In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

February 14, 2023

Chemo nurse says ‘I will’ when couple asks if she’ll officiate their ‘I dos’

By In the Loop

Lorelei Hanson was one of the first nurses to care for Michael Jackson when he started chemotherapy. As Michael and his girlfriend, Molly Giehtbrock, got to know Hanson, they learned she had officiated weddings. When the couple became engaged, they asked Hanson to officiate theirs.

Molly Giehtbrock and Michael Jackson didn't need traditional wedding vows. They've already lived them.

"'In sickness and in health?' What else you got?" asks Molly, whose new husband was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, in November 2018. "'For richer or poorer?' I don't know any rich cancer patients."

So the couple — who were married in November 2022 by one of Michael's chemo nurses, Lorelei Hanson — wrote their own vows.

"I vow to you that I will not take our time for granted," Michael pledged to Molly.

It was a promise that every one of their wedding guests knew he'd keep.

A devastating diagnosis

When Michael and Molly met in February 2018, Molly knew the handsome stranger would become a part of her life in some way. It soon became clear how: the couple moved in together after just six months of dating.

Not long after that, Michael — an energetic, healthy, "perfect-attendance type" — began calling in sick to work. He was exhausted and had been having nosebleeds.

"We'd been trying to get an answer for what was happening," says Molly, who is a nurse in the Department of Dermatology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

They finally found one in November 2018. Michael had a primary care appointment at Mayo Clinic that included blood work and a chest X-ray. That night, he received a phone call from his physician.

"Doctors don't call at night," Molly says. "That was a red flag for me."

The physician advised Michael to go immediately to the Emergency Department.

"His hemoglobin was 4.5, and a normal level is 12," Molly says.

After three days of testing, Michael received a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. He began chemotherapy and spent two weeks in the hospital.

Molly was right beside him.

"I was pretty smitten by that point," she says. "I wasn't going anywhere."

In less than a year, the couple had transformed from young lovers to old souls.

"Age brings wisdom, but so does life experience," Molly says. "At that point, we started to live a lot of life quickly. It's a cliche, but life is short. You need to live every moment because you don't know what will happen tomorrow."

Bright spots and big plans

After Michael's diagnosis, the couple began spending much of their time at Mayo Clinic.

"Michael's cancer has been aggressive," Molly says. "It doesn't like to respond to treatment. In four years, he's had eight treatment plans. Every six months, there's a new plan."

The couple has found a bright spot in the people they've met along the way.

"When you're getting chemo once a week and hanging out with people for six or seven hours, you get to know them," Molly says. "They become part of your life."

Photos courtesy of Cara Carisch, Cheeky Monkey Studio.

Hanson was one of those people.

"Lorelei was one of the first people who gave Michael chemo," Molly says.

As the couple got to know her, they discovered a connection. "My mom (Kim Giehtbrock) had worked with Lorelei in a previous position," Molly says. "As huge as Mayo is, it's also small."

The couple also learned that Hanson had officiated weddings.

"She told us she'd married a couple of coworkers right before COVID," Molly says. "They went up to the top of the Methodist parking lot on their lunch hour and got married."

It wasn't the only wedding Hanson has officiated. She's done 15 to date — "and no divorces yet," she says.

After Michael proposed to Molly (in a flash mob-y way), the couple started planning their wedding. They knew just who to ask to officiate.

"We told Lorelei that if she was comfortable with it, we'd love to have her marry us," Molly says. "She has so much compassion and understands the struggles we face. She was part of the team that made it possible for us to even have a wedding. She was the right person for the job."

Hanson happily agreed.

"I think it's important to have someone who knows you marry you," she says. "I love standing in front of a couple and seeing the looks on their faces during the ceremony."

Support always, in all ways

On Nov. 19, 2022, Hanson looked on as Michael and Molly said their "I dos" at the Mayowood Stone Barn in front of fully vaccinated, healthy friends and family.

"We wondered, 'How do you have a wedding with a cancer patient during a pandemic?'" Molly says. "All of our guests were great. We asked people to be vaccinated before they RSVP'd. They understood what we're going through and didn't come if they were sick."

For Hanson, the highlight of the ceremony was witnessing the love between Molly and Michael.

"It gives me goosebumps to think about it even now," she says. "I loved seeing the way they looked at each other and how they leaned toward each other for support."

That's support that Molly promised to Michael forever in her vows.

"Life is filled with unlimited unknowns, but there's one thing I know with the utmost certainty," Molly said. "I love you with my whole heart. I promise to continue to love you, stand by you and support you always, in all ways."

It's a promise she's living out daily. Michael recently learned that he has developed tumors in his abdomen, and the couple is once again spending much of their time at Mayo Clinic.

"I'm really glad we had that time," Molly says of the couple's wedding. "You really need to celebrate when you can because bad stuff happens."

Molly says she's grateful for her colleagues who have supported her with cards, messages and offers of help. She's also grateful for the many people at Mayo Clinic who make her life as a caregiver just a little bit easier.

"There are so many people at Mayo whose names I don't know, but I sure know their faces," she says.

"I'm so grateful for the valets who park my car so I can stay with my husband. I'm grateful to the ladies in the Methodist cafeteria who feed me so I don't have to leave the hospital," Molly says. "What happens at Mayo is so much bigger than doctors and nurses. There are so many people who make our days easier. There's a saying that 'People remember how you made them feel,' and we do."

Editor's note: For a peek at Molly and Michael's wedding, including some of their vows, watch this short video by Colton Simpson at Storysage Productions.

Tags: Patient Stories, Staff Stories

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