One year ago I was faced with news most people can’t imagine hearing, but instead of taking time to absorb the news we jumped into action to plan our wedding in six days. SIX days!
On April 27th I stared at my oncologist while she explained what metastatic breast cancer was and the different approaches for treatment. The word “chemotherapy” of course came out of her mouth and, human nature being what it is, my hands immediately reached for my long, beautiful, curly hair.
My fiance had proposed to me just five months prior and we had set a wedding date for Oct. 8, 2016. We picked that date because it would mean that we would be getting married on our fifth anniversary of dating. And I was looking forward to being married on that date. Leading up to this, I did everything in my power to avoid chemotherapy. It’s scary when you research chemotherapy. You will read that chemo kills -- or causes more cancers. You will see all the stories of how toxic chemo is. I read everything, and I also read everything on how to avoid having chemo. Yes, some very brave women have avoided chemotherapy altogether, but it’s a different battleground when you have metastatic breast cancer.
After the doctor left the room, the famous question I have written about time and time again was asked: “What do you want, Larissa?” My response: “I just want to marry Martin.” At that time, it was up in the air whether I was going to try hormone treatments first or chemotherapy, but I did know I wouldn’t be myself anymore. I knew my hair wouldn’t be the same and my body wouldn’t feel the same. If I went the chemotherapy route I would be starting within a week, so I quickly said, “We NEED to get married this coming Saturday.” Luckily, no one in my life thought that would be impossible.
If you know me personally, this really doesn’t sound impossible. I seem to always pull off the impossible, or whatever I put my mind to. (If only cancer could bend to my will!) At first I envisioned a very small gathering of friends and family by the beach at my friend’s restaurant, Lenny’s on the Beach. I immediately messaged my friend and he said of course. I called my maid of honor Bonnie, who was out of town, to let her know to hurry back. We called the wedding dress store to see if I could get my dress early. They said “No, BUT the dress you originally tried on is still here and we can sell you that one.” DONE!
Then a marvelous surprise happened. My new-found biological Aunt Carol and Uncle Todd called after they heard of my wedding planning. I caught them up to speed and they said absolutely not would I have the wedding at Lenny’s. They called the Norwich Inn & Spa, found that it was available, and booked it. I was caught off guard, and was absolutely speechless. Before I could even process how I was going to pay for it, they told me that was taken care of too! They didn’t have to do this for us (they had only learned of my existence a few weeks prior) but apparently some of my giving and caring traits come from that side of my family! (My biological mother was Uncle Todd’s sister.)
OK … I have a dress … the venue for my “first look” pictures (they would be at Lenny’s) … a reception spot … my nephew is going to DJ at the reception …
My niece and good friend Courtney jumped into action to help me when my chest pain continued to flare and micro-managing was becoming difficult. “Tomorrow we are going to get the bridesmaid dresses.” OK, great. She helped find us a photographer: Stephanie Chasse Photography. Another bridesmaid, Janica, got a party bus donated. Another bridesmaid, Marcy, started creating her lists (she's super great at lists). She prepared bandages since, as a breast cancer survivor, she knew how the still-healing wounds from my double mastectomy would feel in my dress. She and Courtney worked on many of the small details I would never have thought of in six days. Then everyone helped turn my living room into a bridal suite. My mom was working with a baker we knew to get the cake. My Aunt Carol was collecting and creating the wedding favors. I reached out to our florist (who’s daughter was one of my best friends growing up) and told them about the change of plans. Just For You Florist jumped into action as well!
And all of this was done in just six days.
My Aunt Lisa worked to get a justice of the peace who happened to be her best friend. Martin and I filed for and got our marriage license. Martin and his groomsmen … Well, Martin is an amazing and wonderful man, but he's still a guy. He and his groomsmen waited until three days before the wedding to get fitted for their tuxes. But to be fair … six days.
The night before my wedding my back and chest were in intense, sharp pain. While at the mall I collapsed from the pain and finally decided I was not superwoman and that I should take the pain medication. The idea of pain medication and liver metastasis scared me then and still do now. I had researched medical marijuana, but was too scared to try it. But once the pain got really bad I had no choice, as it was the only thing that relaxed the spasms. So judge away if you want, but it was the only thing that helped.
My bridesmaids originally were going to take me out for a small bachelorette, but the pain was so bad we had to stay in and order takeout. (I will have a bachelorette party someday! Just wait and see! I will dress up like a princess or Scarlett O’Hara – I’m just waiting for the right opportunity!)
Most brides are usually nervous wrecks, but I wasn’t. I could barely sleep the night before, but who can? (Plus I had a headful of curlers.)
And my wedding was magical. It was a small, beautiful dream wedding. Martin cried the entire day and I cried during our first dance. It seemed unreal -- six days and boom! I’m married!
When we exchanged our vows (yep, we even wrote our own vows in six days) I went first.
[Side note from Bonnie the maid of honor: Trust me, there was not a dry eye in the room when they exchanged their vows. And, unbeknownst to Larissa, Martin had had those very same words (Wherever you go, I go. If you ride, I ride. If you fight, I fight) tattooed on his ribs just under the location where Larissa found her tumor just the day before. He planned to surprise Larissa after the wedding, and didn’t know she would use the same words in her vows.]
So, on this first anniversary of our wedding, I want to thank everyone who made May 7 possible, magical and special. And thank you, Martin, for marrying me last year and continuing to love me and stand by my side. Sorry in advance for the possible side effects that might make me slightly unbearable to be around.