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LOVE IS PATIENT

Man with terminal cancer marries fiancée at Baptist Health Floyd

Charles "Charlie" Brown and Anita Williams exchanged vows Wednesday

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Charles Brown pulls his new wife, Anita, toward his bed as the pair seal their wedding with a kiss, evoking a reaction from his 9-year-old son, Jacob, during their ceremony at Baptist Health Floyd on Wednesday. After Charles was diagnosed with terminal cancer, the Charlestown-couple decided to expedite their ceremony to commemorate their love. 

NEW ALBANY — As they held hands during a bedside ceremony, Charles "Charlie" Brown and Anita Williams promised to love each other in sickness and in health.

The couple have faced a difficult journey in the past months, and they know there will be rough times ahead, but as newlyweds, they intend to cherish the moments they spend together.

Charlie, a terminal cancer patient, married Anita Wednesday at Baptist Health Floyd in New Albany. The couple was surrounded by friends and family during their wedding ceremony in Charlie's hospital room, and the staff presented a reception for the newlyweds.

Charlie and Anita, who are both 51, have been engaged for about two years, but after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few months ago, they worried that they wouldn't be able to have a marriage ceremony. That's when the hospital staff stepped in to help.

"They just jumped right in," Anita said. "They provided the flowers, the cake, the food, the photographer — they provided everything for us so that we could have this. They made it happen."

They don't know exactly how much time Charlie has left to live. He was diagnosed with cancer in his lungs and lymph nodes in January, and in March, a fourth of his left lung and some lymph nodes were removed in surgery. He went through six weeks of radiation, in addition to several rounds of chemotherapy.

Charlie has been in the hospital for the past couple of weeks, and his radiation and chemotherapy treatment ended Sunday. Even with the treatment, the cancer is spreading, and his heart cannot handle much more treatment. He hopes to soon return home where he can stay comfortable.

The couple plans to spend every day together going forward. While they don't know how long they will have together, "there is no expiration date" on their love for each other, Anita said.

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Anita Brown tightly grasps Charles' hand while standing at his bedside after placing a ring onto his finger within their room at Baptist Health Floyd. 

A BLESSING

The couple has been together for about five years. Anita was his next door neighbor in Charlestown, and she repeatedly asked him out on dates, because Charlie is "a really special, sweet guy" with "a heart of gold," she said. Finally, they went to dinner together, and they've been together ever since.

"Charlie's the boss — he thinks I'm the boss, but really, he is," Anita said. "He's in charge. He's my anchor. I lean on him a lot."

"And I lean on her all the time," Charlie added. "I do think I'm the boss, but she knows she is. She just lets me believe that every once in a while. Everybody likes to feel like they're boss sometimes, and she lets me do that."

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Four-year-old Mila Franklin spreads flower petals over her grandfather's bed in celebration following Wednesday's wedding at Baptist Health Floyd. 

One of the things Anita loves about Charlie is his sense of humor — he keeps her laughing with his frequent jokes, she said.

Throughout his battle, Anita has been a godsend, Charlie said. She moved in with him during his treatment, and she has taken care of his 9-year-old son, Jacob, whose biological mother died when he was only 6 weeks old, and she plans to continue to care for him after Charlie's death.

"She stepped in like a champion," he said. "It didn’t matter what would happen — she would take care of him regardless."

Anita said because of Charlie's health, they probably wouldn't have been able to have a marriage if it wasn't for the Baptist Health staff putting together the hospital room ceremony.

She said prayers and family have helped keep them going throughout these difficult months, and it was meaningful for the couple to have their friends and family there for their wedding.

"It means a lot — just having their support and knowing that they’re here for us," Anita said. "When we need anything, they're here. We’ve got a pretty good family, and we’ve blended in pretty well."

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Charles and Anita take part in a sand ceremony, layering two colors of sand to symbolize the weaving of their lives. 

Charlie's brother, the Rev. Kelly Brown, works as a minister, and he performed the couple's wedding ceremony. He said it meant the world to him to officiate his brother's wedding, he said.

"It's a great joy, number one, that I could be here," he said. "Two, I'm just thinking about the days he has left, because I know he doesn't have many. I know his time is limited when they stopped his treatment, and know it's just a matter of how his heart holds out. That was on my mind [during the wedding], but it's like 'OK, put the tears back, I have to have a smile right now.'"

The occasion was bittersweet, and Anita was filled with happiness and gratitude during Wednesday's wedding ceremony. It's a blessing to be married to Charlie, she said, and she hopes that they can be together longer than the doctors are expecting.

"I'm thankful that we had a chance and that the hospital helped us have a chance," she said.