Joey and Caylee Renick have endured plenty of tough times together, and on May 14, the childhood sweethearts vowed to extend their unwavering devotion to one another for life.
The St. Louis natives got married before an intimate gathering of 30 close family and friends on Seacrest Beach, Florida, just as the sun set over the horizon. Joey, 23, tells The Knot he’ll never forget “standing there at the end of the aisle, listening to the ocean, and finally seeing my soon-to-be wife walk down in this gorgeous dress that I had only dreamed of until that moment.”
“It was this overwhelming rush of emotions that reminded me just how far God has brought us,” he says. “I just couldn’t believe we had finally made it to that moment.”
The couple’s journey to the altar was one fraught with health issues and a roller coaster of emotions. They first met when they were 10 years old, at CAMP HIS KIDS, a support camp for children with cancer and their siblings. At the time, Joey was in remission after a three-year battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and Caylee’s sister, Taylor, had been diagnosed with a rare condition called Hemangiopericytoma cancer.
The pair found support and companionship in each other, and kept in touch, but weren’t able to see each other regularly after they went to different high schools, Joey told People. “I always had a crush on her and she knew it!” he told the publication. “We lived too far away to date so we just always stayed in contact with one another.”
Joey finally worked up the nerve to ask Caylee out on a date in December 2011, four months after his first cancer relapse.
“We had been texting and talking on the phone and on one of our conversations I asked her if she had wanted to come over and hang out,” Joey tells The Knot. “So we planned for her to come over and pick me up (I couldn’t drive as a result of some of my meds) so we could finally talk and hang out in person just the two of us. Secretly I was so nervous for our date because I knew how much I liked her but didn’t know exactly if she liked me or if my current situation was too much to handle. She came over, we went and got frozen yogurt, and then headed to Starbucks where we just sat and talked for hours until the workers told us we had to leave because they were closing.”
Flash-forward nearly four years later, to November 2015, when Joey (who had gone into remission a second time one year earlier) recreated that sweet first date to ask Caylee for her hand in marriage.
“I set it up as a scavenger hunt and made the first clue to lead us to the frozen yogurt shop we first went to, then the second clue lead us to the same Starbucks we had our first date,” Joey says. “While we were at Starbucks two of my sisters, Carol Anne and Katie, just happened to walk in, and a few moments after they sat down I had it planned for my mom to call one of my sister’s phones and tell them she had been trying to contact me. I purposely left my phone in the car so I pretended to go and get it.”
While Caylee and Joey’s sisters were at Starbucks, Joey hopped in his car and drove to a nearby park, where his sisters later led Caylee with a third clue. There, he proposed with a video he had made telling her how much he loved her, with “Marry Me” by Train playing in the background.
The couple got busy with planning for their wedding, but tragedy struck not long afterward, with Joey’s cancer returning a third time. The pair scrapped all of their plans to focus on Joey’s health; the nursing student needed a bone marrow transplant, and received one from his sister in June 2016.
After the procedure and recovery, the lovebirds once again resumed wedding planning.
“Caylee has endured so many hardships but through it all she has never lost faith,” Joey says. “[And] when I say she is beautiful I don’t just mean how beautiful she looks (obviously she is stunning) but I mean she’s has a beautiful personality that doesn’t waver when faced with most tragic of circumstances. Her loyalty to always be there for me is astounding. She would drop everything she is doing just to be there for me.”
Caylee tells The Knot that she was overcome with a flood of emotions when she saw Joey standing proudly at the end of the aisle on their wedding day.
“I looked around at our friends and family, I listened to the music playing [“Marry Me” by Train], and looked down the aisle at Joey and saw the biggest smile ever on his face. That was the moment that stands out to me the most,” she says. “We would talk about our dream wedding every day that Joey was in bone marrow transplant.”
“Joey has been determined to get the most out of his life, especially considering all he’s been through,” she adds. “He’s always trying to think of ways to better his future and our future as a married couple. One of the reasons I knew Joey was going to be an amazing nurse is because of how compassionate he is. He truly cares about people. And [he’s] lovable, because out of all the years I’ve known Joey, I’ve never met someone who doesn’t absolutely love him. That’s part of the reason I wanted to marry him.”