Shawn Wood, 28, has one goal — to give his 24-year-old fiancée, who was given three to 12 months to live, a beautiful wedding.
"I was there and the doctors came in and told her she only has about three months to maybe a year at the very most," said an emotional Wood, adding he turned to his fiancée and asked what the one thing she wanted more than anything else in the world was. "And she said she wanted to be my bride — so it's a very emotional thing for me. It's really big, it means the world to us."
Wood and fiancée Emily Niinemets, both from the Comox Valley, have been together since they were teenagers — nine years — and Wood proposed about five years ago, but they just didn't quite get around to organizing their wedding before.
"We've been together for so long and you know it's just one of those things that you kind of put off to whatever, life and whatever happens," said Niinemets. "But, everybody asks me what do I want, and you know, other than quality and long life, I really just wanted this day for us, and I think we deserve it."
Niinemets noticed a lump on her neck last August, and in January she was diagnosed with Stage 4 aggressive large-cell lymphoma.
Wood noted she's gone through four different kinds of chemotherapy since then, and spent a considerable amount of time in Vancouver for treatment lately. Last week, doctors told her none of the treatments were working.
So, when they gave her the option of staying in Vancouver for more treatment or coming home, Niinemets chose to come home to have a better quality of life.
The couple wants to spend as much time officially married as they can so they set a wedding date of July 3, but the cost of spending time in Vancouver and other health related expenses left them with no extra money for a wedding.
Wood set up an indiegogo account online over the weekend with a goal of $5,000 for the wedding and a honeymoon by the closing date of July 11. On Monday, the link was shared around Facebook, and the donations reached about $1,000. As of Tuesday morning, a whopping $5,940 had been donated.
Wood's best man, Dave Sabanis, leaped in to help plan the wedding and Sabanis' father made a large donation that paid for the tuxedo, rings and limousine.
Quality Foods offered to make them their wedding cake.
And the Courtenay White Spot, where Niinemets worked as a server until she was diagnosed with cancer, offered to hold the wedding reception there and take care of the food. The restaurant is also doing a 50/50 draw for a gift basket to raise money for the couple's wedding.
When the Record caught up with the couple Monday, they were astounded by the outpouring of community support.
"It's absolutely phenomenal; everyone's come together, people are doing decorations, flowers, we've had like 10 people offer to do photography and that kind of stuff," said Wood.
"I have so many friends and family already, you know, and supporters, but it's just gone crazy," added Niinemets. "I mean it's just left, right and centre. I'm getting so, just, overwhelmed with how many people want to help us out, and it's great.
"As a woman or a girl, you know, you kind of want to plan everything and do it all yourself, but everybody just wants to help me so bad and, you know, I've just really got to let them, let people help me."
All that's really left for Niinemets to do is to find a wedding dress, enjoy her big day and decide what to do for a honeymoon. She said they are "happy doing whatever together" but are considering going on a cruise because they can get some travelling in but still have the comfort of a room at hand if she's not feeling well.
Whatever they end up doing, Niinemets made it clear she has no intention of giving up her fight against cancer even though she stopped doing chemotherapy.
"I've always been a fighter… I don't want people to think I'm giving up, but it's come to a point where I just want quality of life," said Niinemets, adding she will consider alternative treatments that will not affect her quality of life, and is focusing on staying positive with the support of her family and friends in the Valley.
To make a donation, visit www.indiegogo.com and search 'Help me give my sick fiance a dream wedding.'