By TRISH MUYCO-TOBIN
To say that newlyweds Sydney and Andy Streiff, who both turned 25 last month, have the rest of their lives ahead of them would be an understatement.
Their May 2017 wedding was not only a celebration of their marriage, but also a reflection of their extraordinary story.
“What were the chances?” The father of the bride, Dr. Tim Philpott, repeatedly asked during his toast to the couple. “I calculated the chances of (a girl dating a boy), born in the same month to parents who are business partners – and neighbors. The two keep dating during college – while the guy beats cancer – and then they get married.”
By Dr. Philpott’s estimation, the chances were zero.
“I’ve watched the impossible take shape…we can now all believe in the impossible!” he proclaimed to the friends and loved ones who had gathered for the wedding.
Serendipity doesn’t even begin to describe how the couple’s lives intertwined – or exactly when fate intervened. As children, they grew up in the same neighborhood in Glendale, and their families belonged to the same golf club. There’s even an old photograph of Sydney with her Algonquin swim team, which, upon closer inspection of the upper left-hand corner, shows a dark-haired boy who turned out to be Andy.
“That’s our first picture together, I guess,” Sydney said. “We were just fated to each other for as long as we can remember.”
Just a few years later, Andy’s mother, Dr. Gigi Streiff – an OB-GYN just like Sydney’s father – joined Philpott’s practice. It was at about the same time when Andy started to really notice Sydney.
“I was called in as an emergency babysitter for her little sister, and as I walked down the path to her house, Sydney happened to walk by,” Andy recalled. “I thought to myself, ‘That’s a very pretty girl.’”
As for Sydney, she didn’t think much of crossing paths with Andy in their pre- to early teen years.
“I just remember him with glasses – awkward and gangly,” she said. “We didn’t really have the same friends, but we would run into each other.”
The two eventually connected on social media, and arranged to see a movie together. But the evening, which ended up with a couple of Andy’s friends tagging along, didn’t turn out as planned.
“It was pretty comical with me and these three guys, who were not used to talking to girls and didn’t really know how to handle the situation,” Sydney noted, adding that Andy spent the entire evening seeing out of one eye after accidentally rubbing out one of his contact lenses. Despite it all, the two agreed to go on a second date, which led to another…and another.
“It took about four dates for our first kiss,” Andy admitted. “I was so nervous; I didn’t want to mess anything up. She was the one who asked me to kiss her.”
At age 17, romance was certainly in the air for Sydney and Andy, but their blossoming relationship would face a cruel twist in early 2010.
“We’d been dating for about three months, and we started noticing Andy’s fingernails getting really pale, his skin was yellow, and he had fainted after basketball practice,” Sydney explained.
Blood tests and other examinations soon revealed the grim diagnosis.
“My dad sat me down and told me, ‘It’s leukemia,’” Sydney said. “That was the one thing I didn’t want – anything else but cancer. We were 17. Who gets cancer at 17? We cried, and we were angry, and we yelled at the world. There were a few times when it got pretty scary.”
Andy said he and Sydney had to grow up – a lot – during those trying times.
“I even told her to leave. It was obviously a long road for me. I wanted her to have as normal a high school experience as possible” he said. “But she came to visit me every single day.”
Defying the odds, Andy recovered well enough to take Sydney to the prom and to eventually graduate from high school. Their stars would remain crossed through college, even after they took pains to ensure one did not influence the other’s decision on a university. But their desire for a small liberal arts college both led them to Sewanee, the University of the South.
It was also during this time that Andy began showing signs of improvement and by the end of sophomore year, doctors miraculously declared him cancer-free.
Looking back, Sydney recalls a conversation with her mother about her future with Andy.
“We were on a walk, and my mom asked me, ‘Do you see yourself spending the rest of your life with Andy?’” Sydney said. “He was still in treatment then, but I didn’t hesitate, I just answered, ‘yes.’”
There were many reasons, according to Sydney, that convinced her Andy was the one.
“We complement each other in a lot of ways – it’s a true partnership,” she explained, adding that their collective experiences through the years give them a unique outlook on their lives as husband and wife. “We never keep score. We’re here to support each other – that’s the outlook we both share.”
What were the chances? For Sydney and Andy, they were astronomical enough for their stars to align, making the impossible, possible.