Britton and Mackenzie have been on a wild ride since their first date in February of 2014, where Britton drove Mackenzie through a snowstorm in his Dodge Neon SRT-4. Nine months later, and they were still together when Britton received the news that a recurring pain in his hip was actually due to a tumor, and he was soon diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma. He began chemotherapy treatments, and after finishing his treatments in July 2015, was able to spend, as Mackenzie puts it, “an incredible year being cancer free.” But by August of the following year, Britton again began to experience pain, but this time in his back. They once again found tumors in his back. During one of Britton’s hospital stays following a stem cell transplant, Mackenzie jokingly attempted to lift his spirits by saying, “You know, if you make it out of here there’s a pretty good chance that I’ll marry you.” Mackenzie describes Britton as: “His eyes instantly opened and showed a glisten of hope that I hadn’t seen in months. He replied with, ‘Do you promise?’”
Mackenzie kept that promise and three months after he was discharged from that hospital stay, him and Mackenzie tied the knot on August 26th, 2017. They enjoyed almost 8 months of newlywed bliss before Britton’s pain returned. They were devastated to learn that despite the stem cell transplant, Britton’s cancer had returned. When the doctor explained that the only course of action available to them now was “control not cure,” Mackenzie broke down. When they were alone in their car, Mackenzie admitted to Britton that she wasn’t ready for him to go. She describes Britton as he “calmly grabbed [her] face, wiped away [her] tears, and told [her] he was not going anywhere.” That day changed the course of their lives forever. That is when they began to turn their “one day”s into Today. They started crossing items off their bucket list, starting with Britton getting his first tattoo two days later. Mackenzie promises, “We don’t have a time frame. We don’t know how long we will have or how long his health will allow us to do things. But as for right now, we are taking advantage of every single day and living life to the fullest.”
This is when I met Britton + Mackenzie, through my friend and their cousin Rebecca: in the course of them crossing one of their items off their bucket list. Seeing the Lantern Festival in Salt Lake City. Rebecca and I joined her family and Britton’s family for a night under an open sky of lit and wished-upon lanterns. It really was just as magical and fairy-tale like as Tangled makes it seem. Everyone draws a collective breath of hope as they light fire to a symbol of their dreams and sets it soaring to the stars. I was asked to join them and document this evening with them, and while I was there I felt inspired to not only take still photos, but to also capture glimpses of video. I am in no way a videographer, but this film is special. Shortly after the Lantern Festival, Mackenzie shared the following on her blog:
“What we are going through is actually very depressing, scary, and full of uknowns. Every time we’ve met with the oncologist, we’ve all danced around the questions that no one really wants to ask. The truth of the matter is that I am losing my husband. I will be a widow, and those truths have been very challenging to accept…Britton’s cancer is spreading faster than we expected, with two new tumors showing rapid growth within 9 days….As a wife, I feel helpless. He’s my husband and I’m supposed to keep him healthy and happy and full of love. We were supposed to grow old, have kids (and lots of dogs), and have a ton of cars together. But the truth is, none of that will happen. The thought of losing my forever swallows me and ruins a lot of wonderful moments with him…. I look back on the 10 months we’ve been married, and the 4 years we’ve dated and realize how many things we put off to “one day.” Whether I’m ready or not, this is my reality and this is what we will do with it.” I am beyond humbled to have been a small piece of their story. A tiny speck in the grand plan of their lives. My life is richer knowing them and following their journey, and I know that they do not want their suffering to have been in vain. They want their story to reach those that need to hear it, to inspire all of us to live life to its fullest, to let go of “One day” and start living Today. Britton and Mackenzie, you are a light in world of suffering and pain. You are turning ash into new life, bitter into beauty. Thank you for sharing this gift with us all.
If you would like to follow more of Britton and Mackenzie’s journey, you can see their blog here.
Film edited by Holden Films.
Second shooting with me was Rebecca M. Creative.