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After dealing with cancer, raging wildfire and death, B.C. couple's wedding carries on with help from regional district

A B.C. couple nearly called off their wedding due to the devastating wildfire in the Shuswap region, but the two never gave up hope on celebrating their love, despite the tragedy surrounding them.

Cynthia and Gordon Stevens' love story began in 2019, but their journey wasn't easy.

Gordon was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2022. During his life-threatening medical battle, he went through months of treatment, was placed in an induced coma, suffered two strokes, was told he wouldn't be able to walk and got cancer again.

Cynthia stayed by his side the whole time.

"She was the head cheerleader for me," said Gordon. "She was there every day that she could be for me, cheering me on, so that pretty well sealed the deal in my head that I wanted her in my life."

"I think that’s probably why I survived," he continued. "So I could be with her. I think that was pretty instrumental in my survival."

Two days after being released from the rehabilitation centre, he asked her to marry him.

 "And I said yes, and so we started planning our wedding ... in Seymour Arm at Nellie's Lake," said Cynthia.

She said Seymour Arm is a place they both love dearly.

"It’s an off-grid area," Cynthia said. "There’s no cell service. I am a Realtor. My phone goes off continually in one way or another ... And we would have no distractions. We were just one with nature and it’s just a magical place."

But just weeks before their big day, they were forced to evacuate due to the out-of-control Bush Creek East Wildfire, and the main road leading to their venue was blocked off.

"We did not want to postpone the wedding, but we didn’t really have anywhere else that we could take place for a wedding, and my daughter said to me, 'Mom, why don’t you call the regional district, the emergency services, if they can convoy people out, perhaps they can convoy you in?'" Cynthia said.

So, they did just that, and the regional district agreed to make it happen.

"It was one of the brighter spots in an otherwise challenging time," said Shuswap Emergency Operations Centre risk management officer John MacLean.

"Seymour Arm wasn't challenged by fires. I knew that no matter what, we had the infrastructure in place. We were running a barge to communities north of the fire on Shuswap Lake. So I knew one way or another, we were going to be able to make sure this lady had a wedding day."

Cynthia said she was overwhelmed with joy.

"I started to cry. I just was so overwhelmed and so grateful and all of those people really did care and people did try their best," she said.

Evacuation orders ended up being lifted just days before their Sept. 9 wedding.

When they returned home, Cynthia found out her stepfather had died, but her mother insisted on keeping the wedding on as her stepfather would attend in spirit.

"The whole ceremony was absolutely perfect," Cynthia said. "It was a beautiful day. There was a blue sky, the people that mean the most to us in our lives."

The couple is now headed off to their honeymoon in Texas.

Their biggest takeaway from this whole journey is to never give up hope on your dreams, and that there are people out there who care and want to help. 

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