"I thought I was going in for a check-up. I didn't expect to hear that it was cancer," Dede explained through her strong, syrupy, Southern twang. "I went to the appointment alone because we all thought it was just fibrosis. When they said it was breast cancer, I was shocked. The doctors talked for about an hour but I didn't hear anything after 'cancer.' It was kind of like Charlie Brown's teacher. All of the words were jumbled and nothing made sense."
I met Dede through The Bert Show, a local Atlanta morning radio show. Our initial wedding planning meeting was during one of her chemotherapy treatments since she wanted to keep her mind off cancer and on the planning. "You know, life doesn't stop because you're engaged." I laughed when Dede quipped, "life doesn't stop because you have cancer!" That became apparent while trying to schedule the venue tour, dress fitting, and the meetings with the florist around chemo treatments and weekly activities with Dede and Stephen's now blended family.
During their recent engagement shoot, Dede, Stephen and I talked about the fears they both faced. I asked her if she was worried that Stephen would leave her after her diagnosis. She said she was scared that it would be too much for him to take on but he reassured her then and again right after she mentioned this to me, that he was in this for the long-haul. Stephen, with his reassuring smile, almost seemed shocked that that was even a concern. Dede talked about being worried that her children would view her as the "lazy mom" because she is rendered incapacitated days after her chemo treatments. As an adult, I'm understanding of the limitations that illness can bring but when I realized that children don't always understand those things, it broke my heart.
When I think of Dede, I see that she is every woman. I think about the women I know who have been touched in some way by breast cancer. I think of Duette, Liz, and Ellie... I think of the lives they have affected. I think of Niloufar, Alisha, Lua and Niya. I'm sure you can think of a sister, mom, friend or co-worker who is fighting the same battle. There are more than 2.8 million women with a history of breast cancer in the U.S. in 2016 alone. This includes women currently being treated and women who have finished treatment. With a double mastectomy and her wedding scheduled for later this summer, Dede's journey is far from over. We are with them and now we are with you, Dede.
Thank you to all of the vendors who made Dede and Stephen's engagement shoot possible:
Wedding Planner: My Simply Perfect Events
Photography: Loyall Hart of Ross Oscar Knight Photography
Videography: Eric Blanks of Eric Blanks Media
Venue: The Swan House at The Atlanta History Center
Dede's Gown: Wedding Angels Bridal Boutique
Stephen's Tuxedo: The Modern Gent
Makeup: Paula Xiong
Bouquet: Some Theme To Talk About