Two years ago, Jillian Hanson, then a 25-year-old from New Jersey, was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.
Her thoughts quickly shifted to her boyfriend, Max Allegretti. Knowing how rough the road ahead would be, Hanson offered Allegretti, whom she had started dating in college three years prior, an “out” before things got too intense.
Allegretti wasn’t much interested in that.
“Jillian told me that it was going to be hard and that she did not know what to expect with everything and if I couldn’t handle it, she wanted to know now,” he told HuffPost. “I completely disregarded everything she said.”
Allegretti stayed by Hanson’s side during two years of intensive treatment. On her last day of chemo, Feb. 28, 2018, Allegretti knew exactly what he wanted to do to celebrate: Ask Hanson for her hand in marriage.
“I talked with Jill’s friends and family, and we decided how we could make her last day of chemo even better,” he said. “And then we planned everything out for the proposal with Memorial Sloan Kettering, the hospital where she was receiving treatment.”
The video of the proposal is nothing short of heartwarming.
“Jillian Hanson, will you marry me?” Allegretti asks, surrounded by his girlfriend’s family, friends and nurses.
“What? Wait no, really?!” a shaken-up Hanson replies, before eventually giving her answer: “Yes!”
The shock was genuine, Hanson said. Though they had talked about getting married before her diagnosis, the plans were put aside to focus on her treatment.
“I was so surprised that he decided to propose on a day that was already so special,” she told HuffPost. “It was such an exciting bonus that we were now celebrating two amazing milestones!”
It was a sweet ending to an arduous journey. Throughout the process, Allegretti tried to keep things as normal as possible.
“I would still remind her how beautiful she was regardless of her appearance changes. I would also surprise her with presents to cheer her up, like ‘Love Your Melon’ hats to keep her head warm in the winter,” he said. “We would still hang on the couch and watch movies together; the only difference was that we went out less.”
While they looked forward to their big day, the couple also felt a little overwhelmed by the prospect of planning ― and paying for ― a wedding. After all, Hanson still faced additional treatments, tests and therapy.
Later in the year, though, some wedding planners and vendors stepped in to help. In October 2018, Hanson’s friend Bianca met Lauren Grech of LLG Events and shared Hanson and Allegretti’s story with her. The New York City-based wedding planner was so touched, she decided to lend her services to the couple free of charge.
Hanson was shocked when she heard the news.
“I thought, ‘Wow, there are still good people in this world,’” she said. “The fact that they then wanted to plan the wedding pro-bono was amazing. They are such beautiful people and make dreams come true.”
Grech and her team called upon other wedding vendors to donate their services, including the Sterling Ballroom, which hosted the ceremony, Susan Shek Photography and designer Kenneth Winston, who gave Jillian her dream wedding dress.
“When we told Jillian that Kenneth Winston gifted her dream wedding dress, I cried alongside her,” Grech admitted. “I knew it was the one thing she wanted as she felt the most beautiful in that gown.”
Two years after Hanson’s diagnosis, the college sweethearts married on Oct. 18 in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, surrounded by friends and family. Looking back on the ceremony a month later, the couple said it couldn’t have been more perfect.
“The one word I would use to describe it is magical,” Hanson said.