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Cancer survivor Sheri James invites doctors to walk her down the aisle at wedding

HOUSTON — When Sheri James got engaged in January, she knew she wanted to ask two special people to not only attend her upcoming nuptials, but to also walk her down the aisle.

The 70-year-old underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment for anal cancer from February to April 2021, and credits two of her oncologists, Dr. Van Morris and Dr. Emma Holliday of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, with helping save her life.

“I could not even envision getting married without them,” James told “Good Morning America.” “I often told them, ‘You’re working so hard to save my life. Why wouldn’t I do what you say?’ Well, to go along with that, why wouldn’t I want to celebrate this life that they have helped give me with them? So, it’s almost a no-brainer. They had to be there. I had to ask them.”

James, a former obstetrics nurse, has grown close to the doctors who treated her at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. She said she and her then-boyfriend Bill James, 77, traveled approximately 1,500 miles from her home in Seven Springs, North Carolina, to Houston, Texas, after doctors initially dismissed her symptoms and health concerns.

“I was dating Bill for a little while. And then I got a diagnosis of squamous cell anal cancer. And I told him, looks like it’s time to break up. I’m going to deal with cancer and I think you need to go travel the way you always wanted to. And he refused,” James recalled.

“When I found out that I had anal cancer, in my research, I knew that MD Anderson had a clinic that handled anal cancer, and I went there for that purpose,” she added.

Morris and Holliday both said they didn’t hesitate saying yes to being a part of their former patient’s wedding.

“As oncologists, we unfortunately are much more likely to get an invitation to a funeral than a wedding. So, this was just such a beautiful and a joyous celebration, and to say it’s something that I’ll never forget, those words don’t even do the feeling justice. It’s truly amazing,” Holliday said.

Morris added, “It was among the easiest questions I’ve ever been asked as a cancer doctor by a patient.”

Sheri and Bill James married on June 11 in New Bern, North Carolina.

James said it was “such an honor” to have her doctors walk her down the aisle and described it as “the most beautiful moment of my life.”

“I felt like I couldn’t do it without them because I couldn’t celebrate life without the people that have worked so hard to give it to me. So, it was just magical to have them there,” she said.

Both doctors said they think James’ story is a prime example of hope after a challenging time.

“I think there’s always reason for hope, and I think that Sheri is a great example of that,” Morris said. “When people are at their lowest, there’s always an opportunity to find a positive, even in the most dire of circumstances. We were with Sheri from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs at her wedding, and it’s just such a privilege to get to be a part of that.”

Added Holliday, “Sheri’s an excellent example of how wonderful it is to celebrate the successes in love after cancer.”

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