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Mom with cancer helps teen daughter pick her future wedding gown

by Lisa Flam / / Source: TODAY Contributor

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They hugged and held each other lovingly, shedding bittersweet tears as emotions filled the room. From her hospital bed, Wendy Verge, a 58-year-old mother gravely ill with cancer, helped her teen daughter, Lexi, choose the bridal gown she will get married in one day.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment last month they feared they might never get.

“As emotional as it was, it was a really great experience to share,” Lexi, who lives in Canada, told TODAY. “I could really feel the love between our family and between my mom and I.”

 Lexi Verge shares a tender moment while trying on wedding gowns with her mom, Wendy Verge, who is hospitalized with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Mason Neufeld Photography

At their kitchen table one morning this past spring, Lexi and her mom, Wendy, agreed they should shop for a wedding gown even though Lexi has no plans to marry. Wendy had recently chosen to stop her grueling treatments for stage 4 pancreatic cancer, after she was diagnosed on Aug. 24. Through tears, the mother and daughter talked about all the things they wanted to do together in the time they had left.

“I’m only 19 and I don’t even have a boyfriend,” Lexi said. “But I think it’s every girl’s dream to go wedding dress shopping with their mom. We decided it was something we needed to do together.”

 Wendy and Lexi Verge together last year on Aug. 31, exactly one week after the retired school teacher was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Courtesy of Lexi Verge

Wendy was hospitalized shortly afterward on June 13, and Lexi put shopping on hold, hoping her mom would soon be well enough to return to their home in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. While Wendy’s condition only worsened over the next month, Lexi made arrangements to bring her to a bridal shop, where she had picked out her favorite gowns and booked a photographer.

On the eve of the outing, though, Wendy became much sicker, and Lexi had to cancel; her mother was devastated. But the photographer Lexi hired, Mason Neufeld, and the owner of Devotion Bridal Lounge, Tammy Davies, decided to turn Wendy’s sterile hospital room into a makeshift bridal salon the very next day.

On July 16, Lexi entered her mom’s room wearing in a white silk trumpet gown with a beaded belt, and that first dress was the winner.

 As Lexi Verge entered her mom's hospital room in the first gown she tried on, she looked to see her mom's reaction. Mason Neufeld Photography

“It was really emotional when I walked in,” Lexi said. “I felt really connected to my mom. The look on her face, I’ll never forget. There was a lot of sadness in her eyes, but also happy tears because we were sharing that moment.”

 Wendy Verge reacts to seeing her daughter, Lexi, in the first wedding gown she tried on, the one she plans to wear on her wedding day some day. Mason Neufeld Photography

“Once she was calm enough to talk, she said, ‘It’s beautiful,’” Lexi added.

Everyone in the room — including Lexi’s father, John; her brother Blayz, 21; and a few other relatives — was crying. Lexi says Neufeld captured each moment perfectly in her stunning photos.

 Lexi Verge sitting on her mom's hospital bed wearing the wedding gown they chose together. Mason Neufeld Photography

“They leave me speechless because they’re so beautiful and they mean so much to our family,” Lexi said, adding that her family has always been "extremely close."

 All smiles from the close-knit Verge family even on a tough day when Lexi, 19, picked out the wedding gown she'll wear one day with her mom, who has stage 4 cancer. Mason Neufeld Photography

She is thankful to Davies and Neufeld for making their mother-daughter dream into a reality. She plans to order the gown and store it away.

“I’m forever going to be grateful for that,” Lexi said. “Without their kindness and willingness to go out of their way, it wouldn’t have happened for me and my mom.”

Lexi describes her mom, who was an elementary school teacher for 34 years, as a “caring, kind-hearted person who is always putting everybody before herself."

 "She's always thinking about me," Lexi said. Mason Neufeld Photography

The pair share a mutual love for the popular bridal TV show "Say Yes to the Dress," and at one point, Wendy grew concerned that her daughter may not like the dress in the future. “Even if it’s out of style by then, I’m still going to love it because we picked it out together,” Lexi said.

Lexi was relieved they had the chance to say yes to her dress together. Since then, Wendy has declined further, but Lexi's glad the gown her mom found so beautiful will be waiting for her.

“When I wear that dress on my wedding day, even if she’s not physically there, it’s going to feel comforting to know we picked that exact dress out together, and I’ll feel close to her,” she said. “I do feel a sense of relief — and a sense of peace.” contributor Lisa A. Flam is a news and lifestyles reporter in New York. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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