ATHENS, Ga. - Lacy Williams and Jay Gulley say March 10, 2018, the day they got married, was powerful.
"I think we both teared up when we said our vows, especially the "in sickness and in health," because it means so much to us," Lacy Williams says. "We know what those vows mean."
Know, because they've lived them.
In early January, 3 months before they were supposed to get married, Lacy was diagnosed out of the blue with breast cancer, at 31.
"That was the first moment I felt scared and I cried," she remembers.
Williams needed surgery, but she didn't want cancel their wedding.
So, just 5 weeks before their big day, she underwent a unilateral mastectomy, or surgery to remove her affected breast.
"The whole journey that I have been on, I was the calmest, going into surgery," Williams says.
Dr. Cody Gunn, Lacy Williams' breast surgeon at Piedmont Athens Regional, says the surgery revealed Lacy's cancer wasn't just in her milk ducts, as they'd hoped.
It was invasive, he says, and had already moved into some nearby lymph nodes.
It was also HER2+ breast cancer.
That would complicate her treatment.
"So, those breast cancers grow faster," Gunn says. "They tend to behave more aggressively, and they have a higher risk of recurrence."
For Jay Gulley, who was supporting Williams, it was tough.
"It just seemed like the news kept getting worse and worse," he says.
The wedding went off as planned, but the couple's honeymoon would have to wait.
"Three days after her wedding, she went straight into chemotherapy," Dr. Gunn says.
"I had 16 rounds of chemo, and it was hard," Lacy Williams says.
Jay remembers, noticing Lacy's hair loss one morning, as she got ready for work.
"When she turned around and was getting something out of the pantry, I noticed there was a lot of hair loss in the back of her head," he says. "And, that's when it really kicked in for me. She was headed out, going to her job, and she had no idea it was really happening."
When her hair began to fall out in clumps, Williams asked her husband to shave her head.
Then, she pushed on, through 30 rounds of radiation.
"There were definitely moments of immense sadness," Williams says. "You question, 'Why is this happening to me?"'
Today, most of her treatment is behind her.
Williams is still receiving immunotherapy and taking a drug to prevent a recurrence.
Her long hair is growing back in.
The couple is on the other side, and the journey, Williams says, has made them stronger.
"This is an experience that will push me to do bigger and better things, and to really not take life for granted," she smiles.