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Chicago nurse gifts her unused wedding dress to woman battling breast cancer

Posted: 4:40 AM, Sep 12, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-12 18:12:55Z

LEBANON, Tenn. — A bride whose wedding plans didn’t happen is giving her wedding dress to a Lebanon woman battling cancer.

“I've really been focused on trying to be healthy and getting healthy,” Toni Roberts said.

Roberts is recently engaged and planning a 2019 wedding. She hasn’t had a lot of free time to focus on her nuptials because she is fighting stage 2 breast cancer.

“I had a bilateral mastectomy in March and I have one more reconstructive surgery at the end of this month,” she said.

“Cancer doesn't define somebody,” Jessica Leja said.

Leja is an oncology nurse, but her relationship with Roberts isn’t treatment-related. Leja is giving Roberts her never-worn designer wedding dress.

“I wasn't able to wear it, so I wanted to do something very special with it,” Leja said. “To me, my field of oncology is very special to me, and I wanted to combine the two and give to somebody very special.”

Leja is from Chicago. She pitched her idea to her hometown paper in June. The newspaper published a story and it received hundreds of responses.

She drove nearly 450 miles to give the dress to Roberts.

“I felt every word she was telling me and something inside me, my intuition was 'this is the girl,'” Leja said.

Roberts thought she was a long shot when she inquired. A nurse who cares for Roberts told her the 31-year-old about the dress giveaway. Roberts was emotional when she found out she was picked.

“The tears were instant,” Roberts said. “It was insane!”

When Roberts saw the dress for the first time, she said she couldn’t have picked a dress better suited for her.

“I have a port,” Roberts said. “The very first thing I noticed was [the dress] covers it.”

“It’s because of people like Toni that I am the woman and nurse that I am today, and it's the least I can do to say thank you for that,” Leja said.