Man with brain tumor first to get married virtually in Charlotte County

Reporter: Erika Jackson
Published: Updated:

To Michelle Kalanja and Robert Dechert, love knows no bounds, with Robert adding, “There’s nothing that I don’t love about her.”

But in 2019, just one year into their relationship, doctors diagnosed Robert with glioblastoma – a potentially fatal brain tumor. A 2019 study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings finds that only 5.5% of patients live for five years after diagnosis.”

Michelle said his ability to be independent is gone, “Since the disease was diagnosed, he is paralyzed on the right side pretty much.”

Sometimes Robert has a difficult time speaking, he explained, “but at this point, I’m not afraid of it.”

Michelle said they decided they wanted to get married almost immediately but the disease prevented that. They found their solution on the internet.

They ultimately had their wedding ceremony via Zoom, officiated by the Charlotte County Clerk of Court Roger Eaton.

Michelle and Robert were the first to wed in Charlotte County virtually just two weeks ago.

“It was very very easy to do it,” Michelle explained. “It was easier than ordering groceries online.”

No wedding dress, no tuxedo, but there was a life-long vow.

Michelle said, “It’s something that neither one of us will ever forget.”

Together forever, in sickness, and in health.

Clerk Roger Eaton has officiated a dozen ceremonies via Zoom since the coronavirus pandemic began. Now, his team is discussing plans to safely move forward with in-person ceremonies after Governor DeSantis’ recent announcement to reopen Florida.

If you’re in Charlotte County and interested in getting married, visit the clerk’s website HERE.  Couples should fill out an application online and there must be a 3 day waiting period between the filed application and the ceremony. Appointments for ceremonies are required.


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