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Goin’ to the Hospital Chapel: A Celebration of Life, Love and Triumph

Couple renews wedding vows 16 years after husband’s successful brain tumor surgery at Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest

Marisol and Jesús Colón, couple renewed their wedding vows at the chapel at the Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest

Marisol and Jesús Colón went from grim to grin and it was time to celebrate their love for each other and 30 years of marriage.

But where the couple renewed their wedding vows was as unconventional as it was poignant, as much about triumph as it was about struggle.

A brain tumor in 2005

Sixteen years ago, the chapel at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Cedar Crest was a safe harbor for Marisol as Jesús underwent a successful five-hour surgery to remove a rare benign tumor, a hemangioblastoma, on his brain stem. Removing such tumors can be challenging because they have a rich blood supply. Blood vessels attached to the tumor must be carefully disconnected before the tumor is removed.

Jesús’ type of tumor represents about 2 percent of all brain tumors.

   Did you know? About 70 percent of all brain tumors are benign. Brain tumor facts

The couple’s two children were young teens at the time. Marisol didn’t know if Jesús would live, let alone walk or talk again. It was a lot to bear. Sometimes, the sight of tubes and the sound of beeping medical monitors was overwhelming. A woman of faith, she needed a place to pray, think and recharge.

The chapel became her oasis then and now – 16 years later – it would be the place she and Jesús would pledge themselves to each other again “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.”

“It’s almost like the biblical story of Lazarus,” says Marisol, a Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) medical insurance claims specialist since 2003. “God raised him (Jesús), I feel, from the dead. And when I would go to the chapel, that’s how I would feel. Being in the hospital room with him, I felt dead. So, I would go to the chapel and I would feel alive.”

Falling cabinet solves a mystery

You need to rewind to 2005 to appreciate the Colóns’ struggles that started with Jesús being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Jesús was having headaches and stomach pain. He was losing a lot of weight and his coordination was off, yet the cause of the ills that left him unable to continue work as a dock builder in New York remained a mystery.

The couple had to move to a less expensive apartment in Allentown. One day, as Jesús was getting something from a cabinet for Marisol, the cabinet fell on his head. A visit to the emergency room at LVH–Cedar Crest included a CT scan that revealed the tumor.

Jesús was promptly admitted to LVH–Cedar Crest, while neurosurgeon P. Mark Li, MD, figured out how best to remove the tumor. Li, the former chief of neurosurgery at LVHN, lost his battle with ALS on April 30, 2021. “We loved him. We really did,” says Marisol, adding Li and the entire care team was extremely caring and supportive. “[Jesús] had excellent, excellent care here,” says Marisol. “Everybody was phenomenal.”

The long road back

A month in the hospital was followed by months more of rehabilitation, but it ultimately took years for Jesús to become self-sufficient again. In the early days, Marisol would have to carry him upstairs on her back because their apartment was not wheelchair accessible. “The road (to recovery) was long and hard,” says Marisol. “Life definitely changed for us. He went from being a dock builder and making good money to being disabled at a young age. It’s a lot.”

The ceremony

Pastor Kari Holmes officiated as Marisol and Jesús exchanged vows recently before their family that included their two adult children, son-in-law, 3-year-old grandson and Marisol’s parents. The couple each pledged to “rededicate my life, my love, my all” to the other.

“I couldn’t even fathom the idea he would make it to be a grandfather,” Marisol says of the time around Jesús’ surgery 16 years ago. “The diagnosis was grim. I’m just so grateful that he made it out of that circumstance and that I was strong enough to deal with all the stuff that came with that.”

For Jesús, the location for the vow renewal was perfect, even though it evoked a sadder time. “At the time, they gave me like a 30 percent chance to live. To be here with my family and just to be breathing, it’s just awesome,” he says. “I’m not fully 100 percent, but I’m close to it and that’s good enough for me. It took a while, but I’m here.”

The couple credited their faith for helping them through it all.

“When you get married at 20, you’re thinking it’s an adventure. Sickness and health – at 20 years old you’re thinking it’s a cold, you’re not thinking it’s a brain tumor. Till death to you part – you’re thinking old age, not a brain tumor at 35.” – Marisol Colón

Grateful beyond words

Emotions are quick to surface, as are tears, when Marisol thinks of all she and Jesús have been through. She’d marry him all over again.

“I feel like he’s my best friend,” she says. “When you get married at 20, you’re thinking it’s an adventure. Sickness and health – at 20 years old you’re thinking it’s a cold, you’re not thinking it’s a brain tumor. Till death do you part – you’re thinking old age, not a brain tumor at 35.”

Marisol says she and Jesús saw their vow renewal as a good time to ask for an extra blessing. “It’s a celebration of where we were,” she says. “We made it. There’s a lot to be grateful for. I want to celebrate that and give people hope.”

And what better place to celebrate than the place where they got a second chance at life and love.


People from around the region turn to LVHN for excellent neurosurgical care.

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