For months, Erika Farrington filled her Pinterest page with images of three-tiered cakes, floral crowns and other DIY decorations to match her bright personality. The 28-year-old loved planning her dream wedding to distract herself from the Stage 4 breast cancer she was battling.
After three years of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, Farrington was trying to make the most of the life she had left, determined not to let her cancer get in the way of love.
But as she scouted out venues for her outdoor marriage ceremony, Farrington's health suddenly took a turn for the worse. She struggled to walk and her head pounded painfully.
'Looking back, we still can't believe how it all came together.' - Husband Scott Ogilvie
On July 25, Farrington's fiancé, Scott Ogilvie, rushed her to the emergency room at the Ottawa Hospital's General Campus, where the couple received devastating news — Farrington's cancer had not only spread to her brain, but to her spine as well.
"The doctors made it clear this was fatal, and it would be fatal soon," said Ogilvie. "I almost wanted to throw up and faint, but I was there with her and she was obviously upset, but could handle it. She still wasn't going to give up. She looked at us and said, 'Things will still be OK.'"
Then and there, the couple decided to get married the next day. When the hospital's ER staff got wind of their decision, they stepped in and helped plan a wedding overnight.
"Looking back we still can't believe how it all came together," said Ogilvie. "They showed their compassion above and beyond."
Dress shop steps in to help
Farrington had already picked out a custom-made gown with a hint of pink tulle to symbolize her fight with breast cancer. Unfortunately, it wasn't ready. So the hospital's ER staff started cold-calling wedding boutiques.
Clinical manager Kathy Bickerton reached out to With Love Bridal Boutique in Kanata, and the shop agreed to help. Bickerton said store employees showed up with not one but five gowns for Farrington to try on.
"She looked beautiful," said Bickerton. "She looked like a princess. It was unbelievable...To be able to help make that happen was something I'll never forget."
On a sun-filled evening the song I Choose You by Sara Bareilles played as Farrington's parents wheeled their daughter through the hospital's butterfly garden to where 30 friends and family members had gathered.
"When I first saw her it didn't matter the circumstances," said Ogilvie. "Seeing her beautiful face, seeing her see me and her reaction, she was obviously very happy. That is a great memory, that we could share this day, her dream."
'We felt like we had escaped'
"We felt like we had escaped," said Ogilvie. "We were at our wedding, and nothing else mattered."
"It was just so nice to be able to give them a smile for a moment, or a bit of joy, or to give just that moment of maybe a normal time where it was about being a bride, being a princess for the day and not being sick," said clinical care leader Sharon Judge-Hatoum, who helped make the arrangements.
One week after the wedding, on the morning of Aug. 2, Farrington died in hospital with her parents and husband by her side.
"Erika was such a beautiful, unique person, so brave to go through what she had to," said Ogilvie. "She deserved so much more from life. I am glad that one of my last memories of her will be how beautiful and happy she was at our unique, impromptu wedding."
"That day really meant a lot to us, because despite everything, we got to share our love."