5 Weddings, 5 Wigs, And One Helluva Summer
I never imagined I would attend five weddings in one summer while undergoing chemotherapy as a young mom. But I did. And, I vowed to make the most of it.
My wedding style that summer was not only about what dress to choose, but what wig would go with it. For Michael & Melinda, I chose The Brooke. For Paul & Shauna, I chose The Danielle. For Vince & Belah, it was The Sarah. But, my very favorite was for Mark & Kati, for their wedding, I chose The Roxy. That was a fun one! A bright silver bob with purple highlights.
My least favorite was The Ellen at Mindi & Pedro's wedding, but that had little to do with the wedding or the wig and more to do with how weak and sick I was. It was right after my fifth round of chemo, and I literally felt like I was going to die. Every bone in my body ached, my vision blurred, lethargy rolled over me like thick molasses. Each step I took was harder than the last.
I tried really hard to smile and dance and give my most heartfelt well-wishes, but I could hardly muster up the energy to move. Needless to say, I excused myself early and Ellen ended up a crumpled mess on the floor the rest of the night.
Some cancer patients choose to embrace their baldness or layer their heads with fanciful scarves. But, I chose to enjoy the whimsy of trying on different hairstyles and colors, so I scoured the local cancer society wig closet and came home with a variety of choices that would help get me through that long and event-packed summer.
Each wig brought out her own flavor and personality. Roxy was sassy and bold, Brooke was sophisticated and demure. Danielle was spicy. Sarah was sexy. The wigs become my security. They gave me strength when I didn’t think I could muster it up on my own. They hid my sickness.
I discovered the lump in my left breast two months before my 39th birthday during a newscast-inspired self-check exam. I said to my husband as we were lying in bed, "huh, that feels weird … do you feel that … does it feel weird to you?" He agreed I should go see my doctor. I convinced myself it was nothing, with thoughts such as "I'm too young for breast cancer," and "Cysts run in my family, I'm sure that's what it is." And, with not too much concern, I headed to see my general practitioner, convinced she'd agree with me.
I have never seen doctors and nurses jump into such swift action. After a quick exam, she suggested I get an ultrasound, immediately. Within minutes I was in the imaging department. The radiologist took one look at the scans and said, “you need to see an oncologist right away” and sent me back to my general practitioner. My doctor picked up the phone and called a well-known oncological surgeon directly. This was Thursday, he saw me on Monday.
The next two weeks turned into a whirlwind of emotion and action. Scans, biopsies, and an overwhelming amount of information followed by five million questions and more than double the amount of tears. My worst fear came true.
On May 13th, 2010 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
My journal entry read: "Today, my life changed. Today, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. How am I going to look without hair? Will my husband still find me attractive when I'm scarred up?" My sons were too little (a year and a half and four years old), my career too thriving, my life too full... I couldn't fathom how I was going to prepare for and survive this battle, but I knew I had to put up a helluva fight. I had too many people depending on me.
For nine months, I endured six rounds of chemotherapy, followed by a lumpectomy, radiation therapy, and was prescribed a hormone blocker for the next 10 years.
While Infusion Days were typically spaced three weeks apart, I made tweaks for wedding weekends. Typically, the first day after chemotherapy you feel ok, it’s days three and four that kick you in the butt. You can’t plan to dance the night away on those days! If I had a wedding that weekend, I’d be sure to plan Infusion on the Monday after. Like clockwork it was wedding, infusion, sleep, work, and try to be a mom and wife in between.
I may have laughed, smiled, socialized, and danced, but those days in between nearly killed me. There were times I wanted to give up and let the nasty disease take me away from the pain.
It was the hardest fight of my life.
As I sit nearing the end of my prescribed medication and actively participating in the success of my growing, incredibly active preteen and teenager, I can say without a doubt, it was worth it.
I'm forever grateful I had the quick response of a few amazing doctors and Brooke, Danielle, Roxy, Sarah, and Ellen to help me along the way. Because when you’re in the fight of your life, you need a little help to fake it until you make it … through.
Photo courtesy of the author.