later, at age 32, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer from the TBI (or total body radiation) she received when she was 10. Again, she survives. Somewhere in there (I’m not sure of the year), she finds out she’s PREGNANT, though she was told that she was not physically capable of becoming pregnant from all the radiation she’s received over the years. Their joy over the miracle of their child doesn’t last long, however, when she is rushed to the emergency room finding out her uterus has burst. Their son, Rylan Cruz, didn’t make it.
Today, at age 38, she was diagnosed with either metastatic pancreatic cancer or metastatic cholangiocarcinoma (doctors still aren’t sure which). After 15 years together, and since it was always in their plans to eventually wed, Juan decided to move things up and asked her soon thereafter to be his wife (she said yes, by the way!). And so, in two weeks, they planned one of the sweetest, most thoughtful days I’ve been lucky enough to capture. Make sure to read the text between the images for explanation of all the little details from the day.
Lisa & Juan, thank you for allowing and trusting me to capture such a special day in your lives together and to share your story. No words can describe what an honor it has been!
This blanket is a family heirloom from Lisa’s grandmother’s wedding. They traveled by boat to the US many years ago and, allowed only 2 pieces of luggage, she brought this along as one of their pieces. So, it only made sense that Lisa & Juan have some images in front of it as well. Don’t you love the colors? By complete coincidence it matched their wedding colors perfectly!
And then it was on to the Waterworks!
After portraits, we headed to the nearby (stunning!) St. Francis Xavier Church.
During their vows, Lisa surprised Juan and said hers in Spanish as a tribute to his heritage and where they met. So thoughtful!
Oh yea, did I forget to mention that they had a GOSPEL CHOIR? So cool!
Lisa’s bridesmaids were her four sisters. I loved how intimate and special this made it.
Lisa also surprised Juan with the adorable cans-on-car attachment. I think we were all quite impressed by the noise they made AND how well they held up across town. Such a cute little detail.
And then it was party time – we headed over to the reception at Tequilas Restaurant, to be greeted by a MARIACHI BAND. See, I told you this day was full of amazing details!
Please go see Lisa’s blog for yourself – Little Lisa Lollipop – for more about her story, her journey, and her updates. Also, I’d be remiss not to point out the “tip jar” in the upper right of her blog page. She is tithing 10% to Father Sam (the officiant who married her and who has been a major influence in her life) and giving 25% right back to CHOP.
Lastly, so many of these vendors and professionals provided their services at a rush and/or at no charge, and for that I cannot say enough. I couldn’t have been more impressed with every aspect of the day – in particular Tequilas Restaurant (it’s amazing and if you live in the area you simply must go!), Mariachi Flores (these guys were so talented and so full of energy – the perfect way to kick off a party!), and Jeff & Lauren from 55 Pictures (a total pleasure to be around). But truly, each and every one of these people deserve applause for contributing to such a perfect event.
Ceremony Venue: St. Francis Xavier Church
Officiant: Father Sam
Reception Venue: Tequilas Restaurant
Videography: 55 Pictures (Jeff & Lauren)
Wedding Coordinator: Erin Lavelle
Florist: Flowers & Co. (Nadine & Katy)
Hair & Makeup: Beautiful Brides Philly
Nails: Rittenhouse Nails
Tux: Black Tie Philly
Dress: La Bella Moda
Cake: Potitos Bakery
Band: Mariachi Flores
Transportation: Uber Cab