Strangers make dream wedding reality for Alberta woman battling cancer

Complete strangers are taking on the role of fairy godmothers to make a Vegreville, Alta. couple’s dream wedding come together in just six weeks.

Laurie Dirsa and Dean Elkow became engaged in October. They originally set a wedding date in August 2017, but then received some devastating news.

“On January 19, my world came crashing down,” Dirsa said. “The doctor told me I had a tumour – one that he’d never seen in the 200 colonoscopies he’d done, he’d never seen one like mine.”


Dirsa was diagnosed with Stage 3 colorectal cancer in January. Surgery to remove the tumour – which was the size of a baseball – was scheduled for June.

“Once you heal from that, there’s at least five months of chemo again, so life is kind of put on hold while I go through this.”

Her fiancé wanted to get married before the operation. He’d waited 47 years to meet his match and didn’t want to wait any longer.

“Sometimes you’ve got to wait a lifetime to find your special one,” Elkow said with a smile.

So, their wedding timeline was sped up… a lot.

The couple decided on a backyard ceremony and BBQ reception. It would be simple. Easy.

But that is not how the most important day of their lives was meant to be, at least according to a very special group of strangers.

When Dirsa turned to the web for advice on how to plan a wedding on short notice, people from all around the Capital Region stepped up.

They weren’t just offering advice, they were offering Dirsa and her fiancé a wedding day they’d never forget.

“I am overwhelmed, floored.

“Something that was going to be people bringing lawn chairs… is going to be a fairy tale wedding,” Dirsa said, her voice breaking. “It’s a dream come true.”

Complete strangers donated flowers, photography, a cake and decorations.

“I lost my mom in September due to cancer,” Shawna Murray, the owner of Knot Shop wedding rentals, said. “I thought there would be not a better person I would love to help to try to get through something like this.”

Murray will be taking care of linen rentals, centre pieces, table settings and bringing the wedding theme to life.

“I couldn’t think of a better way I’d like to spend May long weekend than helping her do this, set up and make her day perfect,” Murray added.

Erin Wildeboer read about the couple online and immediately wanted to help in some way.

“She was just looking for a great wedding dress. Every girl deserves to feel pretty. I thought my dress made me feel that way so I thought this is a great person that could use it.”

“If this was happening to me, I couldn’t imagine trying to come up with a wedding dress,” Wildeboer said. “She’s going through the worst time in her life right now, and … giving my dress was the least I could do.”

“To make her feel really good on her wedding day would be pretty worth it.”

Someone even donated a honeymoon.

“Because of his generosity and kindness, Dean and I get to go to Vancouver, where I’ve never been,” Dirsa said. “That was on my bucket list.”

In one year, the couple plans to celebrate their anniversary and Dirsa being a cancer survivor. They hope to invite everyone who helped create their wedding day.

“People I don’t even know,” she said. “But I’m pretty sure there’s going to be some life-long friends out of this.”

Follow @Emily_Mertz

With files from Sarah Kraus, Global News