- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Cory and Erin Blanchard can measure the milestones of their lives together so far - 1,105 days of dating, 11 days between their engagement and their wedding, and exactly one month between Erin’s ultrasound and her surgery after being diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

They had dreamed of a huge wedding at a plantation house in New Orleans, followed by a reception with a big brass band that kept everyone dancing late into the night.

“When we got the diagnosis back, none of that seemed to matter anymore,” Erin said. “Neither one of us thought we were shorting ourselves. It just felt like this is the way it should have always been done.”

On Saturday, Jan. 17, they were married in a brief ceremony, followed by a reception at Trim Tab Brewing Company.

The makeshift tables of wooden pallets balanced on kegs, with Mardi Gras masks and beads were scattered on the tabletops. The guests ate gumbo and king cake and enjoyed a steady flow of locally brewed beer.

A few days before Christmas, Erin’s ultrasound showed several masses. After that, their plans remained hypothetical until doctors confirmed it was thyroid cancer. At first, they worried it would seem they were rushing into it, that they were scared.

“I just wanted to have that moment with him - that public proclamation of love before we go down this path,” Erin said. “I didn’t want it tarnished in any way. If I have to have radiation, chemo, whatever might come, I didn’t want this to be affected by whatever aftermath was going to be there.”

Cory and Erin - usually meticulous in planning the details of an elaborate party - had about a week to put together a ceremony others spend a year or longer planning. Each day brought more wedding preparation - buying rings, booking a venue, ordering a dress, setting up a registry - but also more help than they expected.

“The outpouring of support over the wedding and what’s going on health-wise, the surgery, was completely overwhelming,” Erin said. “People at work would come to me and tell me their church congregation lifted me up in prayer - literally people I barely know. A while ago, if someone had told me that, I would think it’s a little strange, but it is touching, very humbling and it made me feel very lucky.”

Even with such short notice, more than 100 people attended. Though the big brass band couldn’t be booked and there were a few minor hitches, their wedding went well, Cory said.

“Most people know us well enough to realize we weren’t able to put everything we have into throwing this event,” Cory said.

And, despite the circumstances, there was a degree of practicality that appealed to them.

The ceremony saved them thousands of dollars and months of stressing about wedding plans, and family and friends pitched in to make sure the day went as smoothly as possible.

Sometime down the road - their second or third or fifth anniversary - they’ll throw that big, celebratory, New Orleans-style party they always wanted.

From their first date watching a Saints game to their Mardi Gras-themed wedding, their shared love of all things New Orleans has been evident.

They grew up just a few miles apart, but they met in Alabama three years ago, when Cory was living in Tuscaloosa and Erin in Birmingham.

Though Erin had reservations after a previous relationship, Cory knew how he felt from early on. Eventually, the couple had no doubt they wanted to spend their lives together.

In June 2014, they bought a house, knowing the decision would mean pushing back their marriage plans.

“We were OK with that,” Erin said. “We weren’t married yesterday, and we’re married today, and here we sit in the same places we normally do.”

In the days leading up to her surgery last Thursday, she remained calm, reassured with Cory by her side and her family’s support. At a follow-up appointment this week, they will learn what the next steps for treatment will be.

Erin knows she can count on Cory, who has been supportive while she works a full-time job and studies for her graduate school classes. She hopes to graduate in the spring of 2016.

“I’m hoping it all seems like a blur when I’m done,” she said. “It will be challenging but doable.”

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