It’s not every day we welcome newlyweds to the “house.” Meet Angella and John Heerema, who – married only three months – found themselves uprooted from their home and arriving in Richmond, Virginia to receive lifesaving treatments for a serious form of blood cancer.

The Heeremas serendipitous romance began some 3-4 years ago — on an airplane — where they found themselves sitting side by side on a flight to Houston, TX. Angella, who lived in Houston, was returning from an educators’ conference in Charlotte, NC. John, having just received a job promotion and was moving to Norfolk, VA, was traveling with his new boss to Houston for a business meeting. To make their meeting even more serendipitous, Angella wasn’t even supposed to be sitting in the seat next to John. Her travel companion had asked if she’d switch seats, and as the saying goes, “that’s all she wrote.”

I’ll never forget my first night back at The Doorways after John’s first treatment. When I walked into the Lobby, the receptionist just smiled at me. No words. She knew what I was going through and I started crying. I felt so loved and welcomed.  – Angella

Both Angella and John agree it was love at first sight. They talked and laughed the entire flight and when they landed John knew he’d never forgive himself if he didn’t ask if they could keep in touch. And that they did. Their chance meeting marked the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Engaged on Labor Day 201 8 and wed in March of 2019, they knew they’d have a wonderful future together. But, first, they’d have a few obstacles to overcome.

The Doorways Guests Heerema Family

Shortly after they became engaged, John began to feel sick and starting losing a lot of weight. Following a series of doctor’s appointments, the alarming diagnosis  came in December 201 8 – T-Cell Lymphoma.

Like others who experience the shocking news of such a scary diagnosis, the Heeremas were faced with many questions. How would they tell their family and friends? What about their wedding plans? How would John tell his boss? How would his diagnosis impact his job? And what about Angelia’s new job as a high school guidance counselor? How would she juggle her new job responsibilities while ensuring John was getting the care he would need? And what about their house, their mortgage and other expenses?

When you have a loved one who is suffering, you have to be strong. Not only strong enough to be able to listen and understand what the doctors are telling you, but strong for your loved one. When you return to The Doorways at the end of a long day, you’re able to release and let them take care of YOU.
– Angella

There was little time to deal with the logistics, or the emotional turmoil they were experiencing, as John’s chemotherapy treatments needed to begin right away, followed by a referral to VCU Health (Richmond) to be evaluated for a stem cell transplant. In January 2019, Angella and John arrived at VCU Health where they learned he’d have to live close to the hospital to receive daily treatments for many months. Next question? Where would they live?

“Coming to The Doorways for the first time was such a relief,” said Angella. “I couldn’t believe all of the services that would be available to us. And everyone was so friendly and helpful. Everyone has been so good to us and all the guests. We are always greeted with smiles that show their caring support. Everyone! The shuttle drivers, front desk staff, maintenance, volunteers and housekeeping. Everyone is so genuinely committed to helping!”

It’s no wonder Angella and John are among The Doorways’ many favorites. Their beautiful love story and their uplifting and inspiring attitude towards their circumstances is nothing short of amazing.