Bridal Briefs: Joya Delgado Harris
Joya Delgado Harris came to Bridals by Lori with a supportive entourage in tow. With a little help from her friends and Lori, Joya found a dress for her upcoming wedding day. In our conversation with the bride, Joya explains why her wedding vows are "tried and true" and tells us about an organization that's near and dear to her.
TLC: Will you tell us about the group of friends who came with you to the salon?
Joya: These girls are "my crew." I am very blessed to have such amazing, compassionate, honest and loyal friends. I have known some of them for 30-plus years and some I've known for two years, but regardless of the length of time, they are each very special to me. It is great to have dear friends that fill you up in such special ways.
TLC: One thing you mentioned in the episode was that you felt your vows -- for better or for worse, in sickness and in health -- were more meaningful after overcoming breast cancer. Can you reflect on that?
Joya: It is not just that the vows are more meaningful, it is that they are tried and true. We have faced some very significant obstacles and have become a better couple through it all. It is easy to love in the good times, but it is an entirely different game when your relationship is tested. Having a major illness, like cancer, can either bring a couple closer or break them apart. He has seen me at my worst, most vulnerable moments and has been right by my side.
Breast cancer treatment can really alter the way you look and feel about yourself as a woman -- especially as a young survivor. Emanuel has brilliantly, without reservation, made me feel that I am the most beautiful woman in the world. The way he has handled everything is a testament to the man that he is. Our bond is strong and because of what we've already endured, when we exchange vows, it will be very meaningful.
TLC: How did you feel when your friends encouraged you to try on strapless wedding dresses, especially after you'd made it clear that you felt self-conscious in that style?
Joya: I actually felt fine about it. They were being persistent because they know me and my style, and prior to my reconstruction surgery, strapless would have been a definite. So, it was certainly worth trying on a strapless dress to actually see how it would look rather than assume. ... I'm glad they did encourage me to try it on. It wasn't my favorite choice, obviously, but the only way to know for sure was to try it on.
TLC: What was your experience like at Bridals by Lori?
Joya: We had a fun time ... although my friends wish they could've helped in the selection of dresses to try on. [Consultant] Brooke was very nice and took time to figure out what I was looking for in a dress. Lori was able to identify the perfect dress based on what I described.
TLC: At first you refused your friends' offers to pay for the difference in the cost of the wedding dress. What was going through your head at that moment?
Joya: It was such a tremendously generous offer that I was in shock for a moment. I was really just blown away at how thoughtful it was for them to do that for me. I am very grateful.
TLC: How do you think the whole experience of being a bride and planning a wedding is different for a breast cancer survivor?
Joya: I think that anytime one has experienced a life-threatening illness, they tend to find the magic in everything. Life becomes more precious, and you tend to not sweat the small stuff as much as you might otherwise. To me, survivorship means appreciation for life and finding joy each and every day. So, planning a wedding, honeymooning and being a bride is really no different than anything else I do -- it is just all the more awesome because I feel very grateful to be here to be able to do it. Life is good!
TLC: Will you tell us a little about YourShoes, the breast cancer support center with which you're affiliated?
Joya: YourShoes is a Breast Cancer Network of Strength's peer support program. It is a 24/7 toll-free breast cancer support center that is manned by trained and certified breast cancer survivors to provide immediate emotional support to anyone affected by breast cancer. This means not just breast cancer patients and survivors, but friends and family who are in need of support as well. Also, YourShoes 24/7 Breast Cancer Support Center offers interpreters in 150 languages.
YourShoes is very special to me because of the 24/7 access. When I was first diagnosed, frightened and uncertain, a friend of mine suggested that I call YourShoes if I wanted to speak with someone -- another survivor. I called at 3 a.m., and to have someone on the other end of the phone who would validate my feelings, allay some of my fears, and just tell me that I will "get through this" was priceless.
Ironically, nine months later, the Chicago-based organization opened an affiliate in Atlanta, and I am very proud to be the Executive Director. It really gives my journey a purpose, and it is so much more than a job to me. I feel very blessed to work for the same organization whose services I utilized when I was diagnosed.
YourShoes is an invaluable service, and the ladies that work in the support center are angels. [Note: You can reach YourShoes at 1-800-221-2141.]
Bride Joya in "The Dress" at Bridals by Lori! (Credit: DCL)