Bride returns on her wedding day to hospital where she beat leukemia
Kierstynn Foster Rozema posed in her wedding gown with her former doctors.
— -- Kierstynn Foster Rozema chose to celebrate her wedding day with her family, friends and the doctors who saved her life when she was diagnosed with leukemia as a teenager.
Rozema and her groom, Daniel Rozema, and their entire wedding party arrived in a white limousine and posed for wedding photos at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital last Saturday.
The Grand Rapids, Michigan, hospital is where Rozema, now 22, was treated for more than two years after being diagnosed at age 16 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“She had just gone to two proms the week before [her diagnosis],” Rozema’s father, Bret Foster, of Byron Center, Michigan, told ABC News. “She’d just been having headaches and some pain in her shoulder, just really odd things going on and we ultimately scheduled a doctor’s appointment.”
Rozema’s doctor sent her to Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, where she immediately began chemotherapy under the care of Drs. James Fahner and Beth Kurt.
“We know how incredibly difficult it is to have a teen’s life turned upside down overnight,” said Fahner, division chief of pediatric hematology and oncology at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “Kierstynn went from doing all things teens normally to do being in our clinic and being exposed to heavy chemotherapy drugs.”
Rozema’s treatment continued into her freshman year at Hope College, where she met her future husband. Rozema completed her leukemia treatment in August 2013 and got engaged last year, the weekend before both she and Daniel Rozema graduated from Hope.
When it came time to plan her wedding, Rozema, who is overseas on her honeymoon and not available for comment, knew just what she wanted to do.
“She contacted her medical team here and said the day just wouldn’t seem complete without a stop to the hospital where she had so many caregivers, and really extended family, who cared for her,” Fahner said. “We joke we’re the family [our patients] never wanted to be a part of, but we’re grateful to be there to help when needed.”
Fahner and Kurt, Rozema’s pediatric oncologist, welcomed the wedding party to the hospital and posed for photos in front of a mural in the hospital’s lobby, an area special to Rozema and her family.
“We spent a lot of time in that nook,” Foster recalled. “It’s where we congregated quite a bit if we weren’t in her room.”
Fahner said he and the hospital staff saw Rozema’s wedding day visit as a gift for them just as much as it was for Rozema and her family.
“There were lots of tears and lots of hugs and mostly lots of smiles for sure,” he said. “To be part of the full circle of life for these remarkably brave people is a huge privilege.”
Fahner, who couldn’t attend Rozema’s wedding due to a scheduling conflict, said having a bride come to the hospital on her wedding day was also a first for him in his 28 years with the hospital system.
“We get invited to open houses and graduations but I think this is a first for us,” he said. “There were lots of children and family members who were coming and going in the lobby and I can’t imagine that couldn’t have been just an amazing source of inspiration for them too.”
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