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A Profile of Hope: Michelle's Story (As seen on Today.com)

In Michelle's own words

In the summer of 2014, I was out with some friends visiting Chicago for a girl's weekend when I noticed an extremely handsome man across the room. I began staring pretty noticeably, and eventually walked right up to him, put my hand on his heart, and kissed him. But with no information exchanged before my friends dragged me away, I never expected to see him again. The next night, on a completely different side of town, in a city filled with nearly 3 million people, the world brought us back together when I saw AJ sitting with friends at the same restaurant my friends and I were headed to. He was telling the story of seeing me the night before as I went walking by. We believe that serendipity brought us back together and that we were meant to meet for a reason. A short six months later, we found out why.

We had just started the process of long-distance dating when in February 2015, after spending only 10 days together in person, we received life-altering news. AJ was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma and our world stopped turning. Suddenly the distance between us seemed trivial and as soon as AJ told me the news, I knew I was in love with him and that I had to be there for him. In the weeks to come, we were thankful to learn that AJ had caught the cancer early and was in Stage 1 with a positive recovery expected after 18 weeks of chemotherapy. I quickly made the decision to move to Chicago and help him through his four months of treatment and we decided to fight this together. The silver lining to all of this was that AJ and I were able to spend every day together and grow our relationship to heights we couldn’t have imagined at the time. We learned so much about each other and we became an incredible team. The friendship, support, and love that blossomed during this time brought so much happiness to our lives and ultimately led us to where we are today. AJ faced cancer with the strongest and most positive attitude that I have ever seen and it was truly inspiring to be by his side through it all.

In July 2015, he completed his treatment and his doctors announced that he was on his way towards remission. Two months after this incredible news, AJ packed up his bags, sold almost everything he owned, said goodbye to friends and family in Chicago, and headed west with me to start a new chapter in Newport Beach, CA. Shortly thereafter, on December 12, 2015, he got down on one knee and asked me to spend forever with him.

Since cancer played a large role in our relationship, we wanted to honor that with our wedding and have our special day be more than just a celebration of our love story. We wanted to be able to give back and help others facing lymphoma. So, we came up with the idea to host a “Wedding for a Cause” and we found an incredible partner in the Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF). AJ’s oncologist connected us with LRF and we are so thankful for the entire team at LRF and all of their support in helping us build our idea into something so much larger than we could have imagined.

Every vendor that is involved in our wedding has been generous enough to make a donation to LRF. They have all made in-kind donations by discounting their normal services, and we have directly donated these savings to LRF. Additionally, we are asking that all of our guests attending the wedding donate to LRF in lieu of purchasing wedding gifts. The only item on our registry will be donation requests to LRF.

Our wedding will celebrate our love story and the commitment we are making to each other while also helping others around the world. Our dream is to build a day that is everything and more to us while still raising awareness and a significant amount of funds to donate to lymphoma research. These donations will be able to help so many continue their lives and their love stories just as AJ and I have been fortunate enough to continue ours.

View AJ and Michelle's feature on Today.com.