Couple marries at Pickering Barn after groom overcomes cancer
January 8, 2013
By Warren Kagarise
The relationship between newlyweds Stephanie Rotter and Jared Trygg reads like a romance from a fairy tale.
The couple met young — seventh grade for Rotter, ninth grade for Trygg — at a church youth group, started dating in high school, got engaged at postcard-perfect Snoqualmie Falls and wed late last month at historic Pickering Barn.
But, like any good fairy tale, changes in the plot created hurdles before the couple could meet at the altar.
Rotter, 21, and Trygg, 23, needed to reschedule the walk down the aisle three times to give the groom time to gain strength after undergoing chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The nuptials — a ceremony before about 120 guests in Pickering Barn’s soaring Hay Barn — stood as a testament to the couple’s commitment to each other and endurance in the face of life-threatening illness.
“It means more than just getting married,” Trygg said days before the ceremony. “It means getting to a point that we’ve been so excited about in our lives and, really, it means so much to me to move on from all of the experiences and to progress with Stephanie.”
In October 2010, doctors diagnosed Trygg with stage II Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system. The diagnosis came as a surprise for the athletic, healthy Trygg.
Only weeks earlier, Rotter joined Trygg as a student at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho.
Early in the fall semester, Trygg felt unusually fatigued and, worryingly, a mass started to form on his neck. Initially, he believed the swollen lymph node stemmed from a cold or another minor malady, but finally, on a visit to the emergency room during Trygg’s 21st birthday weekend to have the mass checked out, a doctor said the growth might be cancerous.
Frightened, Rotter and Trygg returned to Idaho for school and sought out information about physicians in the area.
“We didn’t know any doctors in the area, and we just picked the first one and called him,” Rotter recalled. “They had an opening and we went the next day.”
The dreaded diagnosis came next, and Trygg left Nampa to return to the Seattle area for treatment.
In December 2010, he started chemotherapy, and the cancer seemed to recede. The next summer, Trygg underwent radiation therapy to blast the remaining cancer in his chest and neck.
The groom-to-be received a month of radiation and, believing the treatment defeated the cancer, returned to school.
Trygg popped the question to Rotter during a visit to Snoqualmie Falls on July 15, 2011. The couple immediately started planning for a wedding the following summer.
Then, in November 2011, he underwent a routine PET scan. The cancer had returned, only much worse than before.
Physicians classified the disease as stage IV. The cancer had spread beyond his diaphragm, and nodules formed on his lungs, other organs and pelvic bone. Trygg underwent surgery just before Christmas 2011.
More chemo greeted Trygg in early 2012, and in November, he received a transplant of stem cells previously harvested from his body.
The treatment, or autologous stem cell transplant, left Trygg weak and battling some nasty side effects, but on the road to recovery.
“The whole process has definitely taken its toll on my body and my energy levels,” he said. “From this point, the doctors only see me getting better and improving as long as I’m eating well and drinking well, and I slowly add exercise to my schedule to gain my strength. It’s really only good things from here.”
The sudden downturn in Trygg’s health and subsequent treatments upended the couple’s scheduled wedding. In the end, they rescheduled the nuptials three times before tying the knot.
Rotter remembers feeling a mix of terror about Trygg’s worsened condition and disappointment at rescheduling the wedding.
“I was devastated,” she said. “I had been at school planning this wedding for an entire year. I was so excited.”
Meanwhile, as the couple juggled chemo and schoolwork, they searched throughout the region to find a venue for the rescheduled ceremony. Rotter envisioned a venue both elegant and rustic — illuminated by flickering candles and decorated by flowers —“a little country, which is funny because I’m not from the country,” she said. Pickering Barn fit the bill for the Kirkland couple.
Throughout the rounds of chemo and during long nights at the hospital, Rotter remained fixed at Trygg’s side, often propped up in a chair next to the bed and gulping Airborne to ward off illness.
“She’s been my support system through it all,” Trygg said. “I’m just really excited to marry her and have her be my person for the rest of my life.”