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In sickness and in health: Penn State Hershey patient and his fiancée exchange vows

It wasn't the storybook wedding that Aric Mercado and Ashley Mojica had always talked about, but it was special in ways they had never dreamed of.

On Wednesday, Dec. 31, 2014 – New Year's Eve – the couple was joined together as husband and wife on the sixth floor of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, not far from the room Aric has been occupying since Friday. That's when the latest chapter in his six-year battle with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma began.

Aric and Ashley have been together for 11 years. They have two daughters together – Alani, age 9; and Kylie, age 6. The couple has been engaged for much of their time together, but health problems have forced them to repeatedly put off wedding plans. In addition to Aric's battle with cancer, Ashley has dealt with respiratory illness – including two collapsed lungs.

Aric's latest setback involved fluid in his lungs – a problem his care team feared could take his life at one point this past weekend. After he started pulling through, the couple – and hospital staff – were determined to see a wedding take place this time. Ashley says her determination was rooted in a desire for their daughters to be part of their wedding.

“I knew over the weekend that there was a possibility they wouldn't be able to see that,” Ashley said.

Hospital staff in Aric's unit scrambled to pull together the wedding, arranging for a decorated cake, grape juice for a toast, flowers and balloons.

On Wednesday, the bride and the groom stood before the Reverend Woody Dalton from Harrisburg Brethren in Christ Church in the presence of family and friends – as well as hospital staff and media. Aric and Ashley were flanked by Kylie, who was the flower girl, and Alani, who served as ring bearer. She was also the ring maker, having crafted them out of brightly colored blue and white rubber bands the previous day.

>> View a photo gallery (with high-res downloadable images)

So while it wasn't the church wedding Aric might have envisioned, he said it was still meaningful to marry the woman who has been at his side for 11 years.

“She's been there for me, she'll do anything for me,” Aric said. “She's my rock.”

“And he's mine,” Ashley said.

As he looks toward his future with uncertainty, Aric said one thing is for sure: “I want my girls to grow up knowing that their parents were married and they loved each other very much.”

Editors: We also have high-resolution (1080p) video available for download. If interested, please contact Scott Gilbert at 717-856-7596 (cell).

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