“Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairytale,” the minister said. And, on that day in August 2017, life did seem like a fairytale for bride Deanna Delmonaco and her groom, Grayson Pedro.
But the ethereal princess gown, well-wishes from guests and the towering, rose-covered wedding cake were not the picturebook ending to Delmonaco and Pedro’s fairytale together. Just two weeks after their beautiful, love-filled wedding, the young bride tragically passed away.
Deanna Delmonaco, from New Haven, Connecticut, was just like every other 13-year-old girl. She loved Disney World and sunflowers, so much so that she would get a watercolor tattoo of a golden-yellow bloom when she was old enough.
Delmonaco was one week into eighth grade when doctors detected something unusual: a large mass was growing on her femur bone. With testing, they were able to determine that she had a rare type of bone cancer called Ewing’s Sarcoma.
For her family, the diagnosis was “devastating,” according to a GoFundMe page created by Delmonaco’s mother, Kim LaViola Shaul. “Not only was my daughter diagnosed but we had been reeling from the diagnosis six months earlier of my husband’s small cell lung cancer with brain metastasis, which is typically a terminal cancer,” Shaul wrote.
Shaul’s husband beat the odds and overcame his diagnosis, but Delmonaco’s fight against cancer would be much lengthier. After her initial diagnosis in 2009, she underwent surgery to replace her cancerous femur with a cadaver bone. The successful swap meant she was cancer-free.
But that sense of relief would only last nine months, at which time doctors found cancer in the teen’s lung. After that, Delmonaco had four more relapses despite a multitude of surgeries and cancer treatments, including radiation and chemotherapy. In spite of all of these setbacks, she still managed to maintain a normal life.
Not only did Delmonaco attend high school, but she earned passing grades and graduated on time. At the same time, she held a part-time job at Hot Topic, a retail clothing chain. And, after that, she moved on to study at the University of New Haven, too.
Along the way, she met Grayson Pedro, who just so happened to have one big thing in common with Delmonaco: a passion for Disney movies and the brand’s theme parks. Like many of the movies, their love played out like a fairytale.
But that fairytale romance would come to an abrupt halt in June of 2017, when the pair received devastating news: doctors told Delmonaco that she had little time left. The cancer she had fought for eight years had become terminal.
It wasn’t long after her diagnosis that Pedro realized he had to make the most of the time they had left. For that reason, he soon got down on one knee and proposed so the couple could be married for as long as possible.
Delmonaco took to Facebook to celebrate the good news. She wrote, “We’ve been through hell and back, but Grayson and I have stayed through it strong. Last night he solidified that our future would be forever and proposed. He is my happily ever after.”
As soon as Delmonaco said “yes,” her family and friends sprung into action. They planned every single experience that every other bride would have. She had a bridal shower and a bachelorette party, and she had her dream wedding, too.
On August 26, 2017, guests gathered to watch as Delmonaco made her way down the aisle. In a beautiful display of unconditional love, Pedro pushed her wheelchair – covered in bows made of tulle – as the assembled guests looked on.
“Today we are here to celebrate love and life, soulmates that have displayed the true meaning of love, devotion and strength,” the minister said. “They are solid, strong and unbreakable.”
The heartfelt ceremony had touches of personality, of course, mainly when Disney quotes and motifs were incorporated. “Can you feel the love tonight?” the minister asked, referencing the movie The Lion King.
The couple also sliced into a multi-tiered wedding cake bedecked with real red roses and baby’s breath. The front of the cake read, “Tale as old as time,” hearkening back to another Disney film, Beauty and the Beast..
After exchanging vows, posing for photos and listening to speeches, they couple sliced into their cake – and stayed true to the new-spouse tradition of smashing cake in each other’s faces. Even with such a hard road ahead, the newlyweds lived a happy, magical wedding day.
Only two weeks later, though, those smiles would fade away. Delmonaco’s mom took to Facebook to share the heartbreaking news that her daughter had passed away on September 11, 2017. Shaul wrote, “Our hearts are broken into a million pieces and will never be the same again.”
But even without Delmonaco physically with her loved ones, her legacy, kindness and optimism will stay with them. Lori Giglio Pedro, Grayson’s mother, wrote in a Facebook post, “Let’s all pay it forward in memory of Deanna by doing one kind gesture for a total stranger. Although our sweet girl had many days in which she was in pain, she was always there brightening other people’s days.”