On a Wednesday, she was officially diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer.On the Friday that followed, she officially agreed to marry the man kneeling in front of her.“When you dream of your perfect proposal, it’s not exactly the situation you dream of, but at that moment it was perfect,” said Carley Cannon, 29, of Hurst, who plans to marry her fiance, Kurt Huie, 30, on Oct. 18, 2014.If their original plan had worked out the way they’d talked about, even before the official engagement, they would be saying their vows next month.Instead, Cannon has spent the months since Huie’s proposal navigating the physical and emotional challenges of breast cancer — challenges that, while difficult for a patient at any age, are particularly life-altering for someone diagnosed so young.Her diagnosis came in February. On the 21st of that month, she wrote on her blog, “One week ago today I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I am only 28; this is not supposed to happen to women my age. I was focusing on planning my wedding in the fall, dreaming of children soon after that. Not cancer, that was never in my plan.” Rounds of chemotherapy followed. A radical double mastectomy happened less than a month ago. Soon she’ll be starting a month of radiation treatments, followed by a series of reconstructive surgeries. Huie has been by her side for all of it.“He’s had to dress my wounds,” she said, “and when I couldn’t move my arms, he moved them. My fiance and I have already been through so many challenges that a lot of married couples haven’t. … We’ve already been through ‘in sickness and in health.’”Particular fears of a young womanOne challenge that scares Cannon more than almost any other is the effect chemotherapy will have on her reproductive health.“I was totally ready to be a mother.” she said. She and Huie were ready to start trying for children as early as their honeymoon. “We found out that couldn’t happen, not immediately, and it’s been a hard subject to talk about because a lot of my friends are having babies now.”The couple aren’t losing hope, though. They’ve invested in in-vitro fertilization.On March 14, she blogged, “I started chemo the day after my egg harvesting, which made last week a whirl wind of appointments and procedures and treatments. Since then I have had a hard time with my diagnosis. Before last Thursday, I was so focused on the IVF process that I almost forgot about the cancer. Now that I am not shuffling to ultrasounds and bloodwork every morning, I have had a lot of time to think about what cancer really means. I am scared and anxious and mad about so many things. I know I can get through this, but it is going to be a long difficult road that I never dreamed I would have to take.” If they are are able to have children, she said, she hopes their strength will positively impact their children’s lives.“I hope our children can make it through anything because we did,” she said.But the costs of in-vitro fertilization treatments combined with the costs of medication not covered by their insurance have forced them to dip into their wedding savings fund.“We’re making cutbacks, yes, but our wedding won’t be any less spectacular.” she said.In some ways, it might even be more spectacular. Planning a wedding while fighting breast cancer has shifted some of her nuptial priorities. “It’s changed my thoughts on what really matters in a wedding,” she said. “Before, I just wanted to have the biggest event, a wedding that blows my mind. Now I just want my friends, my family, to eat good food and to dance to good music.”Besides the worries about health and children, there are the 29-year-old’s fears as a young professional. Carley put her career on hold, taking a leave of absence from her human resources position at Infigen Energy. She said she worries that taking time off this early in her career might impact her success in the future.What helps, she said, is the overwhelmingly supportive response she continues to receive from her co-workers, as well as Huie’s colleagues at American Appraisal, where he works as an industrial appraiser.Sharing her storyFor every fear, Cannon always seems to find the silver lining.The one fear she doesn’t have? Being alone. When she first received her diagnosis in February, Cannon went to a few support groups for breast cancer patients. But she found those experiences overwhelming, because was still coming to terms with her diagnosis.Sharing her story with close friends and family members helped, but repeating it over and over again began to wear on her.So instead, she started blogging it online in a sort of public diary where she could share updates, feelings, and fears with her loved ones.Not long after, her writing found a larger audience.Her first post, the one written a week after her diagnosis, brought forward dozens of breast cancer survivors wanting to share the strength they found on their own journeys and help her find her own, she said.Her blog, www. carleychanel.com, captures vulnerable details of her journey, from diagnosis in February to losing her hair in April.Cannon, who previously had long blond hair, said she’s always been proud of it, recalling in one blog post how a school lunch lady used to rave about her long, flowing locks.Later in that post, she wrote: “I wanted to have long beautiful curls with my wedding dress. I actually had a nightmare about a month before I was diagnosed that I had [to] cut my hair off right before my wedding. I woke up in tears…”In May, that nightmare came true, she wrote, when she went bald. She had a hard time embracing it, she said, even though the wigs were fun to play with, as were the fun dyes that she and her mom used to color her hair before they shaved her head.Ongoing chemotherapy treatments have made regular blog posting difficult for Cannon, but she said she hopes to do more with her blog as her body acclimates to chemotherapy.“I enjoy it. It’s a kind of therapy for me.” she said. “Even if nobody read it, it would still feel good to write about it for myself.”Cannon said she is grateful that with all of her blog followers, her friends, and her family, she will never have to go through cancer alone.And of course, she’s grateful for her fiance, who’s helped her let go of worrying that he would leave.“For all the fears that come with facing cancer, him proposing two days later gave me the feeling that he wasn’t leaving,” she said.For his part, Huie doesn’t want congratulations or praise for proposing after the diagnosis. For him, the timing of the proposal was perfect, because he wanted it to represent the kind of “unwavering commitment” he feels for her. “Leaving was never an option,” he said. “I know for a fact that if the roles were reversed, that Carley would stand by me without hesitation.”The couple find strength by looking ahead, and 2014 will be a big year for them. Aside from wedding planning, the couple will be taking a trip to Europe that they had to reschedule after Cannon was diagnosed. Then there’s another very important trip to plan — their honeymoon. The location is to be determined, but palm trees and tropical sunsets are a must.What about a gown?In the meantime, breast cancer isn’t stopping Cannon from enjoying bridal-planning bliss. This weekend, she will attend the 2013 Brides Against Breast Cancer Nationwide Tour of Gowns at Feragne Villa in Hurst. The expo lets brides explore hundreds of gown options — new and consigned, big-name designers and vintage couture — and the proceeds generated give back to cancer patients. BABC says it will contribute $2 million to help those impacted by cancer this year.Margo Rey, a local chart-topping singer-songwriter and breast cancer survivor, is the organization’s national ambassador.Most of the gowns at the expo range in price from $99 to $799, with designer dresses reaching about $3,900. The organization also accepts wedding dress and veil donations at the event; for more information, visit www.bridesagainstbreastcancer.org.Brides attending the $30 VIP reception on Friday will get a first look at the dresses, as well as light cocktail fare, entertainment from Rey, a chance to win prizes and a complimentary makeover and photo shoot if they purchase a dress that day.On Saturday, attendees are invited to explore the racks for a $5 tax-deductible donation.Cannon said that for her, Saturday will be a “cancer vacation day.”“I’m just excited to be there and to be a bride, more than a cancer survivor.” she said. “I don’t mind being both because being recognized for both shows others that you can have cancer and still do so many things. But some days I want to say, ‘I don’t have cancer today.’ I call those cancer vacation days, when I get to live life normally.”She said she will look at many dresses at the expo but probably won’t purchase one yet. The cancer will continue to change her body in the coming months, perhaps even up until her wedding date. Her gown may have to be rush ordered, and there may be last-minute alterations or backups.But she’s not deterred. On Saturday, she’ll be eyeing the dresses and paying attention to which designers fit with her vision. She wants a ballroom gown, princess-style, maybe with lace sleeves.She wants her wedding colors to match the warmth of fall with deep shades of purple, maroon, and perhaps blush pink — a fitting color for a breast cancer survivor.She wants Mason jars and simple country chic at her venue, Chandler’s Gardens, just north of McKinney.And she wants her story, her marriage to Huie, and her future to give others hope — to show that you can still live the life you want while beating cancer.
Brides Against Breast Cancer Nationwide Tour of Gowns
• VIP ‘Unveiling of the Gowns’ Reception, 6-10 p.m. Friday; $30
• Charity wedding gown sale and bridal show, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; $5 tax-deductible donation
• Feragne Villa
755 Mid Cities Blvd., Hurst