Chapter 5 -------- Wedding Day
The wedding quickly approached after a brief three-week engagement. While our love continued to deepen, we didn’t question the choice we were about to make. It was as if we just knew our destinies were intertwined. Life was in a state of perfect synchronicity. A permanent honeymoon phase that never diminished because our lives would not allow it. Danielle and I had that special magic all-the-time. We were both very present in our lives before we met and that intensified when we were together. We gave each other strength- strength we would both soon need.
Danielle woke up, twenty-four hours before our wedding, with pain in her stomach area. She explained that she felt something the past week. I was clueless until the pain sharply intensified. Danielle never showed discomfort or pain. She explained that if it didn’t start to dissipate, then she might have to get it checked out. I was a little concerned, but she hid the pain, very well. The real agony she was feeling, was not fully communicated. Danielle is the strongest woman I have ever known, so I wasn’t nearly as concerned as I probably should have been.
I had the whole day off and some errands to run to prepare for the ceremony the next day. When Danielle’s classes started, I was off to finish gathering up what we needed. I picked up some glass containers for the sand ceremony that we were having the minister performing. I also had to pick up some flowers, a belt, and a few other things. Including a run to the MMJ dispensary, as a favor for Danielle’s friend, whose husband was also a patient at the dispensary.
The gentleman recently had surgery and was immobile. People must go into the dispensary to pick up their meds in Arizona, which can be difficult for people, at times. Although now there are delivery services. They had expressed concern that he couldn’t make it into the dispensary, so he wouldn’t be able to get more meds. I picked up some that were great for pain relief and sleep. I made sure to pick up edible and topical medicine because it was far more effective at relieving physical pain than most of the medicine that patient's smoke. As it happened, I couldn’t deliver that day. Too much to do, and I still had to prepare for class.
The thing I was most excited about that day was dance class. It was delightful to have my fiancé teaching me how to dance. I wouldn’t say it was her that I was learning from, most of the time in class I was learning the dance moves from her students. Danielle had an eye for dance and would assuredly bring the best out of everyone. Shouting in approval or disapproval, when students do or don’t hit their precise mark. It made her an amazing coach, albeit a little intimidating.
I will admit that class always made me a little nervous because often my fiancé would put me in the spotlight for a solo performance. While all the students normally did this, it was all very new to me. Most of the girls had four to fifteen years of dance experience with Danielle. I felt very honored that they thought me talented enough to train with them.
Danielle called me thirty minutes before class saying that she was canceling class, something I knew she never did. I knew something was wrong. She asked if I was on my way; thankfully, I was. Danielle bragged about sitting through class after most of her previous serious health concerns. Nothing could keep her down when it came to her obligations. She was selfless in giving herself to her students. Something was different.
When I arrived at her house, everyone had left except for one parent and her daughter. She had noticed that Danielle was showing some pain and discomfort during her previous class. She had no idea Danielle was hiding such an immense amount of agony. I imagine she did this for the girls because she always liked the girls believing she was invincible. (Honestly, I thought she was at this point too, but that story I’ll save for later). I knew that, if she was canceling class, then she should go to the ER because this might be something serious. We were both hoping it was just a UTI or something else minor. What we were in store for was far from what we were expecting less than a day before our wedding.
The Sedona ER was not busy that Thursday night. I practically had to carry her inside because she was unable to walk on her own. The waiting room was empty, so we walked straight to the front desk. They checked us in right away, and we were put in a double room by ourselves. Immediately they checked her stats and blood pressure. I could tell, at this point, that my wife was very knowledgeable about her health and knew her normal blood pressure better than the doctors or nurses. She knew her blood pressure was high, but considering the pain she endured, it wasn’t a surprise. Danielle and the doctor agreed.
The nurse assisted with drawing blood and taking samples for the tests. The doctor ran us through the long list of health questions that needed answering. Danielle ended up asking the doctor about as many questions as he asked her. Most of Danielle’s questions were speculative, so the doctor couldn’t answer directly. Sadly we were going to have to wait on answers.
Resigned, albeit nervously, we waited for the blood tests to come back. The doctor also wanted to run a full scan of her abdomen. We agreed it was a good idea, but I also couldn’t go with her. They were taking her away for about forty minutes to perform the scan, and I had to sit and wait patiently. After they brought her back, we had to wait another hour for the scan to be analyzed.
The entire time we were talking about how we were still going to get married the next day. We kept expressing our undying love for each other, which made us stronger. I am extremely glad that I was able to be there for her. I kept reassuring her that it wasn’t going to be serious and that it was all going to be okay. I didn’t even consider the possibility that this could be serious. I was going to maintain a positive space that things were going to work out, and we were still going to get married in her studio. I wanted to be strong for her because she feared the worst.
The moment the scan came in, we knew it didn’t look good. We could tell the doctor was not looking forward to sharing the results from the scan. Danielle saw the nurse had a tear in her eye. I missed that cue, just feeling Danielle squeezing my hand. I embraced her as we both braced for the news. He proceeded to tell us that the scan had turned up several masses on her ovaries. While the doctor couldn’t tell us if it was just minor cysts or full-blown cancer, he did say that we would have to do further investigation to figure that out. He had more news too.
The blood tests had also come back and shown an elevated blood marker that they use to diagnose ovarian cancer. Explaining this also is inconclusive, and a biopsy would have to be performed to figure out exactly what it was. I prayed, hoped, wanted, and wished that my wife did not have cancer. I wouldn’t entertain the idea until we had total confirmation. I reassured her at every step that I was going to be there for her, and we were still going to get married.
At that point, I called the minister to cancel the ceremony for the next day. The hospital was still trying to figure out which hospital was going to be the best one to send us. We needed an oncological surgeon, which is a unique specialty for surgeons, from what they told us. We had some time before they could arrange a transfer.
Since I had the time, I decided to pick up the marriage license. It looked like we were going out of town for the weekend and there was so much I needed to grab. I was in such a rush that I just threw a bunch of stuff in a couple of bags at my house and did the same thing when I stopped at Danielle’s house. I attempted to predict everything we would need for the next couple of days. I forgot so much in my anxious haste. Most importantly, I wanted the marriage certificate ready for something special.
I returned to the hospital as the ambulance was putting Danielle on the stretcher to take her to Phoenix. While I was gone, they had found a great hospital with a surgeon that was first class, to help my fiancé. They told us that he was one of the best specialists in the country, which was a small relief. I was planning on following the ambulance down in my car, so I didn’t get stuck in Phoenix.
In my haste, I had only thrown ten dollars in the gas tank. I was out of time and prayed a quarter tank of gas would get me to my destination. The entire hour and a half trip between Sedona and Phoenix was smooth; I followed the ambulance the whole way. However, when I arrived in Phoenix, I was met with the most shocking billboards I have ever read.
“If you have any information about the I-10 shooter, please call 555-555-5555.” At that time, there was a psychopath that was shooting people on the I-10 freeway that runs through the heart of Phoenix. It didn’t occur to me, I was on the wrong freeway, so the entire time I was bobbing and weaving my head. I wasn’t about to give him a clean shot. I continued praying that my wife and I would make it safely to the Scottsdale Honor Health Hospital. We did make it safely, and I made it with a little gas to spare, which was a double relief.
It was about 2 am when we arrived at the hospital and checked in. They moved us into a suite. The room was bigger than most hotel rooms and had a nice fold-out couch for me to sleep. Danielle’s had a fully loaded bed with all the bells and whistles, such as cooling, heating, and adjustable everything. We were in one of the newest and most state-of-the-art hospitals. The nurses were very nice and helped us settle in for the night.
We knew we faced a lot the next day, but we had no idea just how crazy the next day would be. I don’t think we could have imagined what would happen on that Friday, September 18th, 2015. We were about to have one hell of a miracle, pun intended.
We both had a little shut eye from total exhaustion, but neither of us slept through the night. We were woken up by the morning nurse crew. The two nurses introduced themselves, but it was Kathy that would stand out that morning. After running some tests and talking with us, we told her that we were supposed to get married that day in Sedona. She was heartbroken to hear that. We told her we weren’t too worried about where we got married and that we just wanted to get married. Kathy told us she was going to check on some things, but we didn’t think much of it at the time.
The doctor showed up not too long after that. He wanted to discuss with us the possibilities and what we would want depending on the outcome of what he found. We all agreed that if it was cancerous that we would want everything removed and any other signs of cancer removed as well; this meant a full hysterectomy. The other possibility of a cyst meant a similar surgery. We essentially decided that, unless it was beneficial to leave her ovaries in place, then it was probably best to take them out no matter the outcome.
At this time, my fiancé also asked for the surgeon's birthday and where he was born so that she could read his star chart. She wanted to make sure this doctor was supposed to be her surgeon. After reviewing his star birth-chart, she was certain that this was the doctor for her. She even told the doctor a little about himself that slightly surprised him.
I also did some internet research and found that the doctor we had was world-renowned for the procedure that Danielle was due to receive. The staff had a nickname for the actual procedure, and the nickname was also a play on the doctor’s last name, the Janisecktomy. I was happy that we had what appeared to be the best surgeon in the world for Danielle’s situation. It felt almost perfect in this imperfect world we were spiraling into.
We had no idea that, within the next twenty minutes, the hospital staff would be preparing for the first wedding ever performed at the hospital. Kathy came back to tell us some great news: she had checked with the resident chaplain and found out that he is also a fully ordained minister. When we met Carl, the minister, my wife and I both knew this was the guy who would marry us. He was a tiny older man who was incredibly soft-spoken. Carl told us this was due to some throat cancer he had beaten a couple of years ago.
Carl felt bad that he could only perform the traditional Catholic wedding ceremony because it’s all he knew. I’m sure the nurses told him we were hippies from Sedona and likely weren’t practicing Catholics. We didn’t care, and we were happy that we were still going to get married. We were given an hour and a half window before the ceremony would take place. I made several calls, but the quickest anyone could get to Phoenix was about two hours from Tucson or Sedona. We were forced to recruit two hospital staff members to be our official witnesses.
We hadn’t even picked out rings because we were going to take a trip down to Tucson to do that after the wedding. Carl, being the outstanding gentleman that he was, offered to let us use his wedding ring. Forty years of marriage and he was willing to let us borrow the ring. We were hoping it meant a good omen for our future. We had a ring to use for the ceremony that we could exchange. We had a minister. We had witnesses for the ceremony. It was all working out so strangely perfect. The next thing that happened blew us away completely.
We were not at all, expecting the staff to jump on board in such an incredible fashion. Some of the nurses ended up putting together a bouquet, a flower headdress, a boutonnière, and a garter belt with a blue ribbon made from hospital equipment. Everything was hand made by the nursing staff and other hospital staff. It was an "all hands-on deck" kind of moment. When I made a quick run to the car, I saw them rolling a podium through the lobby and setting up chairs on the patio. It was rather exciting, and the energy was electric.
The staff even covered the podium with flowers. We couldn’t believe what they had pulled off in an hour and a half. They even bought Danielle a white blouse to wear at the hospital shop. I will be honest that, in my packing haste, I was more practical and wasn’t thinking about what clothes to wear to a wedding. The best thing I had to wear was jeans, a black shirt, and flip flops; not what I expected to be married wearing.
Thankfully, the staff bought Danielle the white blouse so that she was more comfortable with the fact that she would also have to be in a wheelchair. They had set up the most incredible setting in the hospital courtyard- it had such greenery, and the staff enveloped it with flowers. The location was called “The Healing Gardens,” which is exactly the type of marriage we were embarking on: a marriage of healing.
When the ceremony was ready, and the staff finished setting everything up, they separated us. According to tradition, it is supposed to be bad luck to see the bride before the wedding, so one group of nurses took me down to the gardens one way, and another took Danielle down another way. We were aware our wedding was going to be far from average.
The administrative staff asked if we would mind if the staff watched the wedding. We encouraged it. Danielle just asked that they do not take pictures, and any pictures taken would be sent to my email and would never be made public. Danielle was always concerned about her image.
They walked me up to the center podium in front of the crowd that had gathered. There were about fifty people we didn’t know sitting and standing around the garden area. We had several rows of seating and an aisle up to the center. One of the administrative staff members rolled Danielle down to the back of the aisle. She looked beautiful when she arrived. I could see all the joy radiating from her, which hid the incredible pain she endured. She was the strongest.
They rolled Danielle down the aisle with a smile across her face. I received her in front of the crowd of spectators. We locked eyes and just kept looking into each other’s gaze. It was really happening. I just held her hand through it all.
We said our vows, through sickness and in health. Sealed with a huge kiss, we officially married at 10:10 am on September 18th, 2015 at Honor Health Hospital, in the Healing Gardens Courtyard. It was still a beautiful Friday.
Our hearts were overflowing with love that touched the hearts of many witnesses who gathered to join in our celebration. We saw many with tears in their eyes, completely touched by the commitment we were showing each other. It was important to me because I wanted to show her that I was committed to her no matter what. No matter the outcome, I was going to be there for her. It gave both of us the resolve to stay strong for what laid ahead of us.
After the ceremony, we went back to the room briefly before they took her to surgery. At this point, Danielle felt it was important to notify her family about what was happening. The pending surgery topped with a surprise wedding would be a lot to handle. We hadn’t expected to tell our families so soon about the marriage, but the circumstances had called for an audible.
I gave both families the update and told them what was happening. It was a huge shock to everyone, and emotions ran high. Danielle wanted to talk to her family because she was going in for very major surgery. She kept the conversations short as I shared most of the details with everyone. After that, it was just the two of us again.
We had about two hours after the wedding to spend with each other while they prepped her for the surgery. It was a time of deep love, immense pain, undesired sadness, and topped with joy from our wedding. It was so confusing yet strangely comforting. I knew that the commitment I demonstrated was one of the biggest factors to calming any fears that I might abandon her. I guess you could say she suffered from some serious abandonment issues throughout her life. It was a gift to show her the assurance that she deserved.
When they took her to surgery, I was beyond an emotional wreck. I didn’t know what to think as my whole world was getting turned upside down. I didn’t want to leave the hospital, but I also realized that I should probably get some additional meds for my wife. Thankfully and coincidentally, I had purchased the medicine for her friend’s husband, which is legal, since it would have been patient-to-patient. We weren’t making it back to Sedona, and my wife needed the exact medicine I had purchased. Since my wife didn’t have her MMJ card yet, I would have to bend the rules to help her.
There were a couple of other products that I felt would help her as well, so I decided to take an adventure to the closest MMJ Dispensary. I didn’t want to leave the hospital for very long, but I also knew the surgery would be at least three to six hours. I needed something to calm my nerves, and my wife was going to need some natural pain meds. I knew she wasn’t going to be thrilled about all the prescription pain meds that the hospital was going to provide. Even upon our arrival, when they offered the meds, she was very cautious and showed incredible apprehension. Danielle asked about using Medical Marijuana. The nurses and doctor gave us approval but not officially.
I also used a little bit of the MMJ the first night in the Hospital on Danielle. It helped her relax and get some rest. It also showed me we needed stronger products. Phoenix had several unique products that I couldn’t get in Sedona, so I made sure my adventure was very productive.
Upon my return, I wandered around the lobby for a little bit, simply waiting. It felt like forever. I don’t think the possibility of losing Danielle that day ever truly crossed my mind. I just wanted to know she was okay. It was very hard not being able to do anything. It was the first time, I admit, that I felt helpless. Like nothing I was doing could help, but the universe would remind me otherwise.
I had mentioned that there was someone called the I-10 shooter, killing Phoenix drivers. Well, it just so happened the same day were married, was also the day he was miraculously captured. It was all over the local news channels. The synchronicity almost made me feel like we had played a small role in making the arrest happen that day. I couldn’t stop thinking that all the people that were at the hospital would be spreading all the love they had experienced with us across Phoenix. Love is a powerful feeling, which is contagious.
It reminded me of the power that Sedona had, the special energy that people would experience and take with them. We brought that energy with us and shared it with the entire city that day. We spread so much love and showed people something they had never seen. It was something special, something magical, and I felt that magic was responsible for helping conquer the city's greatest fear. Some say that love conquers all, and that day, I felt our love did just that.
While waiting in the lobby, I read every magazine I could to keep my mind off things. I was waiting and wishing. I kept checking in to make sure they hadn’t received any updates. Finally, after five and a half hours, they sent word that they had completed the surgery. I was ready to see my wife; I missed her so much. I didn’t realize I was going to have to wait another twenty minutes before I would even speak to the doctor. It was the longest twenty minutes of the entire day. I was so nervous and so hopeful that they didn’t find cancer. I knew the odds were high that it was cancer, but I was still ever so hopeful.
When the doctor called me back to the consultation room, I was a wreck. I had ridden more emotional rollercoasters that day than most of my life combined. I knew I was in for some big news and that I needed to be resolute. It still feels like a blur now, just like when it happened. I sat down on the couch, and the doctor proceeded to tell me that he removed the cancer. I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked and so scared for my wife. I couldn’t believe I would have to tell her that it was cancer.
He also told me the procedure went smoothly. The doctor did have to perform a full hysterectomy and said he removed any visible signs of cancer as well. He mentioned something about installing a port for future treatment. Beyond that, I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. I was crushed and knew we had quite the journey ahead of us.
I had to wait for another twenty of the longest minutes of my life for them to finish getting her ready after surgery. I was fully expecting to have to share all the information that the doctor told me with my wife, and it made me so nervous. The doctor told me I could break the news to her. When they finally called me back to the surgery discharge area, I was full of so many mixed emotions. Most of all, I was excited to see my wife. It was our wedding day, after all.
When I got there, she was awake and alert. The first thing she said to me was that it was cancer. She said the doctor told her right after she came out of surgery. I couldn’t believe it. The doctor said I would have to tell her. She told me that the doctor told her too, but that just confused me. I gave her the biggest kiss, and we held each other’s hands until they sent us back to our room. There wasn’t much to be said after that.
Once back in the room, they hooked her up to the machines that monitor her and helped her adjust the bed. Danielle, while very good at not showing her pain, was in incredible agony after the surgery. We talked a little with the nurses who mostly discussed the treatment with my wife. They supported the use of chemotherapy. Danielle was truly scared for her life, and the nurses weren’t giving her the answers she wanted. The next day, we would get our answers straight from the doctor. The answers my wife so desperately needed.
After the nurses left us alone, I knew it was time to pull out her alternative options. I knew we needed to start pain management. I knew my wife was very opposed to using the pain killers that the hospital provided. She didn’t want to use the button they supplied for the medication drip. Mostly because she suffered from many adverse side effects from medications throughout her life, and this experience was no different. The pain meds were already making her nauseated. She didn’t want to take the nausea meds because they would cause her seizers. I knew a better way to beat nausea.
At that moment, I unpacked the medical marijuana I acquired that afternoon. I knew that my bride couldn’t eat, so I would have to start topically. We did this secretly because the hospital couldn’t officially approve the use of MMJ.
My experience in the MMJ industry taught me about Rick Simpson Oil. Rick Simpson used it in cancer treatment in Canada for over a decade. It is named after the founder and is one of the most medicinal products that people have developed for the MMJ industry. It retains much of the activated cannabinoids which have shown to provide different medical benefits. It can be eaten or applied topically.
Most people are familiar with THC, which is the cannabinoid that gives people a high feeling. The second-most popular, although quickly becoming the most popular medical cannabinoid, is CBD. CBD is being used to treat childhood epilepsy and many cancers as well. I had purchased a high CBD topical cream that day, applying it with an accompanying foot rub. Including a little Rick Simpson Oil that we had already begun to use.
With topical absorption, I found it best to put it on her feet, specifically in-between her toes, where there were the most blood vessels for maximum absorption by the patient. Immediately we saw the benefit, and Danielle also preferred it to how the pain meds made her feel, which thankfully was an option for her. She also appreciated the foot massage.
All the pain meds she had the first night allowed her to be able to also reach a unique state of bliss with me. It was, after everything, still our wedding night. I couldn’t imagine being with a more incredible person at that point in my life. I knew we had a journey ahead of us, but, for a moment, we still had our magnificent love to carry us through. We had a beautiful evening in each other’s embrace. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything except maybe the miracle to make the recent problems disappear. I will admit that Danielle and I made the best of our honeymoon suite.
In all the pain of the day, we honestly did find a deeper connection through extreme hardship. Our bond deepened to a level that neither of us could have anticipated. It was a miracle. It was as if all the problems did, for a moment, disappear. The love we shared between us gave us both the strength to share a promise that still brings happiness to my heart.
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