Love in the face of death

With weeks left to live, his mother behind bars, Joseph decided to marry Courtney

Editor’s Note: Joseph Carry, 23, died from his cancer early Saturday morning, May 23, 2015. 

Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
Three weeks after the cancer doctor told him he wouldn’t live to see the end of spring, Joseph married Courtney in the front yard of his family’s ranch on a Saturday.

The sky was in turmoil that day, threatening rain, but then the sun at moments burned through the clouds, said Courtney Carry, 23. And the rain held off until 8 p.m. when everyone was starting to go home, she said.

“I couldn’t be more ecstatic about how the day turned out. Even the weather held out for me,” said Courtney. “It was perfect.”

The marriage ceremony, held on May 16, was planned in five days to cheat death.

“My illness…just in case…I’d like to get the knot tied before the event,” said Joseph Carry, 22. “That is my main reason. Just to be united as one person.”

Courtney Carry wipes away a tear as Joseph Carry slides the ring on her finger. (photo courtesy of the family)
Courtney Carry wipes away a tear as Joseph Carry slides the ring on her finger. (photo courtesy of the family)

On April 20, Joseph was admitted to hospital in Saskatoon after his cancer returned. He was told the cancer, Burkitt’s lymphoma, had hidden in his body, out of reach of previous chemotherapy treatment. He was found cancer-free in February after six months of intensive treatment. Now, his main option was another round of “aggressive treatment,” according to Dr. Mohamed Elemary, the lead specialist on his case.

It was the spinal taps Joseph didn’t want to face again and, even with aggressive treatment, it was unclear whether it would work. Elemary told him that by passing up the treatment, he had as little as three weeks left to live, said Joseph.

“Treatment takes a lot out of your life. That is why I don’t want to go back. Last time I spent six months sitting in a hospital and they told me it was going to get better,” he said. “I don’t want to say they lied, they did their best. Some things you can’t cure, I guess.”


About 100 people showed up for the wedding which was held on his family’s ranch which sits on the skirt of the Cypress Hills in southern Saskatchewan, near Maple Creek. The ranch sits on acreage acquired by the Nekaneet Cree Nation through settlement of its Treaty Land Entitlement.

White candles marked the aisle leading to the gates of a corral with frame posts wrapped in little lights where a Salvation Army reverend known as Capt. Ed married Joseph and Courtney. Joseph wore a turquoise ribbon shirt with dress pants and Courtney wore a sleeveless, soft lace dress with a jean jacket.

Antlers from game hunted long ago by Joseph’s grandfather formed part of the backdrop and they were lined side by side in the grass on either side of the gate.

After the ceremony the guests round danced and feasted on bannock, spaghetti, moose and elk meat, cupcakes and three wedding cakes.

The place where they married. (photo courtesy of the family)
The place where they married. (photo courtesy of the family)

Joseph’s mother, Connie Oakes, heard about the wedding over the telephone in the Edmonton Institution for Women where she is serving 14 years for a murder she says she didn’t commit.

“It hurts, it hurts, I got no words,” said Oakes, in a phone interview with APTN National News.

She made a starblanket for Joseph from blue camouflage, teal and light blue fabric.

“One of the girls told me it looks like sky, the blue camouflage,” said Oakes.

She hoped to get a chance to give it to him, but she’s trapped in the system. Her compassionate leave application was denied by the National Parole Board this week and she is still waiting for a judge’s ruling on her appeal bail application which was heard on May 19.

Her next court date is on Nov. 12, which is her appeal hearing. Her appeal is partly based on a fresh evidence application after the Crown’s main witness in the murder trial said in an affidavit Oakes wasn’t at the scene of the crime.

Read about the Connie Oakes case here.

With no murder weapon, DNA or fingerprint evidence linking Oakes to the May 2011 killing of 48 year-old Medicine Hat resident Casey Armstrong, the Crown prosecutor relied on the testimony of Wendy Scott, a self-described small-time crack dealer with an IQ of 50.

Scott alleges she was fed evidence by Medicine Hat police while she was stoned during coercive interrogation sessions that lasted six months longer than was disclosed to Oakes’ defence lawyer. Scott initially accused three other people of the murder before naming Oakes.

During the appeal bail hearing, Crown prosecutor Brian Graff said a finding of miscarriage of justice was “technically possible” in Oakes’ case. The justice system, however, follows an internal clock divorced from real-world time which constricts and lengthens depending on the fluctuations of life.

And for Joseph, time feels like a shriveling thing and he wonders if he’ll ever see his mother again.

“Before I got sick, it wasn’t so bad. She’ll get out eventually and I’ll be around and we’ll do the things we did last time,” he said. “Now, I can’t, I can’t do those things. Even if she does get out.”

He wanted to go to Victoria with his mother to see the ocean.

“I have never been to Victoria, never even seen the ocean,” said Joseph.

And now he can’t sit in a vehicle for more than three hours.

“I try to be happy, I guess…you just keep going,” said Joseph. “I don’t see an end yet, every day I’m just glad to be here.”

Joseph and Courtney have a two year-old boy.

“He always asks me if I’m okay,” said Joseph.

Joseph once worked moving oil rigs and laid down new floors in the family home shortly before he was first diagnosed with cancer last year. Now, he struggles to walk from the kitchen to the front porch; his feet and ankles swollen.

Yet, for a moment that Saturday none of it existed except for him and her.

“It was just me and him,” said Courtney. “He was able to stand up straight while we were exchanging rings…I think we were brought together for a reason. I haven’t left Joe’s side since he got cancer…there is nothing in the world that could tear us apart.”

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