My wedding day was something I dreamed about as a little girl. I wanted a big wedding with all my friends and family. I wanted the most beautiful flowers, the best band, and the most delicious food. I wanted it to be something that everyone would remember, I wanted it to be the best day of my life. It all starts with a proposal.
My husband Stephen proposed to me on a rainy day in May of 2016. He was graduating from law school the very next day and both of our families were there to celebrate. It was truly amazing. I thought how could things get any better than this? I was beyond excited that I was going to marry my best friend and the love my life. While on cloud 9, I rushed to start planning the wedding of my dreams. Little did I know that everything was about to change. Life was going to throw something our way that we could have never prepared for. We would soon lean on each other in ways most 20 somethings did not have to do. This was the ultimate test. Before we said "for better or worse", in many ways we were going to start out with "worse."
In August of 2016 everything changed: I fainted while we were on vacation in Spain celebrating our engagement, and Stephen being done with law school and the bar exam. I was weak, exhausted, lightheaded, dizzy, nauseas, the list goes on. I didn't know what was wrong, it was the scariest thing I've ever had to go through. Our lives became very small, packed with doctors appointments. Two months later, we finally had a diagnosis, Dysautonomia, the de-regulation of the autonomic nervous system. I was thrilled to have a diagnosis, but didn't know what it would come to mean. In short order, I had to take a leave of absence from work and my doctor told me it was not wise to move forward with my big dream wedding in June. I was devastated - I just wanted to be able to marry Stephen and celebrate with my closest friends and family.
The summer of 2017 was the hardest time of my life and a true test to our relationship. I had to move home for five months because I needed around the clock care. This meant that we would be living apart, which presented many challenges, good and bad. We were having to go through things that most people our age do not deal with. We had to lean on each other for support. Stephen flew almost every weekend to be with me, reassuring me that even through the pain, we still had each other. That would never change.
Once I was able to move back to DC, we started thinking about what type of wedding we could have. At the same time, we were focused on being married rather than everything that comes along with having a large wedding. Knowing I couldn't handle a large-scale wedding, we opted for a small family wedding of 20 people.
Pulling a wedding together in two months is a record, and it was beautiful and extremely personal. Saturday, April 7th was the day I got to marry my best friend and my biggest supporter.
I made many modifications to the day, so that I could successfully get through it and enjoy it. I wanted to look beautiful, after all it was my wedding day. I got to wear my wedding dress that I had bought before my illness at Carine's Bridal in Georgetown, DC. They were absolutely amazing and beyond accommodating, allowing me to be seated while having my dress altered. I made sure to rest in between getting my hair and makeup done. I had a photographer come to take a few important pictures that I wanted to capture from the day. It was the most intimate wedding I could have asked for. The ceremony was seated because I couldn't stand for long periods of time. I rested afterwards while everyone had a few cocktails before dinner.
Worried I would not have a first dance because I couldn't stand long enough, months before the wedding my POTS trainer and I practiced slow dancing to a 60 second clip of our wedding song. The day was finally here that I could have that dance with Stephen, as husband and wife.
All of these modifications and others were critical for a successful wedding day. Looking back one year later, we made all the right decisions. Illness does not pick a "right" time to descend upon your life. We have had to make a lot of changes in the way we live our lives because of it. There have been many challenges, but also many obstacles that we have overcome, together. Just because you have an illness, don't give up on your dreams. You may have to make adjustments, but your dreams can still become reality.