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LEBANON JUNCTION - When high school sweethearts Scott and Misty Cunningham married on June 17, 1995, and vowed to support one another for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, they were very serious about the love they pledged for one another.
But neither of them knew exactly how those vows would be tested 14 years later.
Just a little over one year ago on Oct. 23, 2008, Misty began experiencing severe stomach pain and she sought emergency medical attention at Jewish Hospital South’s emergency room.
With Scott by her side, the two weren’t sure what to expect. But stage four colon cancer in an otherwise healthy, vibrant, 32-year-old mother of five was the absolute last news they expected to receive.
“The only symptom she had shown was that she had low iron,” Scott said.
Even tougher to accept, the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, rectum, uterus, abdomen and liver.
Doctors immediately instructed Misty that she would need to resign as the Bullitt County YMCA’s Childcare Coordinator and start chemotherapy, of which she has now had 12 rounds.
Former co-worker and friend Stephanie Jackson said Misty’s family and friends were floored by the news.
“It all happened really fast,” Stephanie said.
Scott said the couple, who in addition to their five children, had also taken in several foster children over the years. They were forced to stop being foster parents because Misty needed as much additional rest as possible.
“My wife, she loves kids,” Scott said of Misty. He joked that when the two were married, she tried to tell him that she didn’t want any kids.
Scott said he and the children are working hard to support Misty as she lives life in almost constant pain. He recognizes that although doctors have given Misty some hope because her cancer did respond to the first round of chemotherapy treatments, he might not have a lot of time left with his wife.
That is when he decided that now was the best time for he and Misty to renew their marriage commitment.
“I was having a tough time with it,” Scott said of his wife’s condition. He said he was driving alone when he had the idea to renew his wedding vows. “I came in, knelt down beside her on the couch and said, ‘Let’s get married.’”
Scott said he and Misty’s idea of the a vow renewal ceremony included putting on some nice clothes and having a minister come to their home. But Stephanie and some of Misty’s other close friends and family wanted to give the couple, who has been through so much, a special day.
So Stephanie stepped in and began coordinating a ceremony that would resemble the couple’s first wedding. Just a few weeks later, friends, family and community members have donated their time and money to provide the couple a ceremony that will be very much like their marriage 14 years ago.
“I wanted everything to be like the first time,” Scott said.
The ceremony is planned for this Saturday, Nov. 7 at the Church of Our Savior on Blue Lick Road. Close friends and family will be joining the couple to celebrate their commitment to one another.
The occasion will have all the features of a traditional wedding, including a professional photographer, limousine, caterer, reception and a honeymoon for the entire family to Gulf Shores, Ala.
Stephanie said everything has been donated by businesses and friends in the Bullitt and Jefferson county areas, including a wedding gown, bridesmaid dresses and tuxedos.
“It’s all been somebody who knew somebody,” Stephanie said, noting that she has been thrilled by the outpouring of donations for the Cunninghams.
Scott said he and Misty have been floored by the number of people that have showed support not just for the vow renewal ceremony, but for the family in general. He said when Stephanie called and told him about the plans for the ceremony, he couldn’t compose himself.
“I started crying,” he said.
One of the only differences between his marriage 14 years ago and Saturday’s ceremony would be that Misty requested that she and Scott write their own wedding vows.
Scott said is especially looking forward to the trip following the ceremony. He said it has been four years since the family has been able to travel anywhere together. Although Misty’s doctors have cautioned that she need to take it easy, they still permitted her to travel.
“We just want memories made for the children and for us,” he said of the wedding and the trip to follow.
Misty was unfortunately not well enough to participate in the interview with The Pioneer News. But Scott said his wife could not be more thankful for the family and friends in the community that have helped their family during a very difficult time.
“She says she couldn’t have made it without her friends. She says they are the greatest. I told her she picks her friends very well,” he said.
Scott knows the upcoming vow renewal ceremony and vacation will be bittersweet for him and the children. When the family returns, Misty will immediately start another round of chemotherapy. Doctors have told the couple that they would be able to tell some time in January if Misty’s cancer was responding to the treatments.
“She always asks, ‘Am I going to die today?’” Scott said, noting a question that Misty often poses to her doctors. “(The doctors) have pretty much said they don’t know.”
Scott said it’s been challenging watching his wife get sicker while trying to encourage their five children, Cameron, Hallie, Dakota, Austin and Felicia, who range in ages from 6 to 17. But it is something that he would gladly do 100 times over again for his best friend and lifelong companion who was once just the girl next door.
Little did he know when he met Misty that the two would need each other now " 14 years later " more than ever.
“I’ve got to do it. Sometimes I have to step out, take and moment and collect myself. I’m just holding on for something good,” he said.
Stephanie has set up a fund for the Cunningham family at First Federal Savings Bank’s Cedar Grove branch. Donations can be dropped by the office at 1707 Cedar Grove Road.