This story originally appeared on Offbeat Bride.
By Jordan Kraft
“Will you postpone the wedding until after your cancer is gone?” my friend asked the week I was re-diagnosed with lymphoma.
My response was so feral it surprised even me: “Honey, come hell or high water, I am motherloving having this wedding, and you better motherloving be there because I don’t know how long I’ve got left.”
I felt a deep conviction about this until the next day, when I stepped out of the dressing room at the tailor’s, swathed in the gorgeous rose-gold of my wedding gown. I had never felt so beautiful in all my born days. And then I had the sickening realization that my hair would be gone by the time the wedding rolled around, a fact I understood, but had not internalized. Memories of the first time I had cancer at 21 flooded in – memories of feeling ugly. Every. Single. Day.
As I sobbed openly on the little dais in front of the three floor-length mirrors, Binh, the head tailor at All Fit Tailoring in Boston, comforted me while her father ran to get me a tissue. Binh told me that in China, the wedding pictures are always taken months before the wedding. Why not just take the pictures now while I still had hair? Between sobs, I explained that I had already started chemo and my hair would likely come out in just a few days.
Binh and her mother worked furiously for the next 36 hours, racing against the death of my hair follicles. As she labored, I called The Black Tux and explained my predicament. For no charge, they overnighted the very same suit my husband would wear at the actual wedding.
The day Binh finished my dress, my husband’s friends were in town for his bachelor party. One sprinted to a flower shop and got me a gorgeous bouquet, another picked up the dress, and a third took pictures of us in our most natural habitat: a local Boston library.
That evening, my hair was coming out by the fistful. As I sat under shady trees in my back yard, my husband and his friends lovingly shaved it all off.
As the wedding approached, I found a beautiful wig. But it didn’t feel like me. I yearned to find a way to use my baldness to artfully recognize the presence of my cancer on my wedding day.
I told my mom this, after a tough day of chemo, she helped me prototype a floral headdress using false flowers, string, and a silk scarf. It wouldn’t stay put, and we despaired of having a headdress that could make it through the ceremony.
But I shared photos of our impractical prototype with my florist, Rachel Mann. She “MacGyvered” a heck of a solution: The day before the wedding, she gutted a hardhat to get at the harness on the inside, wrapped that in chicken wire, filled that with wet florist’s foam, and stuck a bajillion flowers in it that matched my bouquet. Underneath it, I wore a delicate peach scarf so the wires wouldn’t poke me. For the entire ceremony, I felt like a queen.
The headdress weighed ten pounds, so as soon as we transitioned to the reception, I went to my gorgeous dressing room within the Lionsgate Event Center in Lafayette, Colorado, and took it off. I put on a soft marsala head scarf, and pinned it in place with a crystal ponytail clip my mom had given me. That way, I could jive on the dance floor as much as I liked without the scarf falling off.
After a few hours, my headscarf was soaked with sweat, so I took it off, revealing the henna birds and flowers my husband had painted from the top of my head to the small of my back. Sweat rolled down my bald, decorated head until we shut down the dance floor.
Cancer has taken a lot of things from me: my health, my safety, my time, my hair. Cancer has also given me an occasion to make beauty from pain. On my wedding day, I was a piece of living art created by talented craftspeople and dear friends. Now, eight months later, my cancer is under control and my hair is coming back. My new hair is beautiful, but my wedding wasn’t less beautiful in its absence.
Learn more about living with cancer as a young adult.