Two very important people walked Sheri Shaw-James down the aisle at her wedding in June: her oncologists Emma B. Holliday and Van Karlyle Morris.
In February 2021, Shaw-James, a 70-year-old retired nurse, was diagnosed with stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma of the rectum. She told her new boyfriend, Bill James, 77, that she didn’t think it was fair for him to have to go through her treatments, and told him he should end things. “I told her, ‘No, I’m not going anywhere,'” James told The Washington Post.
James was by her side as she began treatment at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, receiving radiation and chemotherapy. “She was so incredibly courageous and wouldn’t give up,” James said. Shaw-James quickly grew close to her oncologists, Holliday and Morris, sharing stories with them about her life and family. This was the “lowest point” in her life, she said, and they were there through the fatigue and vertigo and nausea. “We became partners in getting through it.”
Four months later, she was declared cancer-free, and when James later proposed marriage, she said yes. As they began planning their wedding in North Carolina, Shaw-James knew she wanted Holliday and Morris to play a role in the ceremony. “Without them and their hard work, there might not have been a wedding to celebrate,” she told the Post. “I am here today because of God and because of them.”
Both immediately agreed to be part of the big day. “We get a lot of hard questions as oncologists, but this was probably the easiest one to answer,” Morris said. Shaw-James was touched, and found it a “huge honor” to have them by her side.