Chelsea Miles and Scott Derkacz
June 8, 2018, in Wilmington
They met in 2005 through the friendship incubator that is Elizabethtown College's track and field program, in which Chelsea was a jumper — high, long, and triple — and ran the 400-meter sprint and Scott ran the 5,000- and 10,000-meter distance events.
The men's and women's teams held practices at the same time and shared the same coaches. "Teammates were often rooming together, eating meals together, socializing together," Scott said. "To this day, we're a close-knit group."
Yes, there were romances — but not between Chelsea, who grew up in Media, and Scott, who is from Huguenot, N.Y. They were the kind of guy-girl friends so close they trusted each other for advice about their relationships with other people.
Chelsea stayed a fifth year at Elizabethtown to graduate with a master's degree in occupational therapy. She so loved her clinicals at A.I. duPont Hospital for Children that she's now a pediatric occupational therapist there.
After earning his history degree, Scott got his master's in historic preservation at the University of Vermont. For a time, he lived in Philadelphia, working as a tour guide at Eastern State Penitentiary. Then he moved to Australia, where he painted houses for a bit more than a year.
Through the years, Chelsea and Scott, now both 31, were always in touch — mostly through Facebook, sometimes at alumni events or the personal events of their former teammates.
Scott moved back to Vermont to work as a painter at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in New Hampshire, which meant he was able to attend the 2015 wedding of two other Elizabethtown track teammates in Hershey, Pa. He and Chelsea were having such a good time in each other's company their old pals were watching them, looking for confirming signs that they were together-together. They weren't. Not yet.
Scott asked Chelsea to be his date at his brother's wedding in Lake Wallenpaupack two days later, and that was even better.
"We had been friends for such a long time, and knew each other so well, so it was just easy," Chelsea said — especially without former teammates staring at them.
Without defining what was happening, they saw each other in Vermont, Delaware, or somewhere in-between about twice monthly. Despite the distance, they fell in love.
Scott fell for Chelsea's kindness and sense of humor, and the fun of sharing interests like running, traveling, and seeing new places with someone so wonderful.
"Scott is a very good guy. He's very patient. He goes out of his way to do the right thing," Chelsea said. "I don't ever think I've ever been able to be so completely myself around someone else."
In March 2016, they met for a hike in the Catskills. Scott told Chelsea he wanted to take their relationship to the next level, and she said she did, too. They agreed they needed to be in the same place to make that happen. In December 2016, Scott moved to Chelsea's Wilmington house, where they still live. Soon after, he started working for the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, where he is now facilities site manager.
"It was a little bit of a leap of faith — a huge step. But we were older, we knew what we wanted, and to make that happen, we needed to be in the same place," Chelsea said.
Less than a week after Scott moved in, he had to travel to his last freelance gig in New York. Chelsea was home alone when she began having chest pain. Confident it would turn out to be nothing, she walked the two blocks to St. Francis Hospital's ER, just in case. "I was diagnosed with a mass in my chest, which ended up being non-Hodgkin's lymphoma." she said.
Scott told his client he couldn't do the job and drove home. Chelsea needed chemotherapy treatments every three weeks for the next six months. Before they started, she told Scott it was going to be a long road — perhaps one that wouldn't allow them to have the marriage and family they wanted. "We just moved in together. We are just starting. You don't have to do this," she said.
"Of course I'm staying right here," Scott told her. "What do we need to do? What do I need to do?"
Chelsea finished treatment on May 19, 2017. She has regular scans, and all have remained clear.
About a month after Chelsea's last chemo treatment, Scott planned a hiking and camping trip to Trap Pond State Park in Laurel, Del. Scott is Mr. Organization, but he was so focused on planning a special surprise he forgot sleeping gear for him, Chelsea, and Finn, their golden retriever mix.
They bought foam mattress pads and layered on extra clothing for warmth. Morning finally came and it was time to hike. "It was going well until we get to this one spot in the forest where bugs were just swarming — mosquitoes and biting flies," Chelsea said. "We had to run, and I was a couple of weeks out of chemo and way out of shape. It was miserable."
Then Scott finally caught a break: They reached a beautiful bridge near a pond and the bugs disappeared.
Instead of buying each other cards, they keep a journal in which they write each other messages for special occasions. Scott got their journal from his backpack and handed it to Chelsea to read.
He had written about his love for her, and his admiration of her strength during her treatment. Now that they were past that hurdle, he wrote, it was time to move on to the next stage of their lives together. As she read, Chelsea's legs began to shake. "There is one thing I do need to ask you, though," his entry ended.
She looked up to find him on one knee.
Chelsea and Scott wed at the Carriage House at Rockwood Park in a ceremony led by Scott's friend Dan. The English teacher was ordained online and devised a ceremony filled with personal details from the couple's story.
Two other friends did readings: James, an Elizabethtown teammate who has known the couple as long as they've known each other, and Michelle, a new friend Chelsea made when both were going through cancer treatment.
The reception for 140, also held at the Carriage House, featured an outdoor cocktail hour and a sit-down dinner. Scott's best man, Dylan — who was also a track teammate — and Chelsea's two maids of honor — Julia and Kristen, her friends since elementary school — gave speeches. There was much dancing.
The couple saw each other for the first time on their wedding day during the pre-ceremony pictures. Seeing Scott gave Chelsea a beautiful sense of peace and joy. "He said to me, 'You seem so calm,' and I said, 'I know this is the right thing,' " Chelsea said. "It was almost a little surreal, because even before we got engaged, we were talking about this day. And to be there, in the wedding dress — it was happening. And it was powerful."
Hearing Dan tell their story was an incredibly moving experience for Scott. Hearing him tell the part about Chelsea's successful fight against cancer with him as her advocate gave Scott a better appreciation of their own experiences. "It helped me realize just how much we have been through," he said. Illnesses can sometimes put a lot of stress on a relationship, Scott said. "How lucky we were to go through this tough battle and come out even stronger on the other side."
A bargain: The venue allowed the couple to supply their own alcohol. Not only was that a cheaper option, but because Total Wines in Delaware allowed them to return any bottle they didn't open, they could guess without risk.
The splurge: Chelsea doesn't think much about shoes and has never spent much money on them. She made an exception for some wedding-day sparkle: $150 on gold flats from Bhldn. "For me, that's very expensive," she said.
Ten days of snorkeling with nurse sharks and rays, zip-lining, exploring Mayan ruins and chilling on the beach in Belize.
Venue: Carriage House at Rockwood Park, Wilmington.
Food: Greenery Caterers, Wilmington.
Cake: The Master's Baker, West Chester.
Music: Tom Barrett Disc Jockeys, West Chester.
Photography: Amanda Brubaker Photography.
Flowers: Marcus Hook Florist, Marcus Hook.
Dress: Maggie Sottero, purchased at Irini's Originals, Wilmington.