Brittney Ross knew she was dying.

Despite aggressive treatment last summer and fall for a rare form of cervical cancer, the disease was crippling her body.

In late January, just eight months after her diagnosis, doctors told her that the miracle cure she was holding out for wouldn’t come. Her time left likely would be measured in days or weeks.

Her fiancé, Jared Brewer, knew, too.

He had been there throughout her treatment, months and months of exhaustive chemotherapy and radiation that left her mostly bedridden.

He knew his love couldn’t save her, but there was something he could give her.

Something she wanted more than anything.

• • • • •

Brittney grew up in Oklahoma but left home as a teenager and ended up in Maine after college.

Jared, a former military police officer, was raised in Windham and stayed there as an adult.

The two met in early 2012 while both were working as correctional officers at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

They started out as friends, bonding over music and cars and the television shows of their youth – “Knight Rider” and “The Wonder Years.”

Janessa Brewer, Jared’s younger sister, said her brother had a lengthy dating record before he met Brittney.

“She just seemed different,” she said. “She made him better. They made each other better.”

Jared agreed.

“She knew how to tame me, I guess,” he said.

Early in the relationship, they took a road trip to Oklahoma to visit some of Brittney’s family members.

“I knew if we could spend 30 hours together in a car and still get along, that was a good sign,” Jared said.

A year later, she moved in with him.

But in December 2013, their relationship was showing strains, and Brittney moved out.

Jared doesn’t like to think about that time. He said he tried to move on but always hoped she would change her mind.

“Jared never gave up on me,” Brittney wrote on a blog that she started after her cancer diagnosis. “He continued to reach out, encouraging me to come home.”

But she resisted, unsure whether their relationship could work.

Then, in May, after a visit to her doctor, she got troubling news: A tumor on her cervix might be malignant. She was scared and needed a friend, and Jared was her first call.

“I literally dropped everything,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have blamed him from turning his back, but he didn’t,” she wrote. “Instead, he stood by me and promised we could get through anything together.”

The next day, her doctor told her that her cancer was a rare and aggressive form called small cell cervical cancer. Of 100 women diagnosed with cervical cancer, only one will have the small cell variety. The prognosis was poor.

“Most doctors hear this disease and say it’s not a matter of ‘if’ this will kill you but ‘when,’ ” she wrote.

By the time it was detected in Brittney, the cancer already had spread to her lymph nodes.

She vowed to fight, though, and Jared vowed to fight with her.

“I knew nothing about cancer,” he said. “I feel like an expert now.”

He also promised himself during their time apart that if he ever got her back, he would marry her.

• • • • •

On June 28, about a month after the diagnosis, the couple took a trip to Moosehead Lake. It was a beautiful day, the sun dancing sparkles on the water.

Brittney had already started treatment by then. Her hair had begun to fall out and she was self-conscious about it, but to Jared, she was beautiful.

After an intimate dinner, Jared drove her to a spot overlooking the lake. He sat her down on a rock wall as the sun set. He told her he loved her. He told her he was in it for the long haul, however long that might be.

He took out a ring – he was so nervous, he almost dropped it – and asked Brittney to marry him.

Without hesitation, she said yes.

“The cancer only opened our eyes to how short life can be and how we shouldn’t waste any moments,” she wrote on her blog.

They set a wedding date of Aug. 22, 2015, plenty of time for Brittney to finish her treatment, rebuild her strength and then begin planning their wedding.

But the next several months were hell. Her treatment was relentless. “Lots and lots of chemo,” she wrote, followed by external and internal radiation and then more chemo.

“It was hard for Jared to watch it,” she wrote. “I can only imagine how powerless he felt wanting to help me and not being able to do a thing but wait it out.”

Jared said when he was alone, he would sometimes break down. Never in front of Brittney, though.

“I couldn’t let her see that,” he said. “I needed to be strong.”

Brittney was strong, too. She kept working, by then as a dispatcher for the city of Portland.

“She was taking on projects while going through treatments, dealing with suicidal callers and people who overdosed. It was remarkable when you consider what she was dealing with,” said Andy Dziegielewski, her supervisor.

At first, the news was good. An early November scan showed few signs of cancer. The treatment was working.

By December, Brittney was feeling better.

Jared said Christmas was one of the best days of their relationship. They spent it together, exchanging presents, visiting with friends and family, making up for the time they’d lost over the previous several months.

By the time 2015 rolled around, though, things had changed.

• • • • •

Brittney’s Jan. 29 blog post started with the words, “Man it got hard.”

The original tumor on her cervix was gone but the cancer had continued to spread to her liver. She was told it could not be cured. Treatment would only prolong her life, but would not save it.

Instead of talking chemo and radiation, doctors started talking about hospice.

“The fact is, I didn’t get lucky. I didn’t get the news we all wanted to hear. Instead, I got heartbroken doctors, family and friends,” she wrote. “Everybody was so positive, refusing to believe the very real reality that all that work I put in would be for nothing.”

Still, she didn’t give up. She held out for a miracle.

She wrote about Jared’s strength, about wanting to be strong for him, about wanting to fight for him because he was strong for her and because he was fighting for her.

“I will not allow the people I love to believe they are not worth fighting for, so I am here to make it clear I will do whatever it takes to fight against leaving this world so soon, because it is too soon. As long as my heart is still beating … I will continue to fight.”

But the couple knew the odds and didn’t want to waste any more time as an engaged couple.

They wanted to be married before it was too late.

They moved up the wedding date to Feb. 27.

As the days wore on, though, even that looked like it might not happen. She was no longer strong enough to take any more treatment.

They were running out of time.

On Valentine’s Day, Brittney and Jared exchanged vows in the chapel at Maine Medical Center.

Jared said Brittney hated the idea of a Valentine’s Day wedding, but their options were limited. They didn’t know if she would last the weekend.

But she did. Two days later, she was writing thank-you notes to everyone who came to their impromptu hospital wedding.

And she was still planning the reception, keeping the Feb. 27 date, even as she grew weaker. She was determined to celebrate.

“I’m not sure everyone realized because she was so upbeat and positive,” Janessa Brewer said. “As I was doing her makeup and she was laying on the couch, she said, ‘I’m so weak. I’m so weak.’ But nothing was going to keep her away.”

• • • • •

About 200 people packed into the Roost, a banquet facility in Buxton – family, friends and co-workers of Jared from the Maine Correctional Center and of Brittney from the city of Portland.

The theme was a country-style hoedown, complete with line dancing. It’s what Brittney had dreamed about since they first got engaged.

He wore a black vest over a white shirt and bluejeans. She wore a traditional white dress with lace accents and brown cowboy boots with hearts embroidered on the toes.

When it came time for their first dance, they took the floor to “You Save Me,” a country ballad by Kenny Chesney.

Jared had to bend down because she was too weak to rise from her wheelchair, but he said the moment was perfect.

“I think he needed to let her know in front of the world just how much she meant,” Janessa Brewer said.

But as much as the wedding was a celebration of their love, it was also the last time many of them would see Brittney.

“I think it was therapeutic for a lot of us,” said Dziegielewski, her former boss. “But people still thought she could beat it. They wanted to believe that.”

The next day, she started to fade fast.

All the energy she spent preparing for the wedding reception took its toll.

“She started to let go,” Jared said.

Jared took her to his mom’s house – she’s an oncology nurse – and held her hand through the night as she woke up often, moaning in pain.

By next morning, things were worse and Jared knew he had to take her back to the hospital.

When they got there, the doctor took him aside and told him to prepare. But how do you prepare? he asked.

In the end, Jared told her he didn’t want her to be in pain anymore.

“I kept telling her, ‘You can go,’ ” he said.

Brittney wasn’t able to say much the last day of her life. She mostly mumbled. But Jared remembers her final words, clear as day.

“It was ‘I love you,’ ” he said. “It was a couple hours before she passed. I remember leaning in and telling her how much I loved her. And she said it back. It was the most beautiful thing.”

• • • • •

Brittney died March 1, less than 10 months after her diagnosis and two days after her wedding reception. She was 28.

Her funeral was held Saturday at the Windham Assembly of God, which waived the usual service fee. The funeral home offered to cremate her at no charge. Flags in town flew at half-staff in tribute.

Ever since her diagnosis, Jared said, so many people have stepped up and offered to help. Last fall, when chemotherapy and its effects took up most of her days, Brittney’s co-workers in Portland had donated enough sick days to cover a year and a half’s worth of work. The gesture was a reflection of her warmth, Jared said.

“Nobody has met her who didn’t like her,” he said.

Jared hasn’t been alone since Brittney passed.

Friends and family have come by regularly and two of his best friends have been spending the night.

Janessa Brewer said her heart breaks for her big brother but she’s learned so much, watching him the last 10 months.

“You cannot waste a second of life,” she said. “You just never know.”

Jared said he can’t help but lament the unfairness of losing his wife so soon after finding her. They never had time to start a family, buy a house or even take a honeymoon – all the things that married couples are supposed to do.

“I got a marriage certificate and a death certificate in the same week,” Jared said. “Who does that?”

He’s still young, only 31, with a whole life ahead.

But for now, Jared is still surrounded by Brittney, by pictures of her and reminders around their house of their too-short relationship.

“She definitely changed me for the better,” he said. “I was kind of a jerk before I met her.”

Now, he said, he’s more tolerant. He’s more compassionate. He lives in the moment.

Things the cancer couldn’t take.