CLEVELAND — The wedding photos of Eileen Ebenger and Jarred Luko capture the moments when life as husband and wife began in November of 2017. They also capture the deeper story of the couple’s difficult journey ahead.
“You say those vows in sickness and in health,” explains Ebenger. “That hit different,”
The reason? A week before her wedding at Rocky River City Hall, Ebenger was diagnosed with colon cancer. She was only 30 years old.
“I was feeling well until I wasn’t,” Ebenger shares. “I was very healthy, very active. (I) had no risk factors … had no family history of colon cancer, so it was very surreal.”
Luko, who was away on a rafting trip when Ebenger was diagnosed, didn’t allow the disease to deter him from his commitment to his bride.
“I knew what I was signing up for and I wanted to be part of it.”
Ebenger is a physician assistant in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed in England while she prepared for marriage and her cancer fight. After she and Luko exchanged vows in the states, the Lakewood native and her new husband returned to the UK for surgery to remove the cancerous tumor.
“After that we had the great news, the day after my 31st birthday, that it was early stage two,” Ebenger says.
In addition to surgery, Ebenger took oral chemotherapy for six months to decrease the likelihood of the cancer returning.
Now, nearly five years after her diagnosis, Ebenger says there is no evidence of disease and both she and her husband are riding in VeloSano Bike to Cure to raise money for cancer research at the Cleveland Clinic.
When asked why she rides, Ebenger says it’s to support the Clinic and her brother-in-law Mike Balla, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2018.
“It's a really awful cancer. And he's come through and he's doing amazing and absolutely 100% credit goes to all the folks over at the Cleveland Clinic,” Ebenger explains. “He would not be alive today if it hadn't been for the advancement that they're making.”
Bonded through family and the fight against cancer, both Ebenger and Balla are one of the 100 Living Hope patients and survivors riding in VeloSano 2022. This is Ebenger’s third year participating and her brother-in-law’s fourth. This year their team has raised nearly $10,000 for cancer research.
“It's all about the cure, right,” Ebenger says.
United in hope for a cure that will allow those diagnosed with the disease to continue to capture the moments where life is lived to the fullest.
Click here to donate to Ebenger's VeloSano team.
Editor's note: Video in the player above was originally posted in a previous VeloSano story on Sept. 7, 2022.