If you're looking for a love story, look no further than that of Mark Daugherty and Samantha Settle.
After both Daugherty and Settle battled leukemia for over 15 years, the couple got married in May 2019.
Daugherty met Settle when he was 5, and she was just 2 years old. They were both diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and would often see each other because they sent to the same doctor.
The two could relate to each other in ways that no one else could, especially because they faced similar challenges with leukemia.
Battling leukemia together
They immediately formed a close bond with each other, which they refer to as "chemo brain."
"He really taught me to not give up."
"Whenever we struggle with something, we say, 'My chemo brain has the best of me today,'" Settle shared.
"Nobody can relate to that unless you experience late effects from chemo, especially when you're going through chemo as a toddler."
While the two have been leukemia-free for over 15 years, one thing that Settle has struggled with since undergoing chemotherapy is reading. She shared that Daugherty helped her whenever she faced obstacles with reading throughout her life.
"He really taught me [to not] give up," she said.
"He would sit me down and say 'You can't give up, you can't give up. Reading is hard, but keep on plowing through,' and I think that just stuck with me for everything."
Through doctor appointments, summer camp and community events, Daugherty, now 26, and Settle, now 23, remained close friends through the years.
From childhood friends to husband and wife
It wasn't until they both attended Florida State University that their friendship grew into a relationship.
"I was actually the gutsy one that told him that I loved him first," Settle said.
"It was always natural to laugh and enjoy time with her," Daugherty added.
In 2017, Daugherty proposed to Settle on the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, surrounded by family.
"From when we started dating, it was surreal that he went from being a childhood best friend to my boyfriend," Settle said. "Then it was even more surreal that he went from a boyfriend to a fiance."
"It felt like a dream," Settle added about their wedding day.
They were joined by their family, friends and even the doctor who treated them, Dr. Fouad Hajjar, the medical director of pediatric hematology and oncology at AdventHealth for Children.
"To see them now as adults [and as a] married couple is just so humbling and so awesome," Hajjar said.
"It's not just saving lives, but also saving a lifetime of memories," he said.
Living a leukemia-free life together
The couple still sees Hajjar for appointments to monitor their health.
"[Sam] is someone that I can talk to when I run through all of the tests of a result to make sure I'm still good," Daugherty shared. "She understands that my health, and her health mentally, physically and spiritually is the most important thing."
The couple has made it a point to live the rest of their lives to the fullest together.
They like to go on "adventures" together, whether it's attending a farmer's market or traveling to North Carolina.
"My dad has always taught me that memories are more lasting than material items," Daugherty said.
The two are also big fans of Walt Disney World and go to the parks as often as they can. They even celebrated their honeymoon in the parks.
"When we're at Disney, she has ears and always excited about seeing Winnie the Pooh," Daugherty said about his wife. "She never lets her inner child go away."
"Going through something like this, life is very short and can change rapidly," he said. "So why not live life to the fullest?"
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