When a Taiwanese woman posed for her longed-for wedding photo shoot in 2016, the results were as fantastic as she had always hoped they would be. She looked radiant and gorgeous, dressed in glamorous outfits and situated in stunning surroundings. In fact, there was only one thing that was missing from the wedding pictures: a partner. And it turned out that there was a heartbreaking explanation as to why this would-be bride was photographed alone.
Q May Chen, a 28-year-old resident of Taiwan’s capital, Taipei, had always longed to take part in a wedding shoot. And when that day finally came, she made the occasion as elaborate as possible, complete with many changes of apparel and an outstandingly romantic backdrop. Indeed, the artistic shots were remarkable – and not only for the unusual fact that Chen was the sole focus of them.
Then in May 2016 the young woman shared 30 snapshots from the photoshoot on her Facebook account. They showed Chen posed in four outfits – a red gauze dress, a white gauze gown, a pink embroidered dress and a white lace gown – as well as various tiaras and headpieces. “The red is for personality, pink is sweet, white yarn is princess and gauze is sexy,” she later told Cosmopolitan magazine. Everything was hand-picked by Chen, and she was absolutely thrilled with the results.
The would-be bride also explained that she had not wanted to have her photos taken in a studio because she wanted it to be just “like a real wedding.” Consequently, Chen hired a car and took herself off to the grounds of a beautiful Italianate villa near Yangming Mountain, close to her home in Taipei. Some of the pictures were even taken inside and around an ornate white chapel.
And Chen had grown up fantasizing about the happy occasion on which she would get to wear a wedding dress. “When I was younger, I loved to dress up and always hoped that I would one day be able to do my own wedding shoot when I got married,” she told BuzzFeed in March 2017. It was a dream come true for the young woman, then, even though there was no partner by her side.
Meanwhile, the snaps themselves prompted plenty of compliments when Chen shared them on social media. Indeed, the shots were subsequently shared many times by various individuals and news outlets. However, it turned out that Chen’s was not the average wedding photography session – not least because there was a desperately sad reason for the shoot.
In particular, Chen had had issues with her health for a while. In 2013 she had been treated for stage-two breast cancer, after which she had received the all-clear from doctors who had informed her that she was in remission. Two years later, however, Chen received some terrible news.
In 2015 the unfortunate young woman learned that not only had the cancer come back, but it was now much worse. In fact, the disease was classified as being at stage four, which made it metastatic or advanced cancer. Sadly, this meant that it had spread to other parts of Chen’s body.
Nevertheless, the devastating diagnosis was not going to prevent Chen from developing her wedding photo dream into a reality. So, after discovering that she was terminally ill, Chen came up with the perfect birthday gift for herself for her special day in 2016. She decided that now was the time to fulfill her long-held photographic fantasy.
And unfortunately Chen was to soon realize that time was of the essence, given her health status. Indeed, Chen felt that circumstances meant that she should not put off her wedding-shoot wishes anymore. “I waited, but then I got sick again,” she explained to BuzzFeed. “That was when I finally decided that this was something I needed to do.”
Nonetheless, there was another factor to consider: there was no groom in sight. But while Chen was single, the young woman did not want that small detail to detain her. “When your life is facing a countdown, you no longer feel you have a lot of time,” she told the BBC in May 2017. Instead of waiting for Mr. Right, then, Chen came up with the idea of doing the shoot solo. And in the process, she found the whole project emboldening in a way that she never anticipated.
Indeed, the young woman took great solace from her single-minded endeavor. “I realized that even though I am alone, I can accomplish so much in life,” Chen told BuzzFeed. “You don’t need to wait for someone to complete you.” In fact, she had already proved this to herself 12 months previously. For the birthday the year before her photo session, Chen had bought herself driving lessons. And once she had gained her driver’s license, she no longer had to rely on anyone else to take her to the places she wanted to go.
Furthermore, the whole wedding photography experience had helped Chen to realize that she could be successfully independent. As she explained to the BBC, “I was always waiting for someone to appear, to help me fulfill my dreams, including taking wedding photos. Now I choose to fulfill my dreams by myself.”
And Chen was close to tears when she put on her wedding gown at the Yangming Mountain property. “I felt as if I had finally achieved a dream I’ve had for many years,” she told the BBC. What’s more, since she shared the results of her photoshoot, Chen has been overwhelmed by the affirmative attention that she has received from the online community.
Indeed, one BuzzFeed reader was moved to comment, “What a beautiful and inspiring story. Q May Chen, you’re a courageous and beautiful young lady! Your bridal photos are breathtaking! Continue to stay strong and positive!” Another added, “Beautiful story about a beautiful young woman with so much heart and courage. Here’s to millions of love and prayers coming your way. Thank you for the inspiration.”
Perhaps, then, the photos have helped others “cherish the present,” as Chen has said – whether they are suffering physically or mentally or not. “I want to use my story to encourage people who are ill or healthy that life is not so bad,” the Taiwanese woman informed the BBC. “Other than life and death, everything is minor.”
Chen’s next goal for herself, however, is to travel more, and she intends to follow up her wedding photography experience with a “honeymoon” to Bali. The young woman also regularly posts photos of her adventures online, and it is clear that she is not letting her cancer slow things down. She’s since been to Seoul in South Korea, for instance. While there, she even completed a circuit of the terrifying Skywalk attraction around the outside perimeter of the 764-foot-high Macau Tower.
But Chen has also kept her followers updated on the details of her battle with breast cancer. During her filmed interview with the BBC, for example, the patient revealed that she had to attend a hospital three times a week to receive injections. The courageous Chen was also having chemotherapy and at one point had been wheelchair-bound.
“I couldn’t walk,” Chen explained to the camera. “The hair you see now is not real – it’s a wig.” In addition, since the BBC filming in May 2017, Chen has been in and out of hospital. Nevertheless, she still tries to remain positive. And after sharing the results of her dream day on social media, Chen now has friends from around the world who frequently send her good wishes online.
Above all else, though, Chen firmly believes in the importance of one stark fact: life is short. As she told BuzzFeed, “I couldn’t have known that stage-four cancer was waiting for me, but I’m making the most of the limited time we all have.”