MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - For better or for worse--those vows have a personal meaning for newlyweds Joel and Lindsey Alsup.
The couple met as patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the 1990s. Joel was diagnosed with bone cancer and Lindsey with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
“My parents started noticing as a right-handed child, I stopped using my right hand to do certain things,” Joel said. “Simple things like buckling my seat belt or throwing a ball back to my dad.”
Lindsey described the moments her parents knew something was different.
“I lost all desire to eat, I was bruising at the slightest touch, and my mom just continued to have that mother’s intuition feeling uneasy that something’s really wrong with my daughter,” she said.
At the age of 7, Joel underwent chemotherapy and ultimately had his right arm amputated.
Lindsey underwent chemotherapy at 10.
The rare experience sparked a unique friendship.
"I had the privilege of growing up with this man who inspired me, who really challenged me and really helped shape me as I continued to grow up as a childhood cancer survivor,” Lindsey said.
The duo ended up going their separate ways and losing touch. Years later, both made their way back to the hospital that saved their lives. This time, they were not patients but employees.
Their friendship was rekindled when Lindsey accepted a job at ALSAC in 2004. On her first day Lindsey was introduced to many people, including former patients--one being Joel. The rest is history.
"I’ve just been very, very fortunate for the last 2-and-a-half years of my life that she’s been an incredible part of my life--the most important part of my life, and now for 2-and-a-half weeks, she’s been my wife,” Joel said.
Lindsey and Joel tied the knot on Sept. 1, better known to Memphians as “901 Day.” The date was made extra special because it was the start of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
The ceremony was held at the gold-domed Danny Thomas/ALSAC pavilion, and from the venue to the people, there were touches of St. Jude everywhere.
“It felt like the Royal Wedding of Memphis, Tennessee, or maybe of St. Jude,” Carlos Sepulveda said.
Sepulveda, a former St. Jude patient and now ALSAC employee, was a “bridesman” in the wedding. He was diagnosed at 21 years old with Myxoid Liposarcoma, a soft-tissue cancer.
Sepulveda underwent two surgeries and 30 rounds of radiation. Like Joel and Lindsey, he also works at ALSAC. He said it was an honor to be part of their special day.
“I think it was such a defining moment in their relationship,” he said. “But I always like to say I don’t think I’ve ever met two people who love each other as much as those two.”
The couple also gets to share the special moment with people who were with them during that tough time in their lives.
Lisa Walters was Joel’s nurse when he was patient. She’s worked at St. Jude since 1987 and currently works in the After Completion of Therapy Clinic and for the St. Jude LIFE Clinic as a nurse practitioner.
“It’s still emotional, I mean, after all these years because it’s such an amazing story,” Walters said. “The hospital that saved his life, now he’s impacting the ability for us to save other children’s lives. It’s like the circle of life.”
Joel and Lindsey said they’re forever grateful to St. Jude for saving their lives and bringing them together.
They give back every chance they get by talking to new patient families and participating in fundraising triathlons.
They duo said Memphis is a place they’ll forever call home. They’re raising a family that includes Lindsey’s two children from her first marriage as well as two dogs.
“It was a celebration of life and love, and also the wonderful works that take place here at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,” Lindsey said.