At the beginning of August 2016, I had just escaped the hospital for the third time in as many months and I was less than two weeks away from the biggest day of my life; my wedding! Most people know that I married the love of my life on August 16, 2016. Exactly five months after the day I first lost my ability to walk, I took the most important steps of my life; down the aisle towards the man I would spend the rest of my life with. As we approach our two year wedding anniversary this weekend I find myself feeling a little nicer to my MS. And believe it or not, I’m thanking MS this weekend for having given me a very special gift. Let me explain…
What most people remember about my wedding day was the rain. Oh my god did it rain! No, it monsooned! Our outdoor ceremony was moved inside but it was a beautiful day never the less. Along with the rain there were the typical wedding day blunders; a missing bridesmaid bouquet, a set of lost place cards, my stepdad running late delaying the start, and the wedding photographer from hell. Oh and my personal favorite moment, when I confused my own name during our vows!!! Following my brother in law’s instruction to “repeat after me: I, Julie, take you Jimmy,” I instead blurted out “I, Jimmy, take you Julie…oh wait…crap…I’m not Jimmy, I’m Julie! Let me try that again.” Everyone sure got a good laugh from that. I guess I was more nervous on my wedding day than I realized.
To be honest, I remember being distinctly surprised at how nervous I was as I stood with both my parents waiting to walk down the aisle. I was nervous about making the actual “walk”, not the lifelong commitment that awaited me at the end! After all, what was there to be nervous about? Technically I was already married!
Yup, you read that right! August 12, 2016, was actually the date of my second wedding. However, I’m still on my first husband. And I’ve never been divorced. Confused yet? Blame MS.
I don’t mean that in your typical “blame MS” negative, sad pouty face, kind of way. Instead, I suppose it’s more appropriate to say “thank MS.” I don’t actually get the opportunity to thank my MS for things very often so when I find a reason to be grateful for this crap disease I really try to embrace it. Without a doubt, the list of MS pros is monumentally shorter than the list of MS cons, but in my life it helps that at the very top of my list of MS pros is the date of May 1, 2016; the day I married the love of my life for the FIRST time.
I was never really the girl who grew up dreaming of her wedding. In fact, once I was actually old enough to consider marriage, I decided it didn’t really sound all that appealing to me! However, in the event that miraculously someday I found a man that I thought I could spend forever with, I decided that I would have to have two weddings. Yup, two weddings! Sound crazy? (My husband sure thought so when I told him this a few months into us dating!) But to me it wasn’t crazy, it was my only dream when it came to getting married. Plus, I have always had a tendency to go against the norm. Gone are the days where it’s true that “you only get married once.” So why should you only get two weddings if you get a divorce in between? Instead, if it’s “the best day of your life” why not celebrate it twice?!?! But the main reason; I had my heart set on being married in two different places, so it was also a matter of logistics.
I grew up spending summers at my family lake house in Indiana. At the cottage there is a beautiful side yard overlooking the lake where I have spent some of the happiest days of my life. I wanted this spot to be the place that I celebrated THE happiest day of my life! It’s a scene I had imagined a thousand times, I had just never had been able to imagine the man standing there with me. Until now. Just a few months into dating my husband I knew that he was the one. I started imaging that lake wedding, with my brother in law as the officiant, marrying us at sunset on the lawn of my grandparents’ lake house. A small ceremony with just our parents and siblings; a truly symbolic joining of families. Then a month or so later we would have the big reception party in Chicago and invite everyone. Sounds amazing right? It absolutely would have been! But as usual, my MS had other plans.
Since my diagnosis I had been doing battle with my insurance company to get them to cover my medications, hospital visits, and doctors appointments. That was still convinced that stupid company was responsible for my third relapse thanks to how long it took for them to approve my medication. For those of you who have ever done battle with an insurance company, you know that this is no easy feat! It is a highly frustrating process that becomes very emotional when you are being given the run around on a daily basis. I can’t tell you the number of times I lost my shit to the representative on the phone. And my insurance company was a special kind of terrible! I swear their goal was to make things SO difficult that I would just give up and leave them alone. However, super husband’s insurance company was the BEST….awesome coverage, wonderful representatives, made me feel like a person instead of a patient number!
Two years ago I would have been telling you this story all about how, once again, my MS took something in my life away from me. After my first hospital stay and battle to get my medication approved I knew I needed a better insurance. But if we waited for the Lake wedding I was risking two extra months of miserable insurance coverage. (And potentially another relapse!) It was a choice between making the grown up decision and being responsible for my health versus my little girl dreams of being married at the Lake. Technically, I guess I had a choice; but I’m not an idiot. I value my health over everything. Sorry, little girl Julie.
For awhile, I admit, I wallowed in my ruined image of my sunset wedding at the lake. However, after dealing with the initial blow I reminded myself that I was supposed to be on this new journey for hope; no part of which included sitting around feeling sorry for myself! I had been working hard to improve my mindset, (spoiler alert – it’s actually working!) and looking back it’s easy to see that my first wedding was an incredible example of how your perspective and mindset towards a situation can impact its outcome.
At first glance, my first wedding was everything I had NEVER hoped for. I never imagined that after spending a year planning the wedding of my dreams I’d be throwing together a quick ceremony in just a few weeks. I never imagined planning a wedding around hospital stays and MRIs. I never imagined not having my best girls as bridesmaids standing by my side. I never imagined not having a photographer, a DJ, or a bunch beautiful flowers surrounding me! And I CERTAINLY never imagined that a wedding that included NONE of these “important” things would be the absolute happiest and best day of my life.
After I got sick there was no question that the sooner we got married the better. While most people might have simply gone to the courthouse to get legally married (and in fact my husband suggested this) I absolutely refused. I practice law and have handled my share of divorce cases, so in my eyes the courthouse is where marriages go to die, not to be started. It seemed like bad luck. I knew I wasn’t meant to get married in a courthouse. Hell no! ANYWHERE but the courthouse. We needed a wedding venue as sentimental as the lake house with the practicality of the courthouse. Despite how impossible that sounded, I remained hopeful we could find a solution.
I googled, I made phone calls, I scouted out parks, I drove my husband insane looking at possible wedding venues available on a few weeks notice that cost basically nothing. It’s pretty slim pickings out then when you have such strict criteria for an impromptu wedding! It might have actually been impossible had it not been for the most amazing lady I know; my Mother. Thanks to her my first wedding was the most incredible day of my life. On May 1, 2016, she hosted my little wedding in the living room of her house (because of course it rained that day too!); my childhood home. It was everything I had NEVER imagined and more, in the best possible way.
I never imagined I’d get married in the living room of my childhood home, almost tripping on my dress walking down the same stairs I did for senior prom, wearing my little sister’s high school graduation dress, in front of just our parents and siblings, with Portillos chocolate cake and a champagne toast to top off the celebration! My Mom decorated the house with flowers that matched my wedding colors and she even got me an amazing bouquet! It was a wedding that truly reflected my husband and my personalities. It was perfect. It was MORE than perfect. It makes my heart smile every time I think of it.
I have MS to thank for this perfect moment. Now, two years later, my Mom is preparing to sell my childhood home and I have lots of great memories in that house, 31 years full of them! But hands down, Wedding Day #1, will always be at the top of my list.
“Happiness is what you make of it; always has been, always will be.” It wasn’t the Lake wedding I hoped for, or the big wedding I planned, but it was exactly the wedding I didn’t know I wanted. So thanks MS, for FINALLY doing me a solid and giving me a win!