Looking back on her wedding day, Shannon Jones said she wouldn’t change a thing -- including her bald head.
At the time of the wedding last July, the kindergarten teacher from Redding, Connecticut, was fighting cancer. Now, nearly a year later, she’s finally planning her honeymoon to celebrate both her marriage and her survival.
“It’s wonderful to be healthy again and to feel like a human again,” Jones told ABC News.
Jones was just four months from her wedding when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. She was 27 years old at the time, and thought a cold or allergies were to blame for the swollen lymph nodes in her neck and chest.
“We originally thought it was nothing,” Jones said of her mild symptoms, which included night sweats and itchiness. “It turned into appointment after appointment.”
By the time Jones was diagnosed with cancer, she said her oncologist wanted to postpone the wedding. But with the guest list set and the venue picked, she wanted to keep the date the same -- even though it fell in the middle of chemotherapy appointments.
“I heard you will lose your hair in the next two weeks,” Jones recalled. “You don’t envision getting married without any hair. I had envisioned my wedding since I was 2.”
Part of Jones’s dream wedding involved wearing her mother’s veil, but her balding head made things tricky.
“I wanted to feel beautiful and like a bride. I was worried I wouldn’t feel like a bride,” she said.
Even though her hair fell out, Jones was able to wear her mother’s veil after seamstresses sewed it into a special lace cap.
Jones worked with her doctors to schedule her chemotherapy appointments so that wedding would fall into an off-week when she would be feeling healthier.
“I was feeling as good as I could feel,” she said. “It was a nice break and something nice to look forward to.”
As the big day approached, Jones said the flurry of medical appointments and chemotherapy sessions made her stop worrying about small details and focus on what mattered.
“Nothing could have taken away all the joy,” she said of her wedding day. “I know what’s important know and what’s something that doesn’t mean that much…It put into perspective the marriage and what’s a wedding celebration means.”
Despite being midway through chemotherapy treatments, Jones said nothing (besides her hairstyle) was changed for the wedding. Looking back, she said her favorite moment was when the doors opened and she saw her fiancée, Jeff O’Hara, standing at the end of the aisle with tears in his eyes.
“When we said our vows in sickness and health it really meant a lot,” Jones said. “At that time in our lives being sick and [trying to be healthy]…we both got so emotional and choked up.”
Jones’ cancer went into remission at the end of last year. And while she still has to go in for check-ups and scans, she said all her results have turned up clear.
“I wouldn’t have changed a thing,” she said of her wedding, calling it the “light at the end of the tunnel” during months of grueling treatment. “It was the best celebration I could possibly have.”