Before a ‘Classy Dinosaur’ Wedding Came Leukemia and I.V.F.
Dr. Kaitlin Flannery and John Mancini were 29 and 28 when they met on Bumble in April 2018. They were both living in Palo Alto, Calif. — she was a resident in anesthesiology at Stanford University, and he was a senior product manager at a cybersecurity start-up in San Jose. At the time, they couldn’t have foreseen the cancer diagnosis that would come less than two years into their relationship.
On Bumble, “We talked briefly on the app about the podcasts we had been listening to and then quickly set a date,” Dr. Flannery said. “John claims this is the one and only date where I was on time.”
At the end of the date, they looked at their schedules to plan a second date. “This is when I quickly disclosed that I was going to be gone most of the next week interviewing for a job in Boston,” said Dr. Flannery, who is originally from Sioux City, Iowa, and earned a bachelor's degree in integrative physiology at the University of Iowa and a medical degree at the Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa, before her Stanford residency.
She received a fellowship as a pediatric cardiac anesthesia fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital, which is a part of Harvard Medical School. “The catch was that the job didn’t start for a year and a half,” she said. “So, we set the second date and ignored the ticking clock.”
Three months into dating, Dr. Mancini turned down an opportunity from his company to work in Ireland for six months, because he did not want to be away from Dr. Flannery. “When I said no to my boss, he said, ‘Let me guess. There’s a girl,’” said Dr. Mancini, who is from Bronxville, N.Y., and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of Richmond and a Ph.D. in computational chemistry from Emory University.
“I realized then that she was the one,” he said. “Given the choice between an Ireland adventure and the promise of a lifelong friend and companion, I chose Kaitlin.”
Four months into dating and two weeks before her 30th birthday, Dr. Flannery showed Dr. Mancini a list she had compiled years before of 30 things she wanted to accomplish before she turned that age. “John looked at the list and started working on helping me cross off the ones we could in the remaining two weeks,” Dr. Flannery said.
This included setting up their own sprint triathlon. “John does not know how to swim laps and he upset a few serious swimmers at the Stanford pool, but he did not stop,” Dr. Flannery said. “This was just the first of my dreams that John helped me achieve.”
They relocated to Boston together in September 2019. Then, the unthinkable happened. “Over the fall and into the winter, John started feeling more and more tired,” she said. “To appease me, he carried a Christmas tree across Boston, but then had to sleep for several hours. We were attributing the fatigue to stress from moving and starting a new job.” But stress wasn’t the cause.
In January 2020, the couple found out that Dr. Mancini had leukemia. “I flew to Iowa to attend my grandfather’s funeral,” Dr. Flannery said. “The morning after flying to Iowa, I woke up to over 20 missed calls from John.” Dr. Mancini had stayed in Boston to go to a doctor’s appointment and had been called early in the morning with the shocking diagnosis. “I was frantic to get back to Boston and John,” she said. “I was certain once I got back to him, I would never let him out of my sight.”
But by March it became clear that the two had to be separated, as Dr. Flannery noted that she was working in a hospital and “taking care of kids from all over the country and world.” Covid testing and personal protective equipment protocols were also lacking.
For his safety, the couple lived apart for three months. “We were very fortunate to have John’s family home in Rhode Island as his safe haven,” Dr. Flannery said. “He would come back to Boston for his doctor’s appointments, and I would put a new load of groceries in the trunk and wave to him.”
On Aug. 17, 2020 Dr. Mancini, who is doing well on cancer treatment, proposed to Dr. Flannery in South Kingstown, R.I., on a beach near his family’s summer home. “The proposal almost didn’t happen due to the requirements for Covid tests when crossing state borders,” Dr. Flannery said, “but after some careful rule following, John was able to get on one knee and ask while recording from his phone. I was so excited I forgot to say yes, prompting John to ask a second time.”
With the celebration preparation came the necessity for family planning because of the effects of Dr. Mancini’s treatment. “This spring, while planning the wedding, we went through a cycle of I.V.F. required for us to have kids,” Dr. Flannery said.
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The couple were wed Aug. 14, 2021 at the Barn at Mount Hope Farm in Bristol, R.I. They chose the space because it’s “close to the beach and close to the comforts of John’s childhood summers, while the barn and grounds remind me of Iowa and the love and kinship of the Midwest,” Dr. Flannery said. (On Sept. 20, the couple will move to Los Altos, Calif., as Dr. Flannery will begin working as a pediatric cardiac anesthesiologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. Dr. Mancini will continue working for the same company as a senior product manager.)
Unlike many couples, they did not have to change their wedding date because of the pandemic. “We gambled last September when we went ahead and started planning, and we got lucky,” Dr. Flannery said. “We had a little under 85 guests and a close to 100 percent vaccination rate.”
A six-foot wooden Allosaurus wearing a floral collar matching the bride’s bouquet greeted guests. “Me and my two friends set it up,” Dr. Mancini said. “Next to it was a sign that said welcome. We hadn’t told many people that there would be a giant dinosaur. It was a big hit.”
Dr. Flannery said that Dr. Mancini “loves to see how far he can push things” and tried to incorporate dinosaurs into the wedding as much as possible. “John was a dinosaur kid,” she explained. “He actually thought about being a paleontologist but opted for chemistry instead.”
Their wedding hashtag was #classydinosaurwedding and requested attire was “cocktail or inflatable dinosaur suit.”
“People knew there was a little dinosaur touch to the wedding,” Dr. Flannery said. “They really committed to it in the cards that they gave to us.”
Dr. Mancini’s sister, Cristina Mancini, officiated at the ceremony, with Meghan Eileen Mali, one of Dr. Flannery’s two sisters, taking part. Both were ordained by the Universal Life Church for the occasion.
“They each told a little something about their sibling and gave advice to the partner,” Dr. Mancini said. “My sister said that I’m a man of science; I grunt when I need to communicate; and Kaitlin will need to be the external communicator. Her sister said, ‘Don’t try to surprise her. If she wants something, get her exactly that,’” Dr. Mancini said.
The couple agreed their favorite moment of the day was the ceremony. “Our sisters did a really good job,” Dr. Flannery said.
After the vows, there was a tented cocktail hour, a seated dinner in the barn and a dance floor that was half inside the barn and half outside. “During the dancing, people went outside to see the birds, goats, donkeys and chickens roaming around,” Dr. Flannery said.
The couple say seeing how much joy there was that night was overwhelming. Perhaps the very best part of the whole wedding was, Dr. Flannery said, “People being really happy for us after all that we’ve gone through, and people happy to be together again.”
On This Day
When Aug. 14, 2021
Where The Barn at Mount Hope Farm in Bristol, R.I.
Dinosaur on the Dance Floor After a few minutes of dancing, Dr. Flannery invited her two sisters to join in her father-daughter dance, which then soon became a father-daughters-dinosaur dance, as friends brought an inflated Tyrannosaurus Rex to join the party.
Put It on a Shelf The couple filled a bookshelf that was inside the venue with stories about themselves and items that were representative of those stories. “They are short tales of John and my relationship that we thought would help everyone understand a bit more about us as a couple,” Dr. Flannery said. “We printed and framed the stories.” Alongside each story they displayed a related item, like the water bottle from a bike race and a container of ramen noodles.
Local Blooms All of the flowers for the wedding were American grown and, as much as possible, locally sourced. “I wanted certain colors and the florist had put together a board of what we wanted,” Dr. Flannery said. The palette included soft blue, orange, peach and blush pink.
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