Delicately, it began to mist yesterday morning as I finished my run, which was a welcome way to cool and settle me down. By the time I had showered and headed to the coffee shop, it was sprinkling.
With my Americano, I sat by the window with intentions to work, but instead I cried. I cried that I was hours from getting married and my Mom, Dad, Sister and my Uncle Scott were hundreds of miles away. It rained as I dried my eyes and walked back into the condo, and it continued as we left again to go get our marriage license from the County Clerk's office and drove to the clinic for Sam's last treatment. It rained when I picked up flowers from a very perplexed florist. By the time Sam and I pulled onto Arboretum drive, white-dress and bowtie donned, fittingly, it was pouring.
If you've followed this blog, by now you've probably noticed that rain has become an unintentional theme. So the fact that it was raining on our marriage day was not a problem. We can deal with rain.
Standing under our blue pop-up tent illegally erected in the Arboretum, and surrounded by the freshest-smelling pines and wet squishy grass between my barefoot toes, the rain pounded the tarp roof and poured down the sides. Convened there were our two best Madison pals with their son as our witnesses, and Sam's pseudo-brother, Pete, who had been given a supplemental court commission to officiate our ceremony, and his family. And, my sister and nephew on FaceTime. It was happy and the rain made it cozy. We were all ecstatic.
Still, there were a lot of things I couldn't deal with. I could never quite wrap my head around reconciling the fact that marriage is so much about the future, and yet cancer is the ultimate test of living each second in the present. I couldn't wrap my head around the immensity of what was happening, while still maintaining that it was OK that my big sister wasn't standing next to me. I couldn't process the touching things that were said, like when Sam started his vows with explaining our intimate understanding of “for better or for worse.”
The past few months, many family members, friends and our great and growing community have helped sustain us emotionally and reminded us the value in generously repeating the phrase “I love you.” These people (you, reader) matter SO much. And since you were not present, we maintained that this day, this very important day, was for legal, financial, practical reasons. That it was “our marriage,” but not “our wedding,” because you need to be there for that. That the big, meaningful celebration where we’ll feel all the feelings and dance until the sun rises… with hope, that will come later. Still, it was hard to make one of the most important promises of my life without my beloved people there. It was SO, so hard.
But it also… wasn’t. I’ve been ready to marry Sam since, oh, about a month after we began dating. I remember the second I first laid eyes on him. I remember so many pivotal moments of our past five years together in which I became more and more certain that he is the one I want to spend my life with. So that part was easy. We weren’t nervous. We also didn’t have vows to remember, or fancy clothes to keep from wrinkling, or makeup to keep from smearing. We didn’t have seating arrangements, or first dances, or caterers. We just had our nine attendees (five adults, four children), our tent, the Arboretum, the rain and each other. We were SO ready, and becoming a Weis is something I’d set out to become longer ago than is probably acceptable to admit so… publicly.
Our ceremony lasted only a few minutes. After which, we packed up our tent and drove to Debi and Jim’s condo. (Great quote by Sam in the car: "Just think Jenny, all this time and marriage was only four minutes away.") At the condo, Debi and Jim had thoughtfully decorated, gotten dinner, champagne, and made a “cake” consisting of a tower of Greenbush doughnuts, my favorite. We cherished the moments of sharing a meal and ending the special day with these people. Still, the whole time epitomized ‘bittersweet’ for me.
Cancer is scary. Our situation is difficult. Our future is uncertain. Our actual wedding is unplanned, and staying so.
But our marriage is awesome, and began as happily as it possibly could have thanks to an army of support; a spectacular officiant; and the best, kindest, most incredible man who I now get to call my husband. This story is very much still unwritten, but that particular day is done. Since you matter to us so much, I wanted to share it with you. And saying I can’t wait to share it with you some more at a real wedding is an understatement, but you know that.
But first, we have more rain to get through.
Our "Marriage Day" Photos
All my adult life I’ve made sure I’ve had three things with me at all times – My rain jacket, my ID and a credit card. The reason is simple: Regardless of the forecast, you just never know when it’s going to rain or when you’re going to run into a friend and want to get a drink.
We got bad news from the Doctor yesterday. Despite two rounds of the best chemo they’ve got, we were unable to completely knock back the leukemia. Now it’s onto clinical trials of a drug to try to spur the growth of as many good cells as possible and hold back as many leukemia cells as possible. Assuming this goes well and no more leukemia grows, it will set me up for a bone marrow transplant with the hopes that my Dad’s cells outcompete the bad ones for space and kill off all of the leukemia.
Having the “we have to be realistic about expectations” conversation with an oncologist is never an easy one. Spreading that news to all of the ones you love is equally as hard, so I’ll just put it this way:
I’m grabbing my rain jacket, ID and credit card and heading out into one hell of a rainstorm knowing only 25% reach the summit. I hope to run into you back at the trailhead - drenched, but more alive than ever - and buy you a quick drink in a cozy bar before heading home.
Actually, screw that. You better be as prepared as I am because you're buying me a drink.
Raindrops are pelting my face and my legs and lungs are burning from the third major hill on the long, gradual climb from Silver City, MI to Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains. We're on the last flat stretch before the steep, final climb of the ride, and I can see Sam on his yellow and black road bike up 500 yards or so ahead of me. Determined, I shift into a higher gear and increase my cadence. I know Sam is a better biker, but I can't let him reach the summit THAT far ahead of me.
I open my eyes and I'm in a dark spinning class with the music blaring. I've been attending spinning classes pretty often lately. They're a short walk from the hospital and a good break for my knees in between running. Right now we're on the last "flat road" of the day, and the instructor has told us to reduce our resistance and sprint until the end of the class. Invariably when instructed to do so, I'm instantly taken back to the Porkies on one of our favorite climbs near Sam's parents' cottage, and all I can think is, "just catch Sam."
The irony of our temporarily shifted roles doesn't elude me. Normally, Sam is my motivator and cheerleader. He's constantly making me bike faster, hike farther, be better. He reminds me that I'm capable of accomplishing my goals, and I'll admit I would have missed out on a big number of summits, vistas and finish lines without him by my side telling me I can do it.
Now it's my turn to motivate. To remind him this pain is temporary and in no time, we'll be back in Alaska posing for pictures with pretty rainbows (of sky and river varieties) and contentedly eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches looking out over some valley somewhere with Birkie.
After my last post, we spent a six-day stint in the hospital, then were discharged for four days before Sam spiked an epic fever and we landed back up on B6/6. Today is day six of this stay, and day 15 of his second round of treatment. This time around Sam's had to struggle a lot more - fighting off fevers, shaking chills, controlling pain and nausea and needing to work a little harder to stay positive. Though (surprise to no one), time and again, he's done it. The nurses and doctors constantly remind us how well he's doing. After each challenge and bump in the road, he's Sam again. He makes jokes, goes on walks (a little slower and shorter now, but still literally miles farther than most other patients on this floor) and goes back to normal amidst the most abnormal of circumstances.
I'm learning to help motivate him. But from experience, I know he's an expert at pushing himself, finding out what's around the next corner and reaching the top of the climb to cash in on the long, enjoyable ride home. As I've reassured myself many times in the past - on a bike, trail or in a hospital - we still have a lot of climbing to do, but holy shit, he's got this.