“Will you postpone the wedding until after your cancer is gone?” asked my friend the week I was re-diagnosed with lymphoma.
My response was so feral it surprised even me. “Honey, come hell or high water, I am motherloving having this wedding, and you better motherloving be there because I don’t know how long I’ve got left.”
I had the sickening realization that my hair would be gone by the time the wedding rolled around.
I felt a deep conviction about this until the next day, when I stepped out of the dressing room at the tailor’s, swathed in the gorgeous rose-gold of my wedding gown. I had never felt so beautiful in all my born days. And then I had the sickening realization that my hair would be gone by the time the wedding rolled around, a fact I understood, but had not internalized. Memories of the first time I had cancer flooded in — memories of feeling ugly Every. Single. Day.
As I sobbed openly on the little dais in front of the three floor-length mirrors, Binh, the head tailor at All Fit Tailoring in Boston, comforted me while her father ran to get me a tissue. Binh told me that in China, the wedding pictures are always taken months before the wedding. Why not just take the pictures now while I still had hair? Between sobs, I explained that I had already started chemo and my hair would likely come out in just a few days.
Binh and her mother worked furiously for the next 36 hours, racing against the death of my hair follicles. As she labored, I called The Black Tux and explained my predicament. For no charge, they overnighted the very same suit my husband would wear at the actual wedding.
The day Binh finished my dress, my husband’s friends were in town for his bachelor party. One sprinted to a flower shop and got me a gorgeous bouquet, another picked up the dress, and a third took pictures of us in our most natural habitat: a local Boston library.
That evening, my hair was coming out by the fistful. As I sat under shady trees in my backyard, my husband and his friends lovingly shaved it all off.
As the wedding approached, I found a beautiful wig. But it didn’t feel like me. I yearned to find a way to use my baldness to artfully recognize the presence of my cancer on my wedding day.
The epic flower crown
I told my mom this, and after a tough day of chemo, she helped me prototype a floral headdress using false flowers, string, and a silk scarf. It wouldn’t stay put, and we despaired of having a headdress that could make it through the ceremony.
For the entire ceremony, I felt like a queen.
But I shared photos of our impractical prototype with my florist, Rachel Mann of A Florae. She Macgyvered one heck of a solution. The day before the wedding, she gutted a hard-hat to get at the harness on the inside, wrapped that in chicken wire, filled that with wet florist’s foam, and stuck a bajillion flowers in it that matched my bouquet. Underneath it, I wore a delicate peach scarf so the wires wouldn’t poke me. For the entire ceremony, I felt like a queen.
The luxurious headscarf
The headdress weighed ten pounds, so as soon as we transitioned to the reception, I went to my gorgeous little dressing room at the venue, the Lionsgate Event Center in Lafayette, Colorado, and took it off. I put on a soft marsala head scarf, and pinned it in place with a Swarovski crystal ponytail clip my mom had given me. That way, I could jive on the dance floor as much as I liked without the scarf falling off.
And finally: gorgeous henna!
After a few hours, my headscarf was soaked with sweat, so I took it off, revealing the henna birds and flowers my husband had painted from the top of my head to the small of my back. Sweat rolled down my bald, decorated head until we shut down the dance floor.
Cancer has taken a lot of things from me: my health, my safety, my time, my hair. Cancer has also given me an occasion to make beauty from pain. On my wedding day, I was a piece of living art created by talented craftspeople and dear friends. Now, eight months later, my cancer seems to be gone and my hair is coming back. My new hair is beautiful, but my wedding wasn’t less beautiful in its absence.
I’m not crying happy tears, you’re crying happy tears! Thank you for sharing this amazing story with us, Jordan!