Carolina Bride

A Break From Reality

It all started with their first wedding anniversary, a trip to the Outer Banks and a Chris Isaak song. "We never took engagement photos, and we liked the idea of having a way to bookmark each year and look back at how we've changed as a couple," Shannon explains. "We did poses like in the video 'Wicked Game.' It was so much fun."

The following year, it was an abstract painting portraying them as "tree people" by local artist Stefan Duncan.

This year, to commemorate their third wedding anniversary, Shannon and JJ hired Kristin Vining Photography to do a photo story of them as Noah and Allie, the title characters from the motion picture "The Notebook."

"A friend told me about some boudoir photos Kristin had done," Shannon explains. "I looked her up on Facebook and thought her work was amazing, and I loved the spin she put on her engagement photos."

Shannon contacted Kristin with her idea, and they decided to do the shoot at the Duke Mansion. Kristin also scouted railroad tracks just minutes away as a secondary location. Since JJ already has an uncanny resemblance to Noah, played by Ryan Gosling, it was up to stylist Lindsey Thorne to complete Shannon's transformation into Allie. Shannon wore a pale pink lace dress that complemented her porcelain skin and a matching flower in her hair to enhance the 1940s look. For the railroad pictures, she sported a sleeveless jumper with a scarlet bell-shaped hat and matching sandals. "It started to rain at the end when we were shooting on the train tracks, and it was cold," Kristin recalls. "They were such troopers though. Shannon didn't fold at all. She rocked it."

Some time before the shoot, Shannon and JJ were traveling in France when Shannon experienced a strange pain in her abdomen. Being in a foreign country, she chalked it up to something she ate. When the couple returned to the states and the pain got worse, Shannon made an appointment with her doctor. After a series of tests she was diagnosed with stage-two ovarian cancer.

"It was a very emotional shoot and her story is just remarkable," says Kristin. "I could have photographed them all day long. His warm tenderness and affection toward her... when you see that love through the lens and see a couple like them that is madly in love, it warms the heart."

Prior to the photo shoot, Shannon underwent a hysterectomy and was scheduled to start chemotherapy the very next day. "Kristin made us feel so special and took us for one whole day out of reality and made us different people," Shannon says. "I don't have any hair right now, so I can look back at those pictures and see how pretty I looked and how pretty my hair looked."

Shannon recently finished her final round of chemo and has started "Teal-Diva," a non-profit organization to help young women between their 20s and 40s battling ovarian cancer. She is also planning her next photo shoot with JJ. "I'd like someone to follow us around on an ice skating rink and capture us being a cute couple," Shannon says. "I'll probably break a leg doing it, but I think it would be fun."