LA CROSSE, WI (WKBT) -

When you enter into marriage, you make certain promises: To love and honor, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. For Elvin and Kathy Smothers, those are promises they almost didn't get to make.

Elvin and Kathy met back in 2009. Kathy worked in the automotive department at the local Walmart and Elvin needed a new set of tires.

Kathy recalls Elvin's approach. "I like these tires here. Can I get a deal on them? And I'm like, 'Sorry - the price is what the price is.'"

"So I came back a few days later," says Elvin, "and asked her out for dinner. She said yes and we've been together ever since."

Did he get the tires on sale? No. But he did get the girl and bonus, his teenage son Jamie liked her too. They even started talking marriage. But in 2011, Elvin noticed a white patch on his tongue.

"It used to be a spot that would come and go, so I thought nothing of it. 'Oh it will go away.' But then it didn't go away."

Elvin was diagnosed with a type of cancer usually found in tobacco users - Elvin isn't one. "So luck of the draw, I guess."

Doctors visits and treatments started right away and where Elvin went, so did Kathy.

Dr. Patrick Conway is an oncologist at Gundersen Health System and noticed their connection immediately. 

"He always came with Kathy. So it's hard to mention one person without mentioning the other."

After two surgeries, chemo and radiation, the prognosis looked good.

"He had a PET scan showing no evidence of cancer," said Dr. Conway.

And to celebrate, Elvin thought of Kathy.

"He got down on one knee and he asked me to marry him and I said 'Yes, absolutely I will marry you."

But marriage would have to wait - because earlier this year the cancer came back with a vengeance.

"It was everywhere," says Elvin. "In my spine, in my tail bone. My lung."  And this time the cancer was too strong.  "They're not going to get rid of it."

Despite being diagnosed with terminal cancer and gearing up for a grueling round of immediate treatments, Elvin could only think of Kathy. "I told them, you guys gotta fix me up so I can get married at least."

Dr. Conway vividly remembers, "So as I am talking about what I want to happen that day: change his radiation, add chemotherapy. Kathy spoke up and said, 'What he wants to do today is get married.' So that is not a usual request, to say the least."

"Dr. Conway said he'd  look into it. But wouldn't promise anything," Kathy said.

Elvin's chemo treatments were starting the very next day, time was of the essence. So Dr. Conway headed to hospital administration.

"I sheepishly walked in and the person I was hoping to talk to wasn't there that day and so I was about to walk out, when Bryan Erdmann and said, 'what can I help you with.'"

Erdmann is a Vice President at Gundersen. "He approached me and very reluctantly told me the story and I looked at him and said, if that's what the patient wants, then lets get them married."

Dr. Conway adds, "And basically, things happened from there. Quickly."

While Kathy drove around getting all the paperwork and picking up her dress, things at the hospital were hopping.