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Wedding Bells Ring at Stony Brook, Hospital Hosts Ceremony for Long Island Mom to See Her Youngest Son Tie the Knot

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Family members gathered at Stony Brook University Hospital on Monday, April 18 to help cancer patient Catherine Holm (seated up front in blue) witness the wedding of her son Mark Jr. and his fiance Joanna (Photo Credit: Andrew Henriques)

STONY BROOK, NY, APRIL 19, 2016 – Catherine Holm wanted nothing more than to see her ‘baby boy’, 24-year-old Mark Holm, Jr., marry his fiancé Joanna. The wedding—a family affair – is set for Saturday, April 23 in Puerto Rico. As the mother-of-the-groom, Holm had picked out a shimmering blue dress and was ready to hop on a flight for the destination wedding, but plans quickly changed. Holm learned in March she would be fighting a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) instead of celebrating with her family. Doctors at Stony Brook University Cancer Center told the 58-year-old grandmother of North Babylon, NY, that traveling would be too much of a risk for her compromised immune system from the cancer. 

But nurses at the bone marrow transplant unit, where Holm had spent weeks, decided the party would go on and organized a wedding in the hospital's chapel.

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58-year-old Catherine Holm of North Babylon  (Photo Credit: Andrew Henriques)

"I'm overwhelmed, that people would do things like this," Holm told WNBC reporter Gus Rodendale Monday evening. "I'll never forget what they've done for me and my family." 

Mark Jr. and Joanna said their vows in a small ceremony in front of their immediate family.

“Chef John Mastacciuola and the hospital food service team shocked everyone with an amazing spread,” said Taylor Adamo, BS, RN, BMTCN, Nurse Manager for 19 South BMT and Assistant Director of Nursing, who was responsible for the wedding planning along with her fellow nurses, Jeannine Carlson, Maggie Knight, Jennifer Lowe, and Meghan Swane. “The family was truly touched and very grateful!”

“It was more than I could have ever asked for,” Holm’s daughter-in-law, Joanna Holm (née Caldeira), 24, of Deer Park, told Newsday. “We’re blessed to have had this opportunity, and so grateful for the hospital and everyone who’s helped.”

There were no wedding gifts, only a request from the family for people to get swabbed and join the bone-marrow registry, a simple process that could keep this family together— in sickness and in health. 

"Only 2 percent of our nation is on the registry right now, and it's incredibly important for us to join in," nurse Maggie Knight told WNBC.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a fast-growing cancer of a type of white blood cells called lymphocytes. Normal lymphocytes help your body fight infections. In ALL, the lymphocytes are cancerous and don't fight infections. These cancerous cells grow quickly and crowd out the bone marrow, preventing it from making the normal red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets that your body needs.

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 6,500 people in the United States are diagnosed with ALL each year. It is the most common type of leukemia in children under age 15.However, it can affect people of any age. The cause of ALL is unknown. 

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"It's the greatest thing anyone could do for us," Mark Holm Jr. told WNBC about the wedding, "because my mom means a lot to me."   (Photo Credit: Andrew Henriques)

The Leukemia Research Foundation as that in the U.S., leukemia causes more deaths than any other cancer among children and young adults under age 20. A bone marrow transplant may be a Leukemia patient’s only hope for a second chance at life. Only 3 in 10 patients will receive the transplant that could save lives.

Without a match, the Holm family knows the odds are not on her side. "My mom means a lot," Mark Holm Jr. told WNBC, while overcome with emotion.

The newlyweds are off to Puerto Rico on Thursday, where they will have another ceremony and celebrate with family and friends. Upon their return, the couple plans to hold a donor registry drive at St. Paul’s Reformed Church in North Babylon, Joanna Holm told Newsday. 

Stony Brook University Cancer Center is also raising awareness and hopes to increase registered donors at an event on May 1st.  To find out more on how to be a bone marrow donor, visit www.deletebloodcancer,org 

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About Stony Brook University Cancer Center:

Stony Brook University Cancer Center is Suffolk County’s cancer care leader and a leader in education and research. With more than 20,000 inpatient and outpatient visits annually, the Cancer Center includes 12 multidisciplinary teams: Breast Cancer; Colorectal Cancer; Gynecologic Oncology; Head, Neck and Thyroid Oncology; Lung Cancer; Melanoma; Neurologic Oncology; Orthopaedic Oncology and Sarcoma; Pediatric Hematology/Oncology; Stem Cell Transplantation and Hematologic Malignancy; Upper Gastrointestinal Oncology; and Urologic Oncology. The cancer program is accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer as a Teaching Hospital Cancer Program and received the Commission’s Outstanding Achievement Award. The Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center is the first center in New York State to be accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. To learn more, visit www.cancer.stonybrookmedicine.edu.

 

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