Cancer steers your whole life off course

A wedding at Arthur McElhone Reserve, image via via Google Images

I was supposed to get married this weekend.

Instead, I’m having my fifth round of chemo.

It’s the second dose of docetaxel and because I know how bad it will be, I’ll be apprehensively waiting for the pain to kick in.

Instead of the last minute frenzy of making sure the flowers will be delivered, I have something blue and stressing over whether it will rain – to add insult to injury, it will be a perfect, clear 28C Sydney spring day on Saturday – I’m making sure that all my drugs are well stocked and ready to go; endone, ibuprofen, paracetamol plus epsom salts for long baths.

I was never big on getting married. While other girls fantasised about the big white dress, I dreamed about travelling and independence. I wanted to get out and see things, collect experiences, do stuff and I always thought a husband would get in the way.

In the fairytale version of girl-meets-boy, my relationship would have made me see the folly of my ways, but for the first few years of my relationship my view didn’t change. This was never going to last, he wasn’t my type, he was just going to be a chapter in my life.

There was never a lightning bolt moment, just the slow realisation that I loved him and I wanted to be with him. He also wanted to see things, collect experiences and do stuff, so why wouldn’t do it together?

A few months in, before those three little words were exchanged, a girlfriend asked me why we were still together.

“He grew on me,” I said.

“Like a fungus?”

Yeah, slowly and stealthily until I realised that I didn’t want a life that didn’t include him.

Fungus isn’t the most romantic way to describe your partner, but I’m not talking about your run of the mill button mushroom. He’s a truffle; rare, hard to find, what everyone is searching for; kind, supportive, good cook, great cuddler and smells fabulous – even without cologne, but add Spice Bomb into the mix and it’s a whole other level.

We’ve been together for eight years and although we talked about the big, life building stuff like kids and buying property, neither of us was too fussed about marriage.

But then our friends started getting hitched and watching the brides dance with their fathers shifted things for me. My dad has metastatic cancer, there’s no cure, it’s a matter of months or years rather than decades and the sheer force of his mortality hit me.

I want to have the father daughter dance, I want him to walk me down the aisle because I know that it’s important to him and I want to have that memory of us.

I gave the celebrant clear instructions that under no circumstances was she to mention the words “give away.” I am not an item to be shifted from one man to another, I moved out of home at 21 so I would have been appalled if The Boy wanted to ask my father for permission or wanted to have the traditional phrasing. Hell, I wasn’t even planning on taking his surname.

There was no big proposal, rather a series of conversations where we decided that this is what we wanted to do.

The plan was a casual reception in one of our favourite parks, maybe with a Dr Seuss reading, and a party rather than a formal reception. And we wanted it to be in our neighbourhood, so it was a celebration that felt like us.

We locked everything in before we announced it, an afternoon ceremony at Arthur McElhone Reserve overlooking Elizabeth Bay then a reception at Mad Pizza in Surry Hills for 90 people. Don’t laugh, it was a great space, good food, lots of booze, room for a DJ and you could party until 1am, they wouldn’t kick you out at 11pm. We’d planned a round of espresso martinis for all at midnight to keep everyone kicking on and instead of a cake, they were happy to create a tower of ricotta cannoli, my favourite. It was exactly what we wanted.

One of the prettiest parks in Sydney and part of our dog-walking route
One of the prettiest parks in Sydney and part of our dog-walking route. Image via via Google Images

But then the venue called. Their landlord was cancelling the lease and they wouldn’t be open in October. We were devastated, it was a crisis of epic proportions.

And then I was diagnosed with cancer two days later.

Life may be what happens when you have other plans, but it sure has a fucked up sense of humor.

2 thoughts on “Cancer steers your whole life off course

  1. Such a powerful and heart-breaking post Renata.
    Thinking of you and sending you lots of positive wishes as you make your way through this horrible time and move on to a bright future ahead xx


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