The day before her wedding, Christina Garcia went into Saint Agnes Medical Center for treatment of her stage 4 ovarian cancer.
She was at the hospital to have fluid drained from her stomach, a side effect of the cancer she has been battling for four years. The treatment makes her stomach hurt and feel tight.
But the bride was all smiles as she sat down with her fiancé on Friday outside Saint Agnes. Her dream wedding has been put together with the help of her sister, Irene Garcia, and the nonprofit organization The Face of Cancer. Her fiancé, Mark Garcia, was similarly excited. (In a coincidence, he has the same last name.)
“We keep saying, ‘We’re getting married tomorrow! We’re getting married tomorrow!’ ” he said.
The Face of Cancer is a Fresno nonprofit organization that helps women reconnect with their femininity and beauty before and during their battle with cancer.
Holly Carter, founder of the organization, was contacted by Christina’s aunt. Carter is a cancer survivor herself, and she says she knows what it’s like to be “sent home to die.”
The nonprofit is her version of a Make-a-Wish Foundation and works with each woman to help her feel good about herself while battling cancer.
For Christina, that meant having the dream wedding she never could have afforded.
Through donations from the community, The Face of Cancer was able to pull together everything Christina needed for the big day, from photographers to makeup artists to flowers. A honeymoon to South Lake Tahoe was donated by Echeveste’s Great Escape Travel, a local travel agency. Madeline’s Bridal donated the groom’s tuxedo. Bridal party flowers were donated by Botanique Floral Artistry.
There are a few things left, like someone to do video for the wedding, and a hotel room in Fresno for Mark and Christina immediately following the wedding to give the two a chance to celebrate before they leave for their honeymoon. Christina’s family has set up a GoFundMe account to help cover additional costs.
Christina and Mark met when she was 17. Their sisters worked together, and that’s how they were introduced. At the time, Christina told Mark she was too young to have a steady boyfriend, but the two stayed in contact over the years, even as their paths separated and Christina later became the mother of four.
Mark went on to a job in Las Vegas where he worked as an assistant manager at a grocery. But in 2012 he quit and moved back to Fresno to be with Christina, 17 years after they originally met.
Shortly after, Christina was diagnosed with stage 3 ovarian cancer. It had spread to her abdomen. She immediately started chemotherapy.
Christina went into remission for a year before she had to have emergency surgery to remove tumors in her stomach. This pushed the initial date of the wedding from April 9 to June 11.
On Friday, Christina and Mark remembered all the last-minute things they still needed to do.
“I still need to dye my hair!” she said, laughing.
Mark says he believes in the power of being positive. He stayed with Christina during the surgery, going so far as to sleep in closets and spare rooms in the hospital while she recovered.
“If I’m crying … he tries to cheer me up,” Christina says. “I believe he’s the reason I’m still here.”