-- One woman isn’t letting cancer stop her from being a princess bride. Indeed, she’s not even letting the lack of a groom get in the way.
Netis Negron, 36, of Avondale, Arizona, finally got to experience the day she has dreamed about since she was a little girl: putting on a wedding dress, becoming overwhelmed with emotion knowing it’s “the one,” and getting to celebrate her “wedding” day with her three young sons, closest family and friends by her side.
There’s only one catch. Negron isn’t actually getting married. She was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago and now the cancer has progressed, spreading to her bones.
“If I’m not around for their weddings and their mother-son dances, then at least they’ll have these amazing pictures,” Negron told ABC News in August when her idea for a wedding-themed photo shoot first came to light. “When you start thinking about that stuff, that’s when it gets really hard.”
But when Laura Gordillo, Negron’s close friend who also happens to be a professional photographer, found out, she rallied the entire community together to help turn her “fantasy” wedding shoot dreams into a reality.
The donations came flooding in: from the dream dress, to the flowers and even the elegant grand castle venue.
“I told her that a bride had donated a dress and we were going to David’s Bridal to get the alterations done,” Gordillo recalled of what she told Negron to pull off the surprise dress shopping trip. “It was just really hard to lie to her because we had so many wonderful people offering up their dresses for us to use for the shoot. But I wanted for her to be able to choose her own, to have that feeling and share in that experience.”
As soon as Negron walked in the bridal salon’s doors Sept. 5, she was greeted with a large rack of nearly 20 gowns pulled just for her. Never having been married before, finding the right dress to bring Negron to tears was a very important bucket list item.
Little did she know that task would come so easily.
“I loved the dress that I picked. I liked what it stood for,” Negron explained. “It has these vines on it with amazing detail. To me, it was a sign of growth. It stood for living, and growth, and moving forward and hope. The vines keep growing and I felt like it was an extension of my family and the love and all the people helping make this happen.”
Choosing the dress was Gordillo’s favorite moment to capture on camera.
“When they told her she could keep the dress, that was the most exciting part,” Gordillo said. “And when they told her mom, she was just overwhelmed with joy. To see Netis’ reaction afterward, that’s what made my heart melt.”
Now that Cinderella had found her perfect gown, she must be whisked off to the ball. And although Negron is single and did not have a groom waiting to put a ring on her finger, her three sons - ages 16, 11 and 9 - were by her side, as was the entire community.
“I don’t want people to see this as a fake wedding,” Negron said. “It was a celebration of life. It was an amazing experience, a symbol for hope and faith. I was with family, friends and complete strangers that I now call friends, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.”
Negron is undergoing intense chemotherapy treatments that will soon cause her to lose her hair, something she’s gone through twice already. As a proud mother she’s not only thrilled to have these photos as mementos for her sons, but she’s also now able to pass down special “wedding” keepsakes for them to potentially use on their big days, whenever that may come.
“I’m just so grateful for me and my boys,” she said. “These pictures came out amazing because she truly captured the feeling. And 20 years from now, whether I’m here or not, my kids and my family are going to be able to see how much love was there.
“Now I have this amazing wedding dress,” she added, “and maybe one day when they get married, their brides can use my wedding dress. The dress, the beautiful broach bouquet that was so special, the blue shoes, all these things another bride could use as her something borrowed, something blue or something old. I have all these beautiful things now that I can leave to them.”
And although every good fairy tale must come to an end, this Cinderella can now live happily ever after, knowing she’s leaving her boys with memories to last them long after the stroke of midnight.
“I can’t express how short life is and how important it is,” Negron said. “When you’re sick, you see life differently. I think everybody should see life like that. They shouldn’t wait until bad times when it’s too late. Live life to the fullest, like it’s the last day, because you just never know.”