We hadn't even been engaged for two months when I got the call from Austin. He had just been diagnosed with testicular cancer.
Austin was finishing up college at Louisiana Tech, and I was teaching in Houston. We were looking forward to starting our lives together. But we went from planning a big celebration to planning his testicular cancer treatment. I was scared and even a little angry.
The next few weeks were a blur of finishing college, packing up Austin's life, planning for the next few months and figuring out how Austin's testicular cancer treatment would work.
Planning a wedding during testicular cancer treatment
Austin and I didn't want to postpone the wedding. I believe that once you postpone something, it makes it easier to keep postponing or backing out. When I said I'd marry him, there were no "buts" involved. I was in, and so was he.
We moved forward with the wedding plans, but testicular cancer was never very far from our minds. One afternoon my mom, my almost mother-in-law, almost sister-in-law and two bridesmaids went to the bridal shop to make a final decision on my wedding dress. Only a few of us knew about Austin's testicular cancer diagnosis at that point. But just after we had walked in, Austin texted his sister to tell her the news.
The mood in the room changed, but we pushed through and I picked a dress. It actually made the day a little more special. It was a testament that no matter what, I was in for the long haul.
We rushed to take our engagement pictures before Austin started his testicular cancer treatment. We were lucky to find an amazing photographer that understood the importance of getting good pictures because we had no idea what the next few months would hold. We spent our time in MD Anderson's waiting room making guest lists and collecting addresses. We strategically planned our cupcake tasting and scheduled it right before one of Austin's chemo rounds. We really wanted him to be able to taste the cupcakes, not just rely on the textures.
Austin finished chemotherapy in September 2013, and was set to have surgery right before Thanksgiving. This was going to leave only one month for him to recover before the wedding. With this in mind, we planned a small honeymoon around the Hill Country in Texas. Our original plan was a road trip to Washington, D.C., but it didn't seem smart to be that far from MD Anderson.
Growing stronger as a couple during cancer treatment
With only a few weeks until the wedding, I was busy finishing up another semester of school and finalizing wedding plans. Everything was actually perfect. The details were in place, and we were ready to go. Austin was feeling decent from his surgery, and things were on track.
Until I got the phone call. Austin called to say that his blood levels showed an elevation of cancer markers, and he needed more chemo. He still had cancer. I couldn't believe it. My almost-husband was going back into the hospital for more chemo weeks before the wedding.
All of a sudden our priorities changed. How were we going to ensure that Austin didn't get too tired during the ceremony? Would he feel sick that day? Would one of our wedding guests pass along an infection? Would he be able to enjoy the food? Would he be able to dance? How could we take pictures without Austin getting worn out? What about our honeymoon?
I went back into planning mode. We talked to the priest to make sure the wedding fulfilled our wishes without being too long. We also planned a break in between the ceremony and reception that would allow us take pictures and give Austin time to rest. We spoke to the wonderful doctors at MD Anderson to make sure that Austin would be alright the day of the wedding, and that he took appropriate medicine to keep him feeling good.
I created signs explaining that we needed to keep Austin safe and steer clear of him if you weren't feeling well, and we bought three dozen mini bottles of hand sanitizer and incorporated them into our décor.
On the night of wedding, Austin felt well enough to eat, but mostly he ate salad. It was hard for him to taste, but he liked the texture. And he ate the piece of cake he was supposed to be feeding me. The look on my face was priceless. But I forgave him.
Then, we danced, and it was amazing.
We had to postpone our Texas Hill Country honeymoon. Instead, we celebrated with a one-night mini-moon at a fancy hotel. We were even upgraded to an absolutely beautiful hotel room larger than our house. Now that Austin is done with his testicular cancer treatment, we're planning our real honeymoon for next summer.
Although planning a wedding to a man with cancer was scary, I knew all along that I was meant to be with him. No matter what happened during the planning phases, each part made us stronger for the marriage we were about to enter into.
Walking down the aisle to marry Austin didn't change my life. It was just giving an official title to something I already felt. Now I could call him my husband, but I had already loved and cared for him in the many months before our wedding.
Cancer changed our lives, but there is no part of me that believes it was for the worse.