Wedding surprises

In the months since my last post, I’ve been working through treatment side effects, going through physical therapy, and preparing for my oldest son’s wedding.

The wedding was yesterday. It was beautiful. It was exhausting. It showed me many things.

The week before the wedding was grueling. I had a ton of work, besides everything I wanted to do to help with the wedding. My sleep was cut down to five to six hours a night, when usually I need seven to eight to survive. There was little to no time for rest, let alone naps. It was a pace I hadn’t kept since before my diagnosis. But I did it.

There were many times I fought the wave that pushed to overwhelm me. There were times reality became surreal and I felt like I was thrashing to stay above water. There were many times I wondered if I could do this – work, wedding preparation, family commitments – wave after wave flooding over unsteady shores.

However, I wanted to relish every moment of this wedding preparation, of their special day. On the day of my diagnosis, it was a day I wasn’t sure I would ever see. When I heard the words metastatic melanoma, not knowing the extent of the disease, one of the first thoughts was wondering if I would see my oldest son get married.

Initially, their wedding was planned for a year earlier, but financial constraints pushed the day off a year. Had their initial date been kept, I would have been in the middle of the clinical trial for melanoma. I would not have been able to help with, and enjoy, their wedding to the extent I was now at the end of treatment.

Since our house had fallen to a bit of clutter since I got sick, I was cleaning through piles of untended stacks of paperwork and found papers from my initial exam, when I found the lump under my arm (April 12, 2013) and a week later received the diagnosis.

It caught my breath in the midst of cleaning for the rehearsal dinner that was to be at our house. I stopped to choke back tears, to thank God for carrying me to this point, to even embrace the fatigue I felt at that moment after many long nights.

One the things I like to do for my kids is create a video of them and their fiance, growing up, and then as them together as a couple. It helps me mentally prepare for the day they walk down the aisle. I also like to write them a letter from my heart, giving them all the praises that often go unspoken. In the rush and fatigue, I didn’t get these letters written before the ceremony, like I had preferred. However, in God’s great wisdom, the reason for my delay became evident on the day of the wedding.

During the reception, when guests would have clinked glasses to get the couple to kiss (per tradition in our area), my son and his wife announced a new protocol. Anyone who wanted them to kiss would have to put a dollar in a container in front of them, and all money would be donated to the ProHealth Care ParkWalk for Cancer – the walk that raises funds for the trial that saved my life.

I could do nothing but weep when I heard their words.

I don’t know if their kisses kept pace with the donations, but by the end of the night, $97 was collected.

The day after the wedding as we unloaded gifts, recovered our energy, and basked in the warmth of wonderful wedding festivities, I finally sat to write those letters. In that moment, I could thank them for a gesture that touched me deeper than anything they could have said.

In the weeks and days leading up to the wedding, I realized, we will always have the strength to do what has to be done, but what we think has to be done, and what is truly necessary always differ. I realized how time unfolds and reveals many mysteries, if you keep your eyes open for such wonders. I understand better how little we control in life and how important it is to ride the waves. I saw completely the impact of being present for those you love most and cherished the opportunity to do that one more time.