When a brain tumor and a pandemic stand in the way of “I Do” you can still choose happiness

Exactly 1 year ago today, on August 18, 2019 Leisa and Beau were supposed to say “I Do” at their dream venue, Castle Hill Inn. Instead, this bride to be spent her intended wedding day in the hospital recovering from brain surgery. When their second date got moved out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this positive couple didn’t get the change get them down. Instead, they saw the opportunity to lean into love and appreciate every moment they get to spend together. Thank you dearly to Leisa and Beau for sharing their story with us!


“I’ve never been the type to believe in fairytales. Even as a high schooler, I never fully understood drooling over boys or the idea of soulmates. It felt so silly, so much like a waste of time to constantly wonder if he liked me, to imagine myself in a white dress walking down the aisle to a prince charming.

Perhaps, naively, I was far more obsessed with my aspirations. Don’t get me wrong, I was familiar with love, my parents a beautiful, real model of what I dreamed of, the hard work and deep reward of this favored topic of philosophers, poets, writers, and scientists. From their example, I felt like I knew love.

But it wasn’t until I met Beau that I finally understood love. Suddenly, I found myself daydreaming about a home with overgrown hydrangeas and a fireplace mantle dressed in photo frames showcasing those classic “happily ever after” moments of our wedding day. I wondered if I’d wear a veil? Would my dress be simple or intricately embroidered with lace? A silhouette fit or an A line?

With Beau, there were always questions I never had to ask. I never wondered if he would propose, if this was real. Because I knew, it just…was. The way he looked at me, the way he cared for me and made me stronger, happier, better, each and every day. The way he was patient when I was stubborn and a voice of reason when I was illogical. And the way it made me feel to be with him, to be accepted and cherished and chosen, always, as me. With him, I was home.

The night he hid my engagement ring in a pizza box and asked me to be his wife was nothing and everything like a fairytale, all at once. In fact, it was absolutely opposite of what I had imagined, yet everything I wanted, slow dancing with him to Alexa playing Frank Sinatra in my comfiest pajamas — an Ohio State sweatshirt shriveling at the collar from being worn far past its obvious expiration date — and a bare face, clean after my nightly scrubbing of all the day’s makeup residue. I was unpolished, unmanicured, and completely over the moon with child-like excitement to start calling my parents and
sister, text our entire families to make the announcement. I remember reaching for my phone and him gently grabbing my hand, insisting on one more dance to internalize, relish the moment. He said, “Once we start calling, it’s everyone’s moment. So let’s just wait, one more song, maybe a glass of champagne? Let’s just be together to keep this moment ours.”

Wedding planning quickly ensued. We chose August 18th at Castle Hill Inn in Newport, RI — the first place Beau and I had ever taken our own romantic getaway. As if from nowhere, my mom began pulling out magazine clippings that she seemed to have saved in her own closet for years and emailing me every picture she found on Pinterest that might possibly align with what I envisioned for bouquets and table settings. My future mother-in-law suggested Kleinfelds and I booked an appointment. I must have tried on
30+ dresses in total before going back to the first. When I opened up the fitting room door, my mom was an adorable mess, tears streaming down her face. Beau’s mom cried, too. But when my sister started crying, I knew I had found the one.

On July 26th, Beau left for his bachelor party in Costa Rica. I had an early appointment with an eye doctor before work, and although I wanted to cancel, I had made a new commitment to myself to stay attune to my health. My mom had recently been diagnosed with cancer and it instantly became clear how I needed to stay up-to-date, to be whole, to be strong, to be there for her. So I kissed Beau goodbye and told him to return in one piece, making him promise that he would come home on Monday exactly as I had left him — no cuts, scrapes, viruses or broken bones. He told me that August 18th was going to be the best day of his life.

What I expected to be an easy appointment turned quickly into an inconceivable nightmare. From the doctor’s office, I was directed to go to the hospital immediately for an emergency CT scan. From there, I was strapped and transported in an ambulance to another hospital for an MRI, my heart shrinking in fear. I just wanted Beau.

The next morning, two people in white lab coats walked into my hospital room and my heart collapsed into the depths of my stomach. Within moments, I was officially diagnosed with a Meningioma brain tumor. We talked for what seemed like forever, me firing questions as swiftly as my mouth could eject the words, all the while my fingers swiping the unending tears flooding my cheeks. After probably the seventh time of receiving the same answers to the same questions, I gathered the courage to finally ask — What about my wedding in two weeks? The neurosurgeon, composed yet soft, promised me he would be as careful as possible and only shave the necessary sections of my skull, but if I didn’t have the neurosurgery immediately to remove the tumor from my brain, I would likely be showing up to my wedding blind.

The instant we hung up the phone, Beau booked the first flight home and my dad immediately jumped into his car and drove 13 hours from Ohio to New York. My sister was taking her bar exam to become a lawyer and my mom was awaiting her own surgery. I was in the hospital for the entire month of August recovering from the drastic procedure (as well as an additional 25 seizures) and spent the whole month of
September rehabilitating with therapy, as well as overall healing. I am now blind in my left eye and a small section of the tumor remains in my brain (a certain percentage of the tumor could not be removed, as its elimination would risk additional damage/harm to my nerve and blood vessels), meaning that I will likely spend a great deal of my future monitoring the tumor with the help of my neurosurgeon, neurologist, optical neurologist, and endocrinologist.

To be forced into postponing our wedding and spending our “big day” in the hospital, trying desperately to reignite my short-term memory and regain my strength is not something that I would wish upon any couple. It was heartbreaking. And yet, I felt blessed to be on the road to recovery, reinvigorated with a new gratitude for life, for family, and for love.

As I started to make significant progress and show positive signs of returning to the person I once knew myself to be, Beau and I began to again become excited for our new wedding date: May 10, 2020.

A little over a month ago, our second attempt at a wedding was abruptly halted, this time due to a global pandemic — the profoundly unthinkable place we, as a world, find ourselves to collectively confront. This time, the cancellation was attributed to a reason that was bigger than us — much bigger. An unsettling circumstance of heavy-hearted uncertainty. Subjecting our loved ones and jeopardizing the safety of our families, our vendors, the venue, the world, was so trivial in the grand scheme of things, and associating our special day with that surmount sense of fear was just not an option.

However, I must admit, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t devastated, remembering all that we had been through to finally reach the cusp of our vows. I spent May 10th imagining what Beau and I would have looked like, standing before our entire family in front of the gorgeous Castle Hill arbor, clocking the beginning of the ceremony, the start of cocktail hour, and anticipating the toasts that would have been shared at our reception. I repeatedly imagined the smile I had fantasized, over and over, overcome his face while I walked down the aisle, to him.

Regardless, I still felt thankful. We were healthy and safe and in love. That night, Beau sat with me on our bed and asked me if it would be okay if he started referring to me as his “wife” as opposed to his “bride,” because that better resembled who I was in his heart. How could I not be filled with gratitude?

Of course, Beau and I wanted a wedding and will still be in absolute adoration for the celebration if it comes (prepare for a wild party), but truthfully, at the end of the day, the depth of our love, tested through so many unpredictable, perturbed times, IS the fairytale. My prince is a punk rocker and has stood, anchored by my side through the toughest, scariest, most severely unforeseen moments of my life, again and again, making me feel always like his center, his universe. Sure, I may never get the exact celebratory moment I once dreamed of, but I can state, without a single breath of hesitation, that I am with the man I always dreamed of.

If I’ve learned anything in the past five years, it’s that love — an inexplicable, yet tangible, tender force that when strong enough, truly cannot be smothered. A wedding, in so many ways, feels like a fairytale. But Beau has taught me, unknowingly, purely by example, that real magic lives in our everyday life, in the beauty staring directly at us at all times, often in the crevices of routine normalcy, in plain sight; in the small, conjunctive moments that weave each of these minutes into sequence that, when noticed, make us feel complete. Simple moments like snuggling on the couch or hearing his laugh that make the ordinary extraordinary.

And that, this, us, right here and now, is the realest fairytale I could have ever imagined.

To all of our family and friends, thank you for your patience, understanding, and profound support throughout these challenging times. We love you all so, so much.

To all of the brides who currently feel hurt, sad, even betrayed that their special day was stolen, please know that the celebration will come, but the gift, your personal fairytale, is still right beside you.”


 

Leisa and Beau’s engagement photos got postponed due to COVID but the couple did an impromptu photo session in their backyard with a phone on a tripod and the perfect barefoot backyard slow dancing. In case you needed a reminder today, every moment we get to spend with the ones we love is precious. Embrace the moments you get and take every opportunity to show love.

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