CHINA - A recurring brain tumour didn't keep Feng Ying from finding the love of her life, and the optimistic couple is looking to a future with options, they tell Qi Xin in Zhengzhou, Henan.
Feng Ying's wedding day was different from most. An ambulance followed the wedding party to the event. Nurses checked her blood pressure three times during the day. If the bride had not felt very well, they would have stopped the wedding at any time.
"Luckily, the checkups were OK," says Feng.
Feng had dreamed many times about her wedding, but meeting her Mr Right at her "unlucky" moment and getting married during what were potentially her final days on Earth, was not part of the fantasy.
"I'm so lucky to fall in love with my husband, and I give my sincere thanks to all the warmhearted people for attending my wedding," the 23-year-old bride suffering from glioma, a type of brain tumour, said at the March 2 ceremony in Zhongmou county of Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan province.
It is a love story that has moved many people. Hundreds had gathered spontaneously at a hotel, which was provided to them for free, to encourage this brave woman and send their best wishes to the bride and her groom, Yang Haibin.
"Originally, I thought people were waiting for a show or something," Feng says happily.
At about 5:20 am, after a transfusion session in a local hospital, Feng washed her face and got ready to go home with the help of her parents and friends, to prepare her makeup and wedding dress for the big day.
"I was too excited to sleep that night. I just slept about two hours," Feng says.
When her husband, 24-year-old Yang, carried her on his back downstairs, Feng says she felt like the happiest bride in the world.
Moved by their love story
The couple appreciates the many warm-hearted people who helped them by providing free makeup, photography, the hotel and wedding ceremony service.
One person even provided their own Mercedes-Benz to serve the couple.
An elderly man surnamed Zhang came from a nearby county, saying he was moved by their love story on TV, and wanted to encourage the brave girl.
"This girl is so smart. We hope she can defeat her disease and have a long, long happy life," Zhang says.
The young couple got a marriage registration on Sept 23, 2013, but they didn't plan a wedding immediately. They had to save money for medical bills, Yang says.
Yang works in a local post office and earns only 3,000 yuan (S$601.50) a month.
Feng is the second of the three daughters in the family and her twin sister, the youngest, was born deaf.
The family makes a living by selling bean sprouts in the market, but Feng's treatment has cost some 200,000 yuan, and they have had to borrow money from relatives and friends.
Feng was diagnosed with glioma and had an operation in 2011, but the tumour recurred in 2013.
"We didn't know what to do then, but Yingying said she did not mourn for her life," says her mother Cheng Liuzhi, 57. "She even told us she wanted to donate her corneas and kidney to those in need after learning of her relapse.
"She persuaded us to agree to her wishes at that time and said we could 'see her again' by seeing the recipient."
It was about this time that Yang came into Feng's life.
The two "met" online via WeChat during the Qixi Festival, or Chinese Valentine's Day, on Aug 13, when she was receiving treatment in a hospital. They met face-to-face the next day and already felt like good old friends.
When talking about their love story, Feng smiles and says God is fair, but at the moment when both the brain tumour and love befell her, she felt at a loss. But now, she feels more appreciated and brave enough to face fate with the support of her husband.
Feng used to sell clothes and still has the habit of dressing nicely.
Feng often uses the word "luck" and she has the glow of a woman in love even as her illness gets worse, blurring her vision and eroding her memory.
But laughter and happiness are evident in Feng's hospital ward, and she stays optimistic about defeating the brain tumour.
But she wasn't always sure that her love was right.
"At the beginning, I refused. I did not want to affect Yang's life, but his persistence moved me," Feng says while showing off her marriage certificate.
Yang says: "There was a lot of obstruction at that time. My parents did not agree, and many friends of mine also advised me to break up.
"But I clearly knew I wanted to marry her."
Huo Yan, Feng's doctor, says Feng needs much more advanced treatment in a big city.
The People's Liberation Army Navy General Hospital in Beijing offered to waive the cost of the surgery two days after the couple's wedding was reported by media.
Feng and Yang arrived in Beijing on Saturday for further checkups at large hospitals, looking for the best options and possible treatment.
A Chinese-American surnamed Wang also contacted the local media, suggesting that they apply for funding from the American Brain Tumor Association in the United States. The two are in the process of filling out the application forms and searching for more information online.
"We are so happy to have another possibility and hope to grasp at it," Yang says.