Terminally Ill Floridians Fall in Love: Terminally Ill Couple Married

Published: May 30, 2015

Terminally Ill Floridians Fall in Love: Terminally Ill Couple Married, Two terminally ill Floridians decided they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, marrying in front of family and friends last week after falling in love at their hospice care facility.

Debbie Rivera, 54, and John Whaley, 58, are both suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to their nursing home, and Whaley, a triple-amputee, has also been diagnosed with stage three lung cancer, he said.

“We were both so tired of being alone and not having nobody except for family,” Whaley of Jacksonville, Florida told ABC News. “It makes me feel I got somebody here I can talk to and relate to.”

Whaley, who had been a patient Governors Creek Health and Rehabilitation Center for a few months, said he was introduced to Rivera while relaxing in the television room at the facility.

“We’d sit in there and talk and we started getting to know each other and started having feelings for each other,” he said. “We both like the same things and we both are in bad shape, so we hit it off.”

Although the two had fallen ill, Whaley, who decided to propose to Rivera, said he was thrilled when she agreed to spend the rest of her life with him.

Philip Slotin, general manager of Vitas Healthcare, which provides support and comfort to patients at Governors Creek, assisted in setting up the wedding day festivities for Whaley and Rivera.

“When we found out they wanted to get married, we had one of our chaplains do the service,” he said. “It was really exciting that we could help this happen and have a nice celebration.”

Rivera, who donned a traditional white bridal gown during the May 23 ceremony, was given away by her son Scott under a gazebo where she and Whaley exchanged vows.

“She looked beautiful,” Whaley said. “Debbie cried. I was about to a couple of times. After, there was cake, crackers, teas, and stuff like that. We smiled for a bunch of pictures. My face was never so tired from smiling,” he said, laughing.

Governors Creek’s east wing manager Latoria Haile said the couple “seemed very happy.”

“The bride was like any other bride — very nervous and giddy,” she added. “They’re a cute couple.”

Following the reception, the couple left the facility to stay at Whaley’s home in Jacksonville.

“I don’t think I could be happier, honestly,” Whaley said.

Terminally Ill Floridians Fall in Love: Terminally Ill Couple Married

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