Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bride to Be...Or Not to Be

This sucks.

In the last few days, I've purchased earrings and a hair accessory to wear with my gorgeous dress at my perfectly planned wedding on a beautiful day in September.

But I can't seem to force myself to be excited.

On a whim, I walked into Swarovski Crystal last night looking for earrings. I was originally thinking diamond chandeliers would be best, but then I remembered that the beading on the dress is actually made by Swarovski, so why not take a look there?

I was greeted by the very friendly manager, who asked me if I was looking for anything in particular. "Yes," I said. "I need earrings to go with my wedding dress." Her eyes lit up and a huge smile crept over her face, "Congratulations!" she exclaimed. "When's the wedding?" I wanted so badly to share her joy, but I couldn't. I tried to fake excitement. With all the acting lessons I took as a child, it shouldn't have been too hard. Shouldn't have been; but it was. My mouth turned up a bit, but my eyes reflected the sadness in my heart. "September 3rd," I responded with little emotion. I'm not sure if she noticed my dismal attitude or not, but she went about her business showing me a variety of different earrings that might work for me. I ended up taking two pairs with me. "Try them both on with the dress, and return the ones you don't want," the manager suggested. Ok, deal.

I walked out of the store with my purchases in hand, feeling less than elated. One more thing to check off the list. One more this to make me wonder if I'll even have a wedding. One more thing to make me anxious and depressed.

It's not supposed to be this way!!

I woke up this morning and got ready for my day. I was meeting my friend, Kris, at Model Bride in Chatham to look for a hair accessory - or wig accessory - for the big day. But before I left the house, a thought invaded my head. I wonder if my hair system from Joseph Paris is ready? What if I lose my hair, and I have nothing to replace it? I picked up the phone and dialed the custom hair piece salon.

"Hi, it's Suzanne Paragano. I'm starting chemo next week, so I just wanted to make sure my hair system is ready." I heard some fingernails tapping on a computer keyboard and then, "Yes, Suzanne, you're all set!" I tried to sound cheery, "Ok, then I guess I'll call you when my hair falls out!"

Well, that was awkward. Ok, off to the bridal accessory shop.

I sat in my convertible with the top down, parked outside the shop while I waited for Kris. The dilemma of whether or not to go through with the radiation danced around my brain. Neither answer works for me. All of the cancer doctors tell me to do it. Most of my friends say don't do it. My mom and I flipped a coin. The coin said not to do it...two out of three times!

I've recently joined a small cell cervical cancer Facebook page. The women have been so supportive and helpful, and most of them have had chemo and radiation. Some have had both internal and external radiation. Some have had a hysterectomy, some have gone straight to treatments. But, no matter what they've done, there are a lot of incidences of recurrence in other parts of the body - mostly in the liver, lungs and ribs. Talk about scaring the shit out of me! So what exactly did the radiation do to stop the spread? Then, on the other hand, there are other women who may not have had the cancer come back, but have had such severe damage from the radiation that they've had their bladders and parts of their intestines removed, and are now living with colostomy and urostomy bags. Some have lesions on their bladders that were caused by the radiation. They obviously can't radiate again, and chemo doesn't work in that case. Surgery is the only option. No one warned me about those side effects. All I've heard is, "It will shrink your vaginal canal, but using a dilator and internal moisturizer and lubricant should help." So, if I don't do the radiation and the cancer comes back, I'll kick myself for not doing it. But if I do it, and I end up with one of the life-altering side effects, but no cancer, what kind of life will I have? There is no right answer here. And I only have a few more days to decide.

Just when I was about to go nuts over this decision for the 100th time this week, Kris pulled up behind me. We walked into Model Bride and the vision of 30 different kinds of white shoes and 100 sparkling hair and body decorations greeted us. Two sales associates appeared from the back room and offered to help us find what we were looking for. "I need something to wear in my hair at my wedding," I said without a smile. Not surprisingly, both of them broke into girly giddiness at my request, and started pulling out options for me. "What exactly are you looking for?" the tall, blonde asked. "I don't want a veil and I don't want anything big and gaudy." I showed them a picture of my dress, and they both let out a few oohs and ahhs, then continued to look for the perfect compliment for my hair.

As they searched, I went back to my car to grab the earrings I had bought the night before so we could get an idea of what might look best. As I walked back in, a plethora of sparkle and glitz was thrown at me for approval. I tried a few looks in my newly darkened hair, and the manager asked a very reasonable question that threw me for a loop. "Do you have someone to do your hair and makeup yet? We offer that as a service if you want to come in for a trial." It was as if something had swooped into the room and sucked the wind out of me. Hair. Will I have hair? Makeup. Will it be enough to cover up the effects of the chemo on my complexion?

"Do they work with wigs?" I questioned with a serious tone. The poor girl looked stumped and speechless, so I continued, "I'll be starting chemo next week, so we'll either be working with clip in extensions or a full wig." She tried not to pity me, and she did a pretty good job of acting like my request wasn't unusual. "Our stylists are professionals. They can work with anything you need."

I continued to try on different accessories until I found one I really loved. As the manager and Kris helped me position it on my head, Kris very innocently exclaimed, "It's hard to do because you just have so much hair!" Then she caught herself, "Shit. I didn't mean that." I nodded and tried not to let it bother me. I know she didn't say it maliciously. The truth is, I do have a lot of hair. I can't expect people to walk on eggshells around me at all times. She didn't do anything wrong. I need to stop being so sensitive!

I decided on a beautiful, crystal and beaded band I thought would go well with my dress. I took a card and brochure explaining the hair and makeup packages the shop offered, and we were on our way.

I drove home with the top closed because the heat was unbearable. I was also expecting a call back from two different doctors, and it would be easier to hear them without the noise of the trucks passing by and the wind blowing loudly on my face. I had called my endocrinologist, who diagnosed my thyroid cancer in 1996, to ask his opinion on the radiation for my current condition. I had also left a message for Dr. Carter, the sex therapist I spoke to at Sloan-Kettering last month, to ask if she would contact some of her patients who had been through a hysterectomy and radiation to see if they'd call me to discuss their experiences. But neither of them called me back.

That was almost four hours ago.

And here I sit, still waiting for the phone to ring. My time is running out. I need to make a decision, and I need to make it quickly. I want my mind to be at peace with whatever choice I make, but it's not looking like there's any way for that to happen. Hindsight will be the only determination of whether or not the choice I make right now is correct. It's not fair. Who has the crystal ball? Anyone? I really need it now. Wait! My kids have a Magic 8 Ball. I'm gonna go look for it right now! Hang on...

"Outlook not so good."

Interesting. How should I take that? My question was, "Should I do the radiation." The answer was, "Outlook not so good." Does that mean I shouldn't do it? Or is that just a generalization about my entire situation? I don't like that answer. It's confusing. Asking again. Hold please.

"Outlook good."

Make up your mind, Magic 8 Ball! I asked the same question twice and got completely contradicting answers! But I guess that makes sense, doesn't it? It just proves that no one has the right answer. No one can tell me what will be best. Only I can choose what I want done to my body, and then I need to prepare myself to live with the consequences...

Whatever they may be.

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