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After couple's cancer journey, community comes together to help them get married

After years of cancer treatments, an Iowa couple received help from local wedding vendors to hold a beautiful wedding and reception.
/ Source: TODAY

Since 2011, Eric Genzen has been undergoing cancer treatments — from debilitating medications to painful surgeries. But by his side the entire time has been Holly Morey, who Genzen met in 2010.

Genzen, who lives in Des Moines, Iowa, says when he first was diagnosed with melanoma, marrying Morey wasn't a priority due to the prognosis.

"It was pretty early in our relationship," Genzen, who had been married previously, told TODAY Parents. "Holly remained by my side through all of the early treatments, even though our relationship was still fresh...I was amazed she didn't decide it was just too much for her to handle and choose to leave."

Eric Genzen was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2011, just months after meeting his wife, Holly.Amanda Basteen

Genzen had two children from his previous relationship, and in 2014, the couple had a child together, a daughter named Lillian. "Our relationship was going fantastic and we were building a family," he recalled.

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Soon after their daughter was born, a routine scan detected an inoperable tumor close to Genzen's carotid artery and windpipe, which a biopsy revealed to be melanoma.

It started another journey of grueling treatments. And in 2017, Genzen was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

After treatment for several forms of melanoma, Eric says he decided he would propose to his then girlfriend, Holly.Amanda Basteen

The dad of three says that's when he finally realized the sacrifice Morey had made for him.

"I began realizing the roller coaster I was on had two seats whether I liked it or not," he said. "She was fighting for my life as hard as I was, and I was being selfish in not seeing that."

Eric and Holly were married on April 28, 2018.Amanda Basteen

The couple got engaged in November 2017.

"We had been told that it wasn't necessarily 'if' he got another brain tumor, but 'when,'" Morey recalled. "We knew we wanted to get married sooner rather than later. Our anniversary is April 28 and it happened to be a Saturday in 2018, so we went with that day."

"The stress of Eric's health is always there, so the stress of planning a wedding on top of that was a lot," she said. So she reached out to a childhood friend who photographs weddings, asking for help. After hearing the couple's story, other wedding vendors and businesses in the community wanted to help.

Amanda Basteen, who photographed the couple's wedding day, says the day was a joyful celebration.Amanda Basteen

In the weeks leading up to the wedding, the couple received more happy news.

"We were told that the tumor in his chest that was inoperable was gone and the chemo was working," said Morey. "We are still watching a tumor in his brain so he isn't cancer free yet, but hopefully someday."

On April 28, they were married in a beautiful ceremony and celebrated their love at a reception surrounded by family and friends. Donations for the wedding included everything from videography to hair and makeup for the entire bridal party.

From wedding photos to hair and makeup for the bridal party, community members stepped forward to donate their services on Eric and Holly's wedding day.Amanda Basteen
The couple's son, Kaidyn, 7.Amanda Basteen

"It's amazing what we can do as a community when we come together," said Whitney Leighton of Little Blackbird Bakery, who donated the couple's wedding cake. "Holly and Eric reminded me of how precious life is and how you just never know what could happen — good or bad."

Amanda Basteen, a photographer who donated her services for the special day, says she loved being a part of such a joyful event.

The couple's daughters, Payton, 10, and Lillian, 5.Amanda Basteen
Holly received a discounted rate on her reception venue, Carper Winery, and proceeds from the bar went to the couple's medical fund.Amanda Basteen

"There wasn't much mention of his illness, and I think that's because they wanted to focus on the good of the day and coming together as a family," recalled Basteen.

Genzen says while his cancer diagnosis and treatment have taught him a great deal about life, he also took away some important lessons from the help received on their wedding day.

Holly and Eric share a dance at their reception.Amanda Basteen

"It was amazing to see people come out of the blue wanting to donate some of their time and product to help our wedding come together," he said. "They completed a lesson for my kids that I honestly thought I wouldn't live to see — they selflessly made time and their actions have made a number of people in my family realize how beautiful it is to make time for someone in need. It has left them eager to pay it forward."

"It may sound cheesy, but random acts of kindness make the world a wonderful place."