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Things were looking bright for Larissa Podermanski, who got engaged in 2015 to the love of her life at a Mariah Carey concert and was getting ready to launch her own nonprofit.
Two weeks after the surgery, she was having intense pain near her chest and along her back. Doctors ordered a CT scan. And she got the devastating news that, in fact, she had stage 4, non-curable metastatic breast cancer. Podermanski tried to absorb the news.
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"I was also very focused on getting married. But as I tried to plan my wedding I had overwhelming liver pain and nearly collapsed in the mall. So the cancer was always at the forefront, no matter how hard I tried to ignore it," she said.
Suddenly, every second mattered, and Podermanski got married in six days on the beach in Old Lyme, Connecticut.
"Everything that unfolded in those six days was a blessing and I was so grateful. Even if you’re not dealing with metastatic breast cancer, remind yourself how precious life is, since nothing in life is guaranteed. My life events provided me with a big reality check and the most important part of getting married was to have a special day with my soon-to-be-husband," says Podermanski.
For her, it was about the day, not the endless details. She and her fiancé brainstormed which friends would be willing to help them on such short notice.
"We didn’t expect a big wedding to happen in six days, but have faith in your community – in our case, they made the big things happen! Although no one wants to have metastatic breast cancer, the urgency of my situation made it easier to ask for help with the things we knew we couldn’t afford," said Podermanski.
People rallied around the couple. A high school friend's mom is a florist, and she donated the wedding bouquets. The photographer shot the wedding for free.
"My longtime hairdresser, herself a breast cancer survivor, donated her time to do my hair and makeup and help my bridesmaids if they needed it. My uncle and his son were the DJs for the reception," said Podermanski.
Her health put everything in perspective, says Podermanski, and she kept her eyes on the prize: walking down the aisle and enjoying her magical day.
"You realize that simple can be good! Luckily, I had already chosen a wedding dress, and the scars from my double mastectomy were healing well, so the dress was altered and ready to go in time for the wedding. For the bridesmaids, I chose a color and the bridesmaids each bought a dress in that color in different styles," she said.
Today, Podermanski says she feels "grateful" for everything, but "physically I struggle with an achy body, liver pain, constant fatigue, numbness in my hands and feet, and the constant anxiety of how long my future might be."