Few of life’s journeys require more support than a cancer diagnosis, and it’s often family and friends who provide the most help. So when Escondido, California, resident Candace Torres was diagnosed with stage III rectal cancer, her fiancé Raymond was ready to step up.
But there was a problem.
Their wedding, planned for a year later, wouldn’t give Raymond the paperwork he needed to temporarily leave work and care for Candace. California law requires workers to be married or in a domestic partnership to receive leave benefits.
“We planned to get married on the beach in Carlsbad,” Candace said. “I already had bridesmaids boxes, the invitations, the venue, everything.”
But cancer treatment couldn’t wait, and Candace’s need for support wouldn’t, either.
The couple, who were best friends in high school and fell in love about a decade later, realized they had to get married right away. Their plans for an ocean-side ceremony were sunk.
“We were sitting at the table one night and we were like, ‘We could just go to the court house, or maybe we could go to Vegas,’” Candace recalled.
Candace and Raymond are frequent visitors to Las Vegas. Raymond likes to go for his birthday, and Candace likes the sites and dining. The decision was easy — easier than winning at the slots, at least.
But could they plan a Vegas wedding in mere weeks?
The City of Second Chances
Weddings are known for a few things. The vows, the cake, the dancing. For a bride, it’s all about having that perfect dress. Candace had only a week to find it, and she did — a full-length, simple white gown with a rhinestone belt around the middle for “a little bling.”
“I wanted something that made me look and feel beautiful,” Candace said. “When I put that dress on, you kind of knew it was the one.”
Candace’s late grandmother attended the bride-to-be’s final fitting, as a four-hour desert trek to the Vegas wedding would be too much for her. There, they took this picture, now a cherished memory.
Candace and Raymond were married in the chapel of the Excalibur Hotel & Casino. Candace’s father walked her down the aisle. The vows, spoken from the heart, were beautiful. And a friend brought a huge cake made up of donuts.
“We didn’t have a lot of time for tradition,” Candace said, but still, “everything was perfect.”
Absent from the ceremony was any talk of cancer.
“I was just trying to enjoy my time because I knew that when we got back, it was surgery time — no honeymoon, no nothing,” Candace said. “I knew there would be a lot of changes.”
But at least she would have her husband by her side for them.
Candace and Raymond were best friends in high school. They lost contact after he went into the Air Force, but found each other years later. “We have a good story,” Candace said.
The day after the wedding, Candace plunged into treatment.
“Raymond stepped up, and he was fantastic,” Candace said. “He’s one that hates medical stuff, but he sucked up whatever type of grossness he had and took control. I knew God put him back in my life for a reason.”
Key to Raymond’s support was handling Candace’s ostomy bag. It took her a while to get used to it, and she was constantly worried about it leaking.
“When you’re dealing with poo, it’s not the most wonderful thing to be dealing with, and it was embarrassing,” Candace said. “But he made it comfortable for me.”
Candace and Raymond’s journey with colorectal cancer started in 2016, when she was just 38 years old. Today, Candace has finished treatment and is getting back to the things she enjoys, like making pancakes for her young daughter.
Maybe they’ll even take a well-deserved honeymoon.
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