Minerva Santivanez met her fiance Edward Horan seven years ago and knew that day that the couple would be together a long time.
Her intuition was right, and on Sunday, August 2, the couple will get married at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach with a little help from the community.
Though they were only engaged on May 23, Santivanez and Horan want to tie the knot before Santivanez starts chemotherapy treatment to fight her stage 4 cancer.
In November 2014, Santivanez, a Queens Village resident, saw bulges in her abdomen and went to Queens Hospital to have them examined. Doctors told her that they were tumors and that she would need surgery to have them removed.
During her recovery in the hospital, Santivanez experienced chest pain and difficulty breathing. Soon after, she became unresponsive and the staff went against hospital policy to give her a double blood transfusion that saved her life.
Though it has been a difficult journey, Santivanez said her fiance and family have been a great support system for her.
“I’m grateful that my fiance has been there the whole way through,” Santivanez said. “I told him, I don’t know how he deals with things, how he’s been so strong. My cousin Mary has been helping me out nonstop, her family as well.”
Once Santivanez and Horan got engaged, her cousin Mary Legaspi began using social media to raise funds for the wedding and hospital bills. Frank Russo, who owns Russo’s on the Bay, heard about the story through his son Frank Russo III and offered to provide Russo’s on the Bay for the service and reception.
“I’m trying not to cry right now because it’s been overwhelming,” Santivanez said. “Who does that nowadays? In this day and age nobody does anything unless you’re going to do something in return. They don’t know me like that and they just offered it.”
Once other people heard her story, the offers started pouring in. Thomas Knoell Designs donated wedding jewelry, Clay Bouquet Shop offered to donate a bouquet, Nidji Photography, Alice Escobar, Nick Kanellopoulos and his wife will be donating their photography services and DJ entertainment and several other organizations and people have offered to provide wedding services for free.
“Just listening to her story, sometimes you get caught up but every time you hear a story, if it can help … it’s a situation that we could participate in and that’s pure and that’s the most important piece, then I don’t mind helping,” Russo Sr. said.
Santivanez said she cannot wait to meet these people so she can hug and thank them in person. She’s also excited to participate in a longstanding wedding tradition — the first dance.
“I’m excited for everything,” Santivanez said. “I’m hoping to beat chemo in the end and have it all be a bad memory. But the fact that everybody has been there for me, I want to be able to thank everybody. I just want to be able to hug them and thank them in person.”
Anyone who would like to donate to help Santivanez and her family cover medical expenses can visit her GoFundMe page.