Monday, September 26, 2011

I'm Not Broken!

When I started this blog, I promised myself I'd be completely open and honest about all of my experiences no matter what. Well, now is one of those times where some of you might think, "Whoa! Too much information!" But I know that most of you are curious and want to know every detail of my life after radiation - especially the juicy parts!

So here it goes.

With Dr. Sidebotham's words, "You have no restrictions" ringing in my ears, I got to work using my dilator every other day. I started with the smallest one, which measures a whopping 2 1/2 inches in length and is probably the width of my index finger. While the first entry was a bit uncomfortable, I realized after two sessions that I could probably move up to the next size, which is just a little bit longer and probably a little wider than a roll of LifeSavers.

The routine is pretty boring. Snap the plastic cylinder into the plastic handle. Get comfortable. Lube up. Insert. Move in and out and side to side. Tighten muscles. Relax muscles. Repeat. Since it's pretty much a one-handed job, I can even keep myself entertained by Facebooking on my phone during the exercise. After five or ten minutes, the vaginal stretching is completed, and I can get on with the rest of my day.

During my dilator lesson with the nurse last week, she suggested that Jimmi help me with my work out to keep things interesting. But, unfortunately, Jimmi was away at a car show all weekend and I was left to handle things on my own.

But Jimmi came back today!

I really missed him. It was the first time we'd spent that long apart in almost a year, and it made my heart happy to finally see him pull into the driveway. I wrapped my arms around my husband and kissed him hello. "You wanna have a date night?" I asked. Since I'm starting what will hopefully be my last round of chemo on Wednesday, there isn't much time before I'll start feeling really shitty again. I wanted to take advantage of my last few days of feeling close to normal, and a romantic dinner seemed like a good way to do that. 

We went out to a restaurant we'd never been to before. We shared some appetizers, ate our meals and shared a dessert. I smiled as I stared into my love's aquamarine eyes, and we talked and laughed throughout the meal. Every now and then, I'd notice the white gold and diamond ring sparkling on Jimmi's left hand and I'd think to myself, "I can't believe we're actually married." But then I'd remember the one part that's missing from our marriage, and a wave of sadness would crash over me. I know I just need to continue working with the dilators and that part will happen in time. But when?

We got home and Jimmi went into his office to catch up on e-mail. After a few minutes, I decided to barge in on his solitude and shower him with all the kisses he'd missed while he was away. But then, one thing led to another, and the next thing I knew, we were upstairs in the bedroom!

What do I do? Should I stop this before it starts? Can I do this? I've only been using the dilators for a week. Will it hurt too much? Will it even work?

Screw it! I need to try!

I'll spare you the intimate details. But let me put it this way. My marriage is consummated and I was pleasantly surprised by the end result!

I'm not broken! Everything works! 

Yes, it's going to take some time before I'm completely comfortable with that activity. No, it wasn't perfect. But at least I know that part of my relationship isn't gone forever. It's only the beginning and the beginning wasn't bad! It gave me something I haven't had in a long time.


I have hope. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Radiation Follow-Up

I saw Dr. Sidebotham today. It's been just about four weeks since my last radiation treatment, and today was the day to check and make sure my vagina hadn't fused together. I know, I know. I'm exaggerating. The chances of that happening, while not impossible, were next to none. But I knew for a fact there would be shrinkage and the exam would NOT be fun.

Jimmi, my mom and I were called into the office on time and our old friend, Carlos, took my vital signs. After taking my blood pressure, he looked at me with scolding eyes, "Are ju dreenking enough, jung lady?" I put my head down in shame and answered, "I'm trying, but it's hard!"

I knew I was dehydrated and my blood pressure proved it. My heart has been racing for weeks. So much so, that I went to see my general practitioner yesterday to make sure there was nothing serious going on. "Dehydration and anxiety," was his diagnosis. "Push the fluids and salt to get your pressure back up." But, honestly, I'm still nauseous and that makes drinking anything very difficult.

Carlos asked me some standard questions and then he left the room. Shortly after, a nurse I'd never seen before let herself in. "Hi, I'm Maritsa," she smiled. After another series of questions, Maritsa brought out the familiar gown wrapped in plastic and said, "You'll need to take everything off so the doctor can examine you." I knew the drill.

Jimmi and my mom left the room so I could change. As I sat on the table, nervously awaiting the first vaginal penetration I'd had in over three months, Maritsa knocked and came back into the room with a pink and white box.

My dilators.

I stared at her as she opened the box to reveal a zippered, pink pouch that resembled a makeup bag. Maritsa unzipped the bag and pulled out a small tube. "This is the lube you'll need to use. Make sure you really lube it up." Oh my God. I can't believe we're having this conversation. I actually giggled as she pulled out the different sized medical dildos. "So, you'll start with the largest one you can handle without discomfort, because if it's too small, it won't really do anything." She looked at each of the five white cylinders as she pulled them out of the pouch. As she reached in and grabbed the largest of the group, her eyes grew wide and she let out a "Wow!" I grinned uncomfortably and quipped, "Yeah, I don't know if I'll need that one."

I glanced at the display of plastic sex toys on the counter. "So, what do I do with them? Just stick them in there?" Maritsa replied, "Yeah, pretty much. Start with the smaller ones and work your way up. You put it in and rotate it and move it in and out. Do it for about three to five minutes, three times a week. When you're a little more comfortable, you can even have your husband get involved and make it more exciting." I let out a loud, uneasy laugh, "Oh, that'll be fun."

When Maritsa had finished her dilator lesson, she left the room to find Dr. Sidebotham. Not long after, they both returned to start my exam. "Hello! How was the wedding?" Dr. Sidebotham asked with excitement. "It was great," I said happily. "I brought you pictures!" I was able to avoid the vaginal torture for a few more minutes with an iPad full of wedding photos, but I couldn't delay the inevitable forever.

"Let's get the hard part over with," the doctor said. "I'm going to start with just my finger first. Sometimes the radiation will cause adhesions where the vaginal walls will stick together in some areas. I can feel that with my finger and I'll be able to pull the adhesions apart before I go in there with the speculum." Wow. That sounds super awesome. I put my feet in the stirrups, scooted to the end of the table and braced myself for the pain. "I'm really lubing up, so don't worry. I'll go slowly." I think I may have heard that line in a dirty movie at some point in my life. Oh no! Here she goes! Relax or it'll hurt more!

I clenched my teeth and my face scrunched up as I felt her finger push past my born-again virginal opening. "Ouch," I winced. She went very slowly, pushing up higher and higher. Holy crap! If this is what a finger feels like, how will I ever have sex again? But, wait! Good news! At least my vagina wasn't fused shut. That was one of the reasons I didn't want to do the radiation in the first place. But I still had an opening!

After the quick exam, Dr. Sidebotham removed her finger and said, "Ok, I didn't feel too many adhesions, so we're good. I'm gonna use the speculum to take a look now." She took the plastic snoochie opener from the counter and headed my way. "It's gonna hurt!" I whined. "It's the smallest one we have. You should be fine. Don't worry." The doctor managed to get it in and open it up just enough to peak inside my love canal. "Ok, done! Looks good. There was a bit of blood from the adhesions, so don't worry if you see some spotting later. Now I'm just gonna use my finger again and make sure everything feels ok in your pelvis." Wait, didn't she do that already? No, apparently the first time she rounded third base was just to check for adhesions; this was the actual exam. She went back in again and did some pushing on the outside and some pushing on the inside, then she finally removed her finger. I was sweating and feeling faint, but it wasn't over yet. "I just need to do a rectal exam and then we'll be done with the hard part," she said nonchalantly. What? "But that side still hurts too!" I whimpered. "I know, but I need to make sure the lining is ok."

Oh, what did I do to deserve this?

The violations finally ended, and I was able to breathe again. "Ok, why don't you get dressed and I'll go get your mom and your husband,"Dr. Sidebotham said. I did as I was told, then sat there waiting for my support team to come back.

The two of them entered the room with the doctor and sat down. Dr. Sidebotham started, "Everything looks great. You're really in good shape down there. The biggest problem you have is that nothing's been in there for a long time so you'll need to really work at stretching it out with the dilators. There are no limits on your activities, as far as I'm concerned, so whenever you feel ready to have intercourse, go ahead. I will tell you that it will be very uncomfortable for at least the first few times. Maybe more. It'll be uncomfortable for you, Jimmi, because you'll feel like you're hurting her. And it'll be uncomfortable for you, Suzanne, because it will hurt. But, unfortunately, the only way to get past that is to keep doing it so you get used to it again."

Dr. Sidebotham explained that the more I use the dilators and the more we have sex, the quicker I'll return to normal. Well, as normal as I can be after radiation. Of course, the chemo next week will throw a wrench into my plans. I highly doubt I'll be in any kind of mood to do anything with my girly parts for a few weeks after that. But at least I know I'm allowed to try.

"There's one more thing we need to discuss," Dr. Sidebotham said cautiously. "I mentioned it awhile ago, but since the clear margin was so close to where Dr. Leitao sewed you up from the hysterectomy, I may recommend a few rounds of internal radiation. I'm still on the fence about it, though. We don't know for sure if it will make a huge difference in whether or not the cancer comes back, and the effect of your quality of life might not be worth it. You won't feel it like you did with the external radiation, but it could make the stenosis, or vaginal shrinking, even worse. I'm just not sure it'll be worth it in your case." My head was already saying, "Oh, HELL, no!" And then she explained how the internal radiation was done.

"The internal radiation is meant to go to a very specific location in the vaginal wall. We'll insert a large cylinder into your vagina - it has to be large to get to the exact area we need it to go. Depending on when the rays on the machine were changed, you could have the cylinder in you for five minutes or 25 minutes. While it's in there, a specific amount of radiation will be delivered to a specific area. We'll do it once a week for three weeks. Again, I can't say if this will make a difference or not, so I'm going to hold off on my recommendation until after you're done with chemo and Dr. Gorsky does your follow-up scans. Then we can decide what you want to do." I didn't hesitate, "I don't want to do it. I didn't even want to do the external radiation!" She nodded, "I know. Don't make any decisions now. Just think about it."

An hour and a half after walking into the office, my appointment was finally over. Jimmi grabbed my box of dilators, and we were on our way.

I was very quiet on the car ride home. My lower areas were sticky from leftover lubrication and sore from the beating they'd just taken. The thought of sticking anything in there again made me cringe, but I knew I would be in for a lot of poking and prodding over the next few months - mostly self-inflicted! I reached for Jimmi's hand and squeezed it tightly. "I'm sorry about all of this," I said quietly. He shot back, "Will you stop? There's nothing to be sorry about. You just have to get better!"

Get better. I'm trying so hard to do that. One more cycle of chemo and then we'll find out if I'm better.

Oh, please, God, let me be better.

I want to be better.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

It's Not Over

It seems that some of you thought that once the wedding was over, the writing would stop too.


I think people were thinking that my wedding was a way to celebrate the end of my battle, but the battle isn't over yet. Yes, it was an amazing, perfect day. It was the day I'd been dreaming about since Jimmi proposed last September. It was everything I'd hoped it would be and I'm so lucky that God was on my side that day to get me through it.

But I'm still in the middle of the fight for my life.

I should be in Bora Bora right now. We were supposed to leave on the Friday after the wedding for an amazingly romantic honeymoon. But, instead, I spent the week having chemo treatments. I know, I shouldn't complain. I did what I set out to do on September 3rd, against all odds. But I can't help feeling a little bit sad that I'm not sitting in my private, over-water hut staring down into the crystal blue water at a school of tropical fish.

Also, I know this is probably way too much information, but I'm sad about something else, too. How can I put it delicately for people like my dad, who will be reading this? Let's just say that I'm still broken down below. I haven't been given my dilators yet, so I haven't been able to stretch out what the radiation shrunk, so I haven't been able to perform my wifely duties.

And it sucks.

I feel badly for Jimmi. No, he hasn't complained at all. He just wants me to get better. But what if I don't? I mean, what if the cancer is gone, but I'm left without the use of my nether region? What if I can use it but it hurts and it's uncomfortable and I just don't want to? What kind of wife will I be?

I know I shouldn't be worrying about this. I know I need to keep my eye on the prize, as "wishbone Jen" would say. I know I need to get through one more chemo cycle in two weeks, then have scans from head to toe to make sure this bastard is out of me. I know I need to follow up every three months to make sure it STAYS out of me. But I still can't help wondering about the quality of that part of my life.

I know what everyone will say. "At least you'll have a life." And it's true. Hopefully, I've fought hard enough and hopefully the bitch won't come back. Hopefully I'll be around to watch my babies grow up and graduate and get married and have their own babies.

But I still can't help feeling scared and depressed over this one little issue.

Think about it. Think about starting a brand new marriage with the love of your life. Think about the many years you hope to have with that person. Think about forever. Then think about not being able to fully express your love for that person. Think about what it would do to your relationship. Think about the stress and the worry that if you can't do it, someone else will. I don't want to think about it, but I have to.

As I sit here on my deck feeling the waves of nausea left over from last week's doses of poison, I can't help but wonder what's in store for me. My wig is itchy and my arms are bruised and my heart is aching. I miss my kids so much. They should be here right now, but I'm not well enough to be their mom. I only see them if I'm feeling up to it, and it's just not enough. Are they forgetting about me? Do they think I've abandoned them?

I guess this is the crash after the high of the wedding day. I had so much to look forward to and so much to work for. Now I just have the reality of my life.

No more fairy tales, no more daydreams.

Just life.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Wedding Day

I'm married!!!

Most of the doctors warned me to postpone it. They shrugged their shoulders and looked at me with doubtful eyes when I asked if they thought I could do it. Well I showed them!

I did it!

I didn't get much sleep the night before the wedding. I don't know if it was nerves or excitement, but I woke up at 6:30 am and couldn't get back to sleep. I checked the weather on my phone and frowned at the chance of thunderstorms in the late afternoon. The ceremony was scheduled for 5:30 pm! Oh well, nothing I'd be able to do about that. After lying there staring at the ceiling for another 2 1/2 hours, I finally decided to get up and wake the boys, who had actually slept at my house for the first time since I started chemo treatments.

Both boys took showers and I made them chocolate chip pancake puffs and Taylor ham for breakfast. Jimmi was upstairs getting ready while I hung out in my pajamas for as long as possible. My stomach was bothering me, but I ignored it.

When all three of the men in my life were clean and dressed in casual, pre-wedding clothes, I finally went upstairs to take a shower and pack for the day and for the night in the bridal suite. I carefully checked each of the bags. Headpiece, bracelet, rings, shoes, boys' tuxes, Jimmi's tux, games and snacks for the kids, toiletries, make-up, wig tape, hair brush, clutch. Did I have everything? My mom was bringing my dress, so I didn't have to worry about that. Yup, I think we're good. We were just about ready to go, but I couldn't ignore my nausea anymore. I popped a pill and hoped for the best.

Jimmi packed up the car. The boys, a babysitter and I hopped in, and we were on our way. I know, I know. Jimmi wasn't supposed to see me before the wedding, but we really didn't have a choice. I'm on so many drugs that have heavy machinery warnings that I didn't really feel safe driving myself. It's ok! My hair - or my wig - wasn't done, my makeup hadn't been applied and my dress was nowhere in sight. Once we arrived at the wedding venue, we would be in two separate areas of the mansion until we were all dressed and ready and the photographer set up our "meeting".

Barely an hour later, we were there. Skylands Manor looked like a castle from a fairy tale. MY fairy tale. From the stone face to the arched, wooden doorway, to the perfectly manicured landscaping, everything was beautiful. The weather was holding up, though it was a bit overcast and very humid.

We got out of the car and headed inside to look for our event coordinator, Linda. She greeted us with a huge smile. "I'm so excited for you!" she exclaimed when she saw us. Linda showed us to the bridal suite and we dropped off our bags. "Where can Jimmi and the boys hang out while I'm getting ready?" I asked. "They can go to the library. Wait, there's a rec room on the third floor with a big screen TV, games and a pool table. How's that?" Dylan's eyes lit up. "A pool table? Let's go there!"

We followed Linda to the third floor where I settled the kids in with their babysitter, Jimmi and Jimmi's brother, Dan. Dylan immediately roped Dan into a game of pool, while Justin set up a chess board and started to teach the babysitter how to play. I giggled as I looked at the shirt Justin was wearing, which was a gift from Jimmi and I. It was a black t-shirt with white letters that read "RPA - Ring Protection Agency". To make the ensemble even cuter, he was also wearing a silver, star-shaped RPA badge and black sunglasses. It was the perfect present for my little ring bearer who wants to be a spy when he grows up. Then I noticed the time. "I need to go and wait for my stylist now," I told them. "Be good and I'll see you in a few hours." "Bye, Mommy!" they called out as I kissed both of them and Jimmi and headed back to the bridal suite.

Jamie, my stylist, was set to arrive at 1:00. I had about 20 minutes to go, and I really needed to rest. I looked around my beautiful suite and found a chaise lounge that was calling my name. I kicked off my flip flops, straightened out my Swarovski crystal lettered "Mrs. Kane" hoodie, and flopped myself onto the soft cushion. I laid back, swung my legs around and crossed my ankles. I can't believe I'm getting married today. I peeked out the window. Still not raining. I listened to the silence for a few minutes while I got my thoughts together. Then I heard the footsteps and Linda's voice at the door. "Suzanne, your stylist is here!"

Jamie walked in with a big smile and a hug. "I'm not supposed to hug anyone because of the germs," I said, "But I guess I made an exception." Jamie scanned the room as Linda ran out to get a stool for me. The lighting wasn't great in the suite, but Jamie found enough outlets and windows in the bathroom to make it work. "Will you have time to give Dylan a mohawk?" I asked. Jamie smiled, "Of course. Let's get you started first."

I sat in the stool and gave him full control. Since I've been sick, there wasn't any time to do a hair and makeup trial, but Jamie and I have been friends for years and I trusted him to make me beautiful. "I'm gonna curl your hair first, then do your makeup, then put your head piece on." I nodded. "Whatever you want," I said.

Jamie heated up the curling iron and went to work. "Just make sure the edges of the wig won't show," I said sadly. "Don't worry," Jamie assured me. "No one will see a thing." A few minutes later, Orlando, my photographer arrived. He immediately started shooting the process. Just then, I got a text from my matron of honor, Jen. "We're here!" it said. Jen and one of my other bridesmaids, Andi, had just gotten their hair and makeup done and driven up together. I let them know where I was, and a few minutes later, they both popped their heads into the bathroom, "Hi!" they sang with excited smiles.

They stood in the doorway watching Jamie transform me from pale to pink with a few shots from his airbrush makeup machine. Orlando went off to take some pictures of my shoes and accessories, then came back with a concerned look on his face. "Where's your dress?" he asked. "My mom is bringing it. She'll be here in a little while." As if on cue, my mom sent me a text, "We're here!" I asked Andi to help with the dress and Orlando followed her to shoot it. "Make sure Jimmi isn't around or he'll see it!" I called after them.

It started to become really real. I was getting married. Everyone was starting to show up. My mom walked into the bathroom with a smile that took up her entire face. She looked at Jamie's work-in-progress and came over to hug us both.

Little by little, my bridesmaids and flower girls arrived. Each one was wearing a short-sleeved hoodie with rhinestone letters on the back saying "Bridesmaid" or "flower girl". It took some time, but I had made them all myself months ago. Now the day was here and they were wearing them!

Finally, Jamie was done with me and he went upstairs to find Dylan. We were running a little bit behind schedule, and everyone really needed to start getting dressed. I had heard that all of the groomsmen had arrived, and Orlando's other shooter was with them. I sent everyone off to get dressed except my mom, who stayed with me. "Can you help me with my dress before I help you with yours?" she asked. She pulled out the dress, which I had picked for her before I got sick. It was a beautiful, strapless, beaded gown, that was far from a typical mother of the bride outfit. I helped her into it and zipped it up carefully. My mom was stunning.

Now it was my turn.

We waited for Jen to come back to the suite, then she and my mom took my gown from its "Mrs. Kane" hanger, which was a gift from my brother's fiancee, Meghan. They unzipped and held the strapless, beaded, ivory, silk-satin piece in front of me so I could step in. I pulled it up carefully and let it hug what was left of my curves. All I could think was "Thank God my boobs are fake!" I've lost so much weight from the treatments that the dress would've fallen off of me if my boobs had gotten any smaller!

Before they finished zipping it up, we opened the door so Orlando could shoot the finishing touches. Click! Click! went the camera as I put on each accessory. When the florist arrived, my bouquet was brought into the room. It was perfect! White roses and mulberry calla lilies with diamond pins scattered throughout. The pop of color matched my bridesmaids' dresses, and added just enough of an accent to my bridal ivory. After a few more clicks of the camera, we were ready to set up the reveal.

The reveal, as Orlando called it, was the moment when Jimmi and I would see each other dressed and ready for the first time that day. We decided to do it before the ceremony so we could get all of the formal pictures out of the way early and be able to enjoy the rest of our night. "Just give me a few minutes to get downstairs," Orlando said, "then come out to the garden. Jimmi's back will be turned. When you get to him, tap him on the shoulder and we'll be snapping away." He left the room and I took a deep breath.

Here we go.

Jen and my mom helped me down the stairs so I didn't fall on my face, then they watched as I walked outside. "I think I should help you," my mom called after me. "I can do it. I'll be careful," I assured her as I watched my every step on the stone patio. "My dress is getting dirty," I pouted. Slowly, I walked to the steps in the garden. I looked up and saw the back of my groom standing about 20 feet away. I couldn't help but smile, though I thought I'd be crying. I lifted my dress and continued down the steps onto the walkway, then onto the grass. I saw the two photographers getting ready. Slowly, I approached Jimmi, and when I was right behind him, I tapped him on the shoulder. He said, "Uh oh!" and spun around until our eyes met. "Whoa!" he exclaimed, "Hottie!" I laughed and threw my arms around him. He pretended to pull away, then smiled and kissed me. I wiped the lipstick off his lips and he said, "Turn around. Let me see all of you." I spun like a princess at a ball and let him take it all in. "I like," he said. "Good choice. And Jamie did a great job on your hair and makeup." I swear, he always knows how to make me feel beautiful.

And then the barrage of photos began. Family photos, bridal party photos, fun photos, serious photos. You name it, Orlando shot it. Luckily, it still wasn't raining, but it was hot. Hot and humid. I was feeling ok, but worried about how the heat would affect me. Orlando told me to let him know if I needed a break, but I was determined to keep going. After an hour, I finally broke down and asked one of the groomsmen to get me a glass of water. Jamie came out to touch up my makeup and his protective side came out. "You need a break. You need to go inside and rest for a few minutes before the ceremony," he insisted. I agreed to shoot a few more pictures, then take his advice.

We finished up just as some guests were arriving. I walked through the crowd announcing, "No one look! You can't see me!" and hurried back to the bridal suite. My mom and a few of my bridesmaids followed to help me with anything I needed. Jamie needed to re-curl my hair and touch up my makeup and I needed to go to the bathroom. But how? I could barely sit in my mermaid-style gown, let alone lift it up high enough to sit on a toilet. "I'm gonna need to take my dress off," I said to my ladies. They helped me unzip so I could do what I needed to do, then I sat in a towel as Jamie fixed me. Not even 15 minutes later, it was time to begin.

I'm getting married.

My bridesmaids and my mom were sent outside to line up and I was sent to the Great Hall to wait with my dad and Dylan, who were both walking me down the aisle. It was the longest wait ever! "Do you want to sit?" my dad asked. "I can't really sit in this dress, I don't want to wrinkle it," I explained. We stood there for what seemed like forever until finally we heard, "They're ready for you now."

I slipped my arm through my dad's arm and held Dylan's hand. Slowly, we began the long walk across the patio, down the steps and through the garden. Linda met us right before we hit the grass and gave the bottom of my dress a poof. "Ok, go ahead." she instructed.

I heard the guitar and cello players change from the bridesmaids' processional song, "Faithfully" by Journey, to the bride's song, "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" by Aerosmith, and we began. The smile was plastered on my face as we made our way to the rose petal lined aisle. I looked to the left and met Jamie's eye. I saw the tears welling up in the corners and I gave him a look that said, "Don't make me cry!" I scanned the faces in the packed crowd and felt overwhelmed by emotion. Then I saw my friend, Jessica, who flew in from Florida that morning just for our wedding. She was taking pictures, smiling and crying all at the same time and I felt my eyes start to sting. But I held back. I looked up and saw Jimmi. He looked so handsome in his leather-lined, black tuxedo with his black and white leather vest. His bleached blonde hair was slicked back and his aqua eyes were shining.

I can't believe we've finally made it to this day.

We got to the end of the aisle and Jimmi walked down to meet us. Dylan gave me a kiss then pounded Jimmi's knuckles. My dad hugged and kissed me and pointed his finger at Jimmi with a smile, "You better take good care of her," he warned, then shook Jimmi's hand and went to sit down.

It was time to begin.

Our minister welcomed everyone and set the tone for the wedding with an innocent mistake. "Susan and Jimmi..." I felt my body tense at the mispronunciation I hear almost every day of my life. But then I chilled out and whined loudly, "SUZANNE!" Everyone laughed, including me, and the lighthearted mood was set.

With each word of love our minister spoke, Jimmi would whisper, "Ewww!" We laughed and joked and playfully smacked each other on the arm throughout the entire ceremony. Our friend, Laura, read an excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit called "What is Real?" and another from Captain Corelli's Mandolin called "Love is the Beauty of the Soul." When she stepped down, my nieces, Jennifer and Laura, got up to sing "A Whole New World" from Disney's Aladdin. Then it was time for our vows.

Jimmi and I decided to write our own vows. After everything we've been though, we didn't want to do anything serious. We wanted to keep the mood light and throw people for an unexpected loop with our promises. Unfortunately, the microphone wasn't working, so I don't know if everyone was able to hear us. But these were the promises Jimmi and I made to each other during our wedding:

Jimmi: Suzanne, before I met you, I didn’t know what it meant to be in a serious relationship, or even what a real relationship is. But you showed me by standing by me through all the highs and lows of my career and my life. After resisting your attempts at commitment for 4 years, I finally gave in to your witchy woman spell. From that point on I knew I was ready to be your husband.

I think we’ve gotten the whole “in sickness and in health” thing out of the way, so…

From this day forward, I promise not to look at my iPhone while you’re trying to speak to me

From this day forward, I promise to continue your education on drums, Volkswagens and tattoos

From this day forward, I promise to reduce my shoe and denim collection to a reasonable amount

From this day forward, I promise to try to grow up and not to be such a hypochondriac

From this day forward, I promise not to immediately freak out and overreact whenever we need to have a serious discussion

From this day forward, I promise not to throw the drum sticks when playing Rock Band on expert level

Suzanne: Jimmi, before I met you, I didn’t know what it meant to truly be in love. I knew from the minute I saw you standing on the street in front of Crash Mansion in New York City, that I needed to get to know you better. I’m happy to say, that after over 4 years of intense training, you’re finally ready to be my husband.

From this day forward, I promise to stop constantly reminding you to do things you know need to be done

From this day forward, I promise to stop drooling over 80s rock stars in your presence

From this day forward, I promise to stop making fun of Volkswagens, even though Ferraris are much sexier

From this day forward, I promise to try and clean to house, just a little bit

From this day forward, I promise to let you have at least one cup of coffee in the morning before I start telling you what to do

From this day forward, I promise not to blame you when the Starbucks barista screws up my drink

Together: But above all, from this day forward, I promise to cherish you and love you with all my heart.

Jimmi and I giggled through the entire recitation, and our guests loved it. We kept the mood light and happy. I didn't want tears at my wedding, and I was doing a surprisingly good job of keeping them at bay.

After the vows, we exchanged rings, just like any other ceremony. But when our minister pronounced us husband and wife and told Jimmi to give me a kiss, I wrapped my arms around his neck and he made a face, smiled and pulled away from me. We all laughed as he said, "Just kidding!" and went in for the kiss to seal our commitment. 

Finally, we were married! Just one more special touch and the ceremony would be over and the party could start. We had planned to release white doves after our kiss. There was a box for my boys to release, and one for Jimmi and I to release. There were also two doves displayed in a beautiful cage during the ceremony, and I wasn't sure if they were just there for show or if they were going too. But we had another mishap. When it was time for the dove release, Dylan and Justin came up from their seats to do their job. We turned to find the woman in charge of the birds and she was nowhere to be found. We looked all over, but couldn't find her. "Should we just let them go?" I asked. Without realizing that the boys and Jimmi and I were supposed to release them, my brother opened both boxes and all the doves flew away. "Noooooooo!" I yelled and pointed to my heartbroken little boys. "They were supposed to do it!" I saw the looks on my babies' faces and the tears started to well up in their eyes. Then I looked over at the two doves still left in the display cage. "Go over and open the cage. Let them go," I said to Dylan and Justin. They looked at me with wide eyes, "Are we allowed?" they asked. "I don't know. The lady isn't here. Just let them go." The boys walked over to the cage and opened the door. It took a minute for the doves to realize the were being freed, but once they did, they shot out and flew away. My boys were so proud of themselves as they went back to sit with my parents. Unfortunately, I found out later that the woman who brought the doves had to leave suddenly because her husband and son were in a terrible car accident. I felt awful, but understood why she had disappeared.

And with that, the ceremony was over. We were married! Jimmi and I walked out as husband and wife to "Here Comes the Sun" by The Beatles, and our bridal party followed. After our marriage license was signed, we headed for the cocktail hour which was set up in every room of the mansion. Unfortunately, Jimmi and I never got to see it! We only made it two steps before we were stopped by our guests to be congratulated over and over again. I felt like such a bitch each time someone would lean in to kiss me and I'd hold up my hand and explain, "I'm not allowed to hug or kiss! I can't be exposed to germs." But I had to do it. 

We kept trying to walk, but we kept getting stopped. Luckily, my bridesmaid, Kris, came to the rescue. "Do you want me to get you some food?" she asked. "Yes! Pasta, please." Kris was on it. She came back with a plate of penne in lemon sauce, which I devoured as Jimmi sucked down a beer.

Before we knew it, chimes announced that the cocktail hour was over and our guests headed to the ballroom to wait for our arrival. The bridal party lined up and waited until each of their names were called before walking into the room to cheers and music. After the last name was called, the doors were shut, and Jimmi and I heard the music change to "Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue. "Here they are. Mr. and Mrs. James Kane!" The doors opened and Jimmi and I walked in to screams and applause. 

The look of the room took my breath away. It was even more beautiful than I thought it would be. Our florist transformed the ballroom into a black and silver wonderland with hints of pinks and purples everywhere. There were black, satin tablecloths, silver chairs and chargers, glass vases with vines and purple flowers submerged in water, and white, pink and purple flowers on top. I saw rose petals scattered on the tables and stem glasses with candles setting the mood. There were uplights in the corners with pink gels over them, throwing off a warm color that made everything so romantic. I couldn't believe how amazing everything looked.

The band finished our intro as the singer strapped on an acoustic guitar and broke into our wedding song, "Marry Me" by Train. Jimmi and I looked at each other with nervous energy, and began the dance we started working on months ago at Arthur Murray. We opened the dance with a "death drop" that had me almost flat on my back on the floor then back on my feet, and ended it with a lifted spin. Even after all the breaks in our lessons for chemo and hospital stays, we still managed to make it through the dance without too many mistakes.

Whew! The dance it over! Now what? "You wanna go see Danny?" Jimmi asked. Then I remembered the surprise we had for our guests. We opened the ballroom door and headed downstairs. Yes, we had a photo booth down there, but that wasn't the real shocker. The Danny Jimmi mentioned is a tattoo artist. No, he wasn't there as a guest. He was there to work! We hired two tattoo artists to come to our wedding and give our guests permanent favors. We weren't sure how it would go over, but we thought it was a unique touch. The artists were set up in the corners across from the photo booth just waiting for their first victims. Jimmi and I said hello, then we heard my mom's voice, "The band is looking for you! It's speech and toast time!"


We headed back upstairs. Our minister said a blessing, then my dad was called up to speak. I can't remember everything he said, but I know he talked about starting off on the wrong foot with Jimmi and making a mistake by judging him by his appearance. A toast from the best man and matron of honor followed, and then it was time to eat.

I looked around a few minutes later and noticed the room seemed empty. Jimmi and I headed downstairs and found our guests crowded around the tattoo artists just watching. People were actually getting tattoos! We couldn't believe it. My friend, Julie, came up to me and said, "He told me to come back at 10:30 to get my tattoo. They're almost full already." What? I walked over to Danny and said, "How's it going?" He looked shocked and said, "I'm starting a waiting list. I don't think we'll have time to do everyone who wants one." For real? Jimmi and I thought they'd be sitting around doing nothing down there and now they don't have time to finish? Wow! It was a hit! "Do you have time to squeeze Jimmi in?" I asked. Danny looked me in the eye, "We'll work around Jimmi. Have him sit down right now." I grabbed my husband and sat him in the chair. Then I watched with a grin and he had "9.3.11" squeezed into an empty spot on his wrist.

We headed back upstairs to try and eat and the band leader, Rob, who happened to be the drummer of the 80s band, Skid Row, stopped us. "You wanted us to play a lot of rock songs and we can't do it because all the younger people are downstairs. The only people left up here are the old people and they're not gonna dance. We've lost our crowd." It was kind of funny. We had to go downstairs and herd the crowd away from the tattoo artists so the band could have an audience.

Finally, the band started rocking and our guests were loving it. Everyone in the room sang along to "Livin' On a Prayer" and then laughed as "Jessie's Girl" turned into "Jimmi's Girl". Everyone was on the dance floor. The party was almost over when I reminded the band that Jimmi wanted to play the drums. The singer called him up and the crowd went crazy. He rocked out to "Girls, Girls, Girls" by Motley Crue, then Rob had him stay there and play "Rock n Roll All Nite" by Kiss. Our friends were screaming like it was a concert and I loved watching Jimmi's face beaming with excitement. 

The energy continued, and the party could've gone all night, but it was getting late and our contract had an end time of 11:30 pm. Rob said, "We have time for one more. Do you want Journey or "Youth Gone Wild"? I didn't even have the think about it. "Youth Gone Wild!" I yelled. How could I not have the drummer of Skid Row end the night with a Skid Row song? It was amazing! I felt like it was 1989 again. He even climbed up on his drum throne at the end of the song and knocked over the cymbals. How many wedding bands do that? I loved it!

At last, the night came to an end. We said goodbye to the guests who weren't staying over and I helped my mom get the kids into their pajamas so she could bring them back to their dad's house. I changed back into my "Mrs. Kane" sweats and headed to the ballroom that was already being broken down by the waitstaff. I found Jimmi talking to his friend, Pat. "There's a lot of beer in our suite. Do you know how it got there?" I asked him. "Yeah, I had two cases sent up," he said. I had no idea we were hosting an after party!

We finally made it back to our room at 1:00 am. Jimmi changed and our friends found their way over. I couldn't believe I was still awake and feeling ok. I obviously wasn't able to drink anything but water, but that didn't bother me. We chilled out with our friends and Rob from the band just laughing and talking until 4:00 am. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

And now I'm married. It's official! I don't have to worry about it anymore.

I made it!

I did it!

Nothing can stop me!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tomorrow is The Day!

I'm getting married tomorrow!

Honestly, on Monday I would've told you there was no way I'd make it. I was so, so sick. But then my super smart mom offered her words of wisdom. "Stop taking the antibiotics," she insisted. I was put on an antibiotic as a precaution when I was in the hospital last weekend just in case I had a bacterial infection. Then my mom read the side effects on the sheet from the pharmacy, and the top three were diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Like I needed to add more of that to my life!

I woke up on Tuesday morning feeling less sick than I had on Monday. My mom called and said, "Don't take the antibiotic this morning." I'm not one to break the doctor's orders, "But, Mom, I have to!" She was stern with me, "I'm telling you not to take it. Call the doctor and tell her how you're feeling." So I did. And to my surprise, when the nurse called me back, she told me that the doctor agreed with my mom and I should stop the meds. "Nothing has grown in your blood cultures at this point, so you can stop unless something shows up."

My mom is a genius! I haven't felt perfect, but I've been able to function since Tuesday. As I've said in the past, I don't need to feel perfect, I just need to feel good enough.

I made it to my final dress fitting that afternoon. The dress was pressed and ready for pickup on Wednesday. It's now hanging in my parents' basement just waiting until tomorrow.

Last night was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. It finally started to feel real! I can't believe all of those people were gathered there just for us. And there will be more tomorrow. I get so emotional every time I think about it.

I'm getting married!!

I'm not gonna lie, my stomach still isn't exactly right. Unfortunately, I can't eat anything but bland foods for fear of an emergency trip to the bathroom. Let me tell you, running to the bathroom quickly will NOT be an easy task in my wedding dress. I'm scared to death of how I'm going to feel, but I'm going to do this. I will also have no problem changing into sweats halfway through the reception if I'm uncomfortable, and I really don't think anyone there will have a problem with that.

I just can't believe it's finally here. Tomorrow I'll be Mrs. Kane. I'm going to do it. I'm going to feel well enough. I'm going to enjoy my day.