Posted by: Duke Raleigh Hospital | October 9, 2020

Woman Fighting Breast Cancer Marries Longtime Love in Hospital

Otis Lanier and Charlene Dickens’ love story began at work 37 years ago. But it was not until October 8 that the couple became man and wife when they exchanged vows in room 5230 of Duke Raleigh Hospital.

When Charlene’s health continued to decline and she was admitted to the hospital, the couple decided not to wait any longer to make official a love their family and friends already knew was special.

“Most people do not know they are not married,” said Otis’s daughter Oshana Watkins. “When the doctor called me to tell me they were getting married, I said ‘it is about time!’”

Fifth floor nurses and dietary team members decorated the room for Charlene, who is battling breast cancer, in pink streamers and flowers. They gave Charlene a pink wedding bouquet and Otis a pink boutonniere for his tuxedo t-shirt.

Before the start of the ceremony Oshana followed wedding tradition, gifting Charlene an old picture of her father and blue handkerchiefs. After placing a borrowed pearl bracelet on Charlene’s hand, she presented her with a new necklace.

“This necklace shows a mother and a child,” Oshana said. “You did not give me the gift of life, life gave me the gift of you. Thank you for always loving me as your own. Parenthood requires love not DNA, and I appreciate all the love you have given.”

With a wedding march playing on a phone and cupcakes and sparkling juice to celebrate the occasion, the couple was married by a hospital chaplain as nurses and doctors looked on from the hallway.

“This is so beautiful,” said Charlene, beaming from her hospital bed. “It is way more than I expected.”

Otis, who is a cancer survivor, added that “We know doctors and hospitals. This has been really special. We are happy that Dr. Dorr helped to get the wedding together.”

Dr. Victoria Dorr, a medical oncologist caring for Charlene, helped this Garner couple to obtain the proper paperwork to hold the wedding after they expressed a desire to ensure their family was taken care of.

“This wedding brings joy to something that would be a sad time,” said Dorr. “It shows that love conquers all.”

–By Erin McKenzie


  1. Congratulations to the Bride and Groom Mr. & Mrs. Otis Lanier May your marriage be filled with blessings and happiness ❤️❤️💕

  2. This is one of the sweetest things I have ever seen done at a workplace!! Duke is awesome!! Oshana by the way, is a great Zumba Instructor!! What a great story!!

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