Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital organizes wedding ceremony for hospitalized cancer patient
Like many Navy veterans, Phil Condon is a fighter. When he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in July 2019, he began to fight off the disease that was quickly spreading throughout his body. Phil is not alone in his fight. By his side, every step of the way is his longtime girlfriend Ramona. Phil and Ramona first met in 1985 and became good friends. They took separate paths, married other people then divorced, and reconnected after 23 years.
“We were married in our hearts,” Ramona says. “We just hadn’t gotten married.”
In early December, Phil fell while in the shower. Ramona called 911 and Phil was admitted to the inpatient oncology unit at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.
“Let’s get married,” he told Ramona from his hospital bed.
“Tomorrow.” This was on a Wednesday. By Thursday, the wedding was planned. Phil worked with his clinical team at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital to pull together a chapel wedding. Hospital staff helped get their forms gathered for a marriage license and decorations. They decorated Phil’s wheelchair with soda cans and a sign that reads, ‘Just Married.’
“They were full of surprises,” Ramona said. “The hospital nurses, they had all gotten together and they bought him a white shirt, dress pants and shoes, and even boxers because he had a hospital gown.”
On Thursday afternoon, Phil and Ramona walked down the aisle that was the hallway outside Phil’s hospital room, surrounded by more than 50 nurses, doctors and hospital staff cheering them on. Hospital Chaplain Roger Gauthier tailored the service to their shared histories and current challenge with Phil’s cancer.
“They want to cherish the time they get to be together, the time that they have been given,” Rev. Gauthier said. “They want to enrich their lives with happy memories, togetherness, and most of all, love.”
The reception was held in the oncology unit down the hall and was just as special as the ceremony. The newlyweds enjoyed a wedding cake and sparkling cider for champagne, and a banner emblazoned with their names. The couple’s first dance was to ‘Lady in Red’ by Chris de Burgh, a song that always makes Phil think of Ramona. She slowly rotated Phil’s wheelchair, gliding to the music while holding his hands, and even twirling.
“We were surprised,” the newlyweds said of the service and reception put on in 24 hours by the hospital team. “They made it a very special day.”