NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Daniel and Ashley Morgan are newlyweds, and their love story is also an account of survival. The couple married Nov. 19 of last year going in with full knowledge of the familiar wedding vows.
"We already knew that it was in sickness and health and 'til death do us part," Ashley said.
That's because five months into the couple's relationship ...
"I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma," Ashley said.
It was a pretty tough blow for a 21-year-old in her senior year at Stephen F. Austin State University and a 19-year-old away at college in Arkansas.
"I gave him several opportunities to leave," Ashley said. "I told him you don't have to stick around for this."
"Leaving didn't seem like anything I was capable of," Daniel said. "I just wanted to be there. I knew what I wanted to do."
Ashley had chemo treatments every two weeks in Nacogdoches while her beau was away at school. No one knew it at the time, but it would be a future mother-in-law who stepped in to help.
"It was nice because it was like a connection to Daniel even though he had to live in Arkansas and finish school," Ashley said.
The competitive swimmer found his commitment to Ashley was growing stronger, as she grew weaker.
"Didn't you say you would take out your anger while you were swimming?" Ashley said.
"Yeah I would take out all the frustration, and I would take it out in the pool," Daniel said. "I had some great swims like that."
Ashley giggled at his response.
Ashley entered remission, but after three months, the cancer returned. A stem cell transplant was the next step, preceded by another round of chemo.
"Right before she went in I wrote 14 letters to her about just different happy memories we had, or things we had to look forward to," Daniel said.
"I was trying to open one every day, but there one particularly rough day where I opened them all up in one day," Ashley said. He likes to play it cool, but he's such a romantic."
Daniel drove hours to Houston each weekend and on the Thanksgiving break to comfort Ashley during the difficult treatment. It worked. Ashley is cancer free. Daniel proposed during a celebratory trip at a place called Hidden Falls. It was another romantic move following an unconventional courtship.
"Our whole relationship has been revolving around cancer, and, 'Am I going to be okay?' and everything that comes along with it," Ashley said. "It made us stronger definitely. I don't think it made us get married. We wanted to get married anyways, but you know, it's just a part of it."
Today the couple is setting priorities. Both are university graduates. Daniel is pursuing a master's degree at SFA. Ashley wants to help others survive cancer.
"I want to help show the good parts because it was rough, believe me, but I've come out so much stronger, and I'm happily married and have my whole life ahead of me," Ashley said.
A future, the couple says, that will be filled with nothing but love and romance.
Ashley Morgan invites cancer patients and caregivers to e-mail her. She can share information about Hodgkins Lymphoma, insurance issues and tricks on keeping a positive attitude.
Remember, if you have a Survivors story, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.