Friday, May 9, 2014


Hi ESB and readers,

I was wondering where to get some advice about this when I re-read "Heartache" from April 21. I don't want to turn your blog into a giant hole of darkness but I can't think of anyone better than you guys to turn to. 

Out of the blue, my mom has just been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. She has not been ill in any way so my entire family is reeling. I'm getting married in September and I just don't know how to deal with the wedding itself or all the planning. It feels like I will just be bawling my eyes out the whole time and everyone else will too. 

How can a wedding be fun when it's the worst time of my entire life? How do I do this? How can I think about my future when she might not be in it?


p.s. Please follow this up with a super divisive fashion post, I need the positive energy.


Oh, lady. I am so so sorry.

Postpone the wedding.* You shouldn't have to worry about it right now, and you may not want to worry about it for a good long while. Please give yourself all the time you need.


Lida Fox by Stian Foss for Jalouse May 2014 via visual optimism

*I almost opened with "This may be THE WORST POSSIBLE ADVICE, but...." I really should have opened with that. Wtf do I know about cancer?! (See comments from far wiser readers below)


  1. I don't know ESB, what if she wants to get married while her mother is still reasonably well?

    My first thought: get a good wedding planner. Leave most of the decisions to others. Focus the day on celebrating love with your family.

    But if you really can't bear it, it's definitely ok to postpone and backseat your planning.

    1. Although who knows what will September bring? Eff it and elope (soon) and bring along your parents.

  2. My mom passed away a few months ago from cancer. She had been diagnosed with stage 4 about seven years ago so I understand what you are going through right now. You do whatever feels right-- in this instance and so many others. Right now I'm with my fiancé and if I could have gotten married for her to see it, I would have. I'm not you, but get married. Don't stop. Make it come faster. My mom wouldn't have wanted me to stop, I don't think yours would want that either. But talk to her. See what she says, is what I suggest. You all will want something happy because regardless whether you wait for "the right time" (it never exists with cancer) it most likely will be bittersweet. You'll never regret doing it, you'll only regret her not seeing it. Trust me.

  3. I almost thought I had wrote this as my mom was also diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer months before my September wedding. I'm so mad that cancer had to show up to make things so impossibly hard and sad for you and your family.
    But a wedding can be a blessing. I stopped seeing the wedding as a long list of things I had to do and began to see it as a life celebration, a family celebration. There is nothing like Stage 4 cancer to show you that table linens, and flower arrangements shouldn't matter.
    It will be hard. You might have a conversation with your mom that she will forget 2 hours later because of chemo brain. It. Is. Not. Fair.
    But walking down the aisle with my mom holding my hand is something so incredible and powerful. We had made it. It wasn't the wedding I had envisioned when I started the planning. But jesus, what actually goes according to plan? It's up to you. But a wedding could potentially be a beautiful, cathartic, distractive, fun to plan while receiving awful chemo, and a smile amidst a lot of otherwise painful and grueling months.

  4. Oh, lady. I am so sorry. It is so much to deal with all at once, when on the one hand you're supposed to be a giddy, happy bride, and on the other you're grieving (because grieving starts the day you get a stage 4 diagnosis and doesn't really stop). It is overwhelming and so hard. I can only speak to my own experience, which was that my mum was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer about 8 months before we got engaged and 14 months before the wedding. Personally, planning the wedding with her is one of the most joyful memories I have. Having something positive to focus on, and distract us if treatment was getting her down, plus something that we could spend time doing together, meant so much. I have so many precious memories of that whole time, and the day itself was pure love. It was an incredibly fun and happy wedding - the emotions were maybe more intense because of her illness, but it was more of a "I'm so happy you're here and part of this magical day" than any kind of mourning occasion for what might happen in the future. If you look at the wedding pictures on my blog, you'll see nothing but cheesy grins, I promise. We also have some incredibly beautiful photographs of her from the wedding - I made sure our photographers knew this really mattered. The one thing stage 4 patients don't have is time, so if you and she feel up to it, I'd encourage you to go ahead as planned.

    As for the future, well. I wish I knew how to imagine a world without my mum in it, but it's so very hard. She died last month when I was 4 months pregnant, and the sorrow and grief is immense. The only way to deal with the pain, both when facing a diagnosis and when the time does eventually come to say goidbye, is to move through it and experience it, and know that your mom loves you and wants you to be happy. Whatever you decide to do about the wedding, make the most of being with her now.

    It sucks. There's no other way around it. I'm sorry, and I'm sending you all the love in the world.

  5. I have no idea what you should do...this is what WE did.

    We received same new for my father in law 3 weeks prior to the wedding.

    I told my now husband that we would do whatever he and his parents felt had to be done. No money thoughts...only feelings.

    My father in law was determined to enjoy his sons' wedding and we made it happen. Well everything was ready by that time and what was not did not get ready but was not significant anyway...

    The days prior to the weddig were hard, very hard, no sleep before wedding day. Wedding day? It was great. My father in law's attitude was the best and we had a great time. If you look at our wedding photos it's all very natural big (HUGE) love smiles, but very tired eyes...

    This Wednesday we will celebrate our 3rd anniversary. Would I do it again? For my husband ALWAYS. Did I ever dream with such a wedding? NEVER. But my husband never dreamt losing his dad so young either.

    We cancelled our honeymoon to India and Malaysia to spend more time with him. To be here if needed. To make the most of our short time together. This was the best decision I have taken in my life. I would do it again over and over.

    Our honeymoon is this trip we never got to do and that will be done sometime in the future, after we add siblings to our first born, when they are grown...I suspect this will be a trip to be taken in retirement hehe If we boh make it that far!!!

    We miss him everyday, but he WAS there and that is important to us. His attitude meant the world to us. The wedding was filled with love and happiness.

  6. I am so, so sorry for your news.

    What I will say is this: the moment of diagnosis and the immediate aftermath is always an apocalypse, but things quite often settle into a treatment schedule and you can begin plan ahead again. In this moment, it seems impossible, but it will probably happen.

    Talk to your mother. Get a sense of what her doctors are planning and how rigorous her treatments might be. Ask her what she wants.

    Talk to your fiance. Lean on him in this, because while you may want to carry your grief alone, it will be an impossible burden with everything else that's going on.

    Deciding to postphone, moving the date up, or keeping things the way they are all valid options. You'll know in your heart.

    And re-read this post. It's okay to feel sadness and joy at the very same moment. You can sustain it. You will survive it.

  7. I'm so sorry for you and for your family. The responses above offer excellent advice, and I just thought I'd add my two cents based on my family's experience.

    - as others have mentioned, the time right after the diagnosis is really hard. Everything is up in the air (getting second opinions, making treatment decisions, etc.) Once my Dad started his chemo, everything settled out a bit. So, none of this will ever be easy, but it may get a little easier to wrap your head around.

    - Weddings are a celebration. For us, it was something positive to look forward to and think about which we really needed. And he made it. We were able to time it between his rounds of chemo so he felt good. And yes I spent the whole day crying happy tears because he was there. Despite everything else that was going on, it was a happy day.

    Whether you want to move forward with the wedding you initially planned or something else (post-pone or elopement) will depend on your Mom's specific situation/treatment plan/her response. Definitely talk with her. As others have said, there will be a decision that will be right.

    Hang in there. Find things to smile about. You will get through. Sending you lots of hugs.

  8. Thank you sooo much ESB and all the thoughtful commenters. It was so amazingly helpful to read all these responses. Many of you were right, right after the diagnosis was the most intense week of my life. I will be coming back to read these notes so many times I know. Right now we are moving ahead, and crossing our fingers that her treatment schedule will work out. Chemo started last Friday and she is doing ok so far, no bad reactions.

    A million thank yous again.

  9. Oh god, I'm so sorry. My dad was diagnosed with cancer shortly after we got engaged and it was a crazy emotional whirlwind. They originally estimated 6 months, which would have meant he wouldn't be there for our wedding. We considered downsizing the wedding and moving it up but never even thought about cancelling it or postponing it.

    We ended up leaving it as scheduled, after talking to my dad. The wedding planning process took a backseat, because being focused for all his appointments and treatments was more important. (I will say that dealing with something huge works wonders for putting your planning in perspective)

    I was so, so lucky and my dad responded well to treatments and was there to enjoy the hell out of my wedding (and is still here, defying the odds, three years later).

    I would say to check in with your mom and ask what would make her most comfortable and then just go forward. Wedding planning can be a good distraction from the treatments and something to look forward to. Be nice to yourself! I handled it better than I would have expected but definitely ended up crying at the gym, grocery store, etc. for several months. Maybe that's normal?

    And this is totally morbid, but we can lose anyone, at any time, with no warning whatsoever. There's really no way to ever guarantee that you'll get married surrounded by everyone you love, and that really, really sucks. (Feel free to disregard that if it sounds crazy, but I swear it made me feel better when I was agonizing over the timing of our wedding and wasting a lot of time worrying about whether I was a terrible person for not moving it up)

    SO many hugs, lady.

  10. I'm so sorry you and your family are going through this. Of course there's no such thing as good timing when it comes to cancer, but this is particularly challenging I'm sure. Like many others have mentioned, talk to your mom and feel things out before making any big decisions regarding your wedding. When my mom was diagnosed two years ago, staying positive and keeping life as normal as possible worked best for her. Of course, life never really was normal again, but we had many happy, mostly-normal days, and I'm really thankful for all of them. Had my sister or I been engaged at the time, I know my mom would have wanted the wedding to go forward, and I really think that she would have enjoyed the planning process and having something to look forward to.

  11. I am so sorry for the pain and grieving you must be going through. Juggling the emotions of a wedding and the emotion of a parent battling cancer is such a roller coaster. The best advice I can give is to go with your gut.

    My dad (leukemia and myelofibrosis) had planned to have a stem cell transplant after my wedding this August. About three weeks ago, his doctors told him he couldn't wait any longer. He goes into treatment on Monday. We got married last Saturday. It was beautiful, perfect, full of love and tears and laughter. It was also stressful and emotionally overwhelming, but I wouldn't have changed a thing.

    Listen to your gut. If you feel that should postpone, by all means postpone. If you want to have it tomorrow, have it tomorrow. This is your family, and your wedding. You get to do what is best for you. And whatever you decide, it will be beautiful and perfect and more meaningful than you can imagine. Trust yourself and your instincts.