Sitting in a hospital bed two weeks ago, I was convinced I wasn’t going to Engage.  I shifted my weight a little in church, feeling a small pain in my stomach. I thought to myself, Maybe it’s the Indian food from last night. Maybe it’s the bread and grape juice from communion. It’ll go away.

It didn’t.

I texted Ari hesitantly:  I think… I need to go to the ER.  Something is wrong with me. Now, I am extremely stubborn about my health.  I have a high pain tolerance and haven’t been to an emergency room in 5 years.  I’d rather suffer than take pain killers and or go anywhere near a hospital.

I got home, barely able to walk at that point, and fell down on the couch shivering.  I couldn’t help but think of Jeff‘s appendicitis story that he told at the beginning of each MTH2010.  The chills kept growing, fever came on like wildfire and within 7 minutes we were on the way to Ari’s second home.

When your husband does nothing but read CT’s, MRI’s and deal with trauma all day long and he looks worried, it’s easy for a girl to panic.  I cried.  It hurt to cry.  I stopped crying.  Not only did I have a huge event that weekend, but I had to go to Cayman in 7 days.  Miss EngageNo way. Yes, my mind when straight to work.  Ari told me to be calm and not focus on work for a second.  He called all the docs and I stumbled into a hospital bed and a gown.  I also started to slip into more serious pain.  I told Ari to call Katharine and Emily and prepare them to take over for one of our busiest weeks to date.

I’m not sure if it was Ari’s sage advice or the morphine they injected in me, but I stopped thinking about work for a moment.  I just prayed.  I prayed for the lady in the bed next to me, too.  I couldn’t see her, but she sounded like she was in her 90′s, in a lot of pain, and very alone.   I wanted to ask the nurse to push my bed up next to hers so I could hold her hand and pray with her, but a flood of surgeons quickly squelched my spirit.  Surgery?  Surgery!? As I was poked and prodded –while dazed from pain killers that were having very adverse affects on my sensitive body– another nurse started an IV.  It all happened so fast.  The combination of stress, needles, and the word surgery quickly took the blood from my head and I was out cold.  For someone who relishes control, passing out is by far the worst feeling on earth.  It’s not a laughing gas dreamy relaxed feeling.  It feels like I am at the end of a marathon and someone just clotheslined me.

I slowly woke.  In a dreamy state, I looked at a picture of a taco in a magazine my the bedside and whispered, “that looks good.”  I barely remember this, but Ari says at that point he ordered me a CT scan.   Yeah, I was confused.  A taco looks good and I need a CT??! Explanation coming…

I was wheeled to another room.  I don’t remember much of this part.  Ari stood at the helm in front of a half-dozen monitors (I only know this because the story was recounted to me by Kyle who was in NC to shoot a wedding and had taken a taxi to the hospital).  I had downed a jug of yummy contrast and before I knew it they were injecting dye into my arm and sending me through the beast of a machine.

They wheeled me back.  An hour passed.  More pain meds.  Then…  silence.

While I waited on the results, sweaty from fever, cold the next second from chills, the movie in my mind of the last two weeks played.

Ari had been on night call.  This means he worked from the time I left the office (7pm) and got home from work when I started work (8am).  We would see each other for 20 minutes at the most, like two ships passing in the night.  Previously, this has been the worst time for us.  When I did see him, he was irritable from sleep-deprivation.  I wasn’t much help either.  I’d avoid him during call weeks as to not stir the pot.  I would try to plan travel around his call schedule.

These two weeks were also production weeks for my last two weddings that I’ve had on the books for eons… read #7 on this post.  The weddings were back to back, both huge, both full production.  Needless to say, I was a little busy.

But, despite all of this on my plate, I vowed that this time – this wedding season and this call time – would be completely different.  I deep cleaned the house, did the laundry, bought gifts, deep cleaned again, had the carpets shampooed, planted new flowers, obsessively organized, cleaned his closet, his car, stocked the fridge, wrote love notes, love emails, love texts, ran a bazillion errands, paid bills, and did whatever I could think of to make his life smooth while he was a night owl.  110% worth all the effort.  One morning, I woke up to this card:

Lara, I wanted to say thank you for going out of your way to be so sweet this past week while I have been working nights.  I realize I haven’t been as grateful as I should, but I really do appreciate everything you do.  I’m also really happy to see you not so stressed during this tough week before your weddings.  I think it is a measure of your growth as a business owner.  I love you a lot and am excited to spend more time with you.  Ari

It’s that last part, about my growth as a business owner, that got me.  One reason I love him so much is that when he says something, he means it.  He never tells me something just to make me feel good.  Yes, this can cause trouble for someone like me who craves encouraging reassurance, but it has ultimately helped me to be stronger and more independent.  Last summer was the most stressful time of my life thus far.  The magazine had launched that January, I already had a ton of weddings on the books that I would never think of giving up, loads of travel, speaking engagements, photo shoots, and no concept of how to balance it all or give any of it up. This year was different. I was… gasp… relaxed!

So, just 10 hours before my hospital visit, wedding #1 went off without a hitch.  It was perfect thanks to intense pre-planning and my amazing (understatement) team.  Exhausted, I still pried myself out of bed in the morning for church.  I needed some Jesus in my life.  I needed to sing my heart out.

That morning we did something unorthodox and watched a video called “Rain”.  The message:  Things don’t always work out the way we want them to, or the way we think they will.  Sometimes we don’t even see it coming.  We get hit with some form of pain out of nowhere leaving us feeling desperate and helpless.  That’s the way life is.  Still, it makes us wonder how God can let these things happen to us.  How God can just stand by and watch us suffer.  Where is God when it really hurts?  Maybe God is actually closer to us than we think.  Maybe it’s when we’re in these situations, where everything seems to be falling apart, that God gets an opportunity to remind us of how much He really loves us.

I could blame the following on the morphine, but I think it was much more powerful than that.  For some reason, I pictured grandpa Cecil in a cotton field in Alabama, where he grew up.  He would go farm to farm selling milk, flour, and handing out Bibles.  Sometimes that meant trekking miles and miles between houses.  To pass the time on the long journey, he would sing hymns.  His singing lead him to become the song leader at church and later an elder and preacher.  I found myself humming one of his favorites “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” when the nurses, Ari and Kyle left my bedside for a moment.  As the melody washed over me, I started to feel peace… the peace that passes all understanding.  I knew I was going to be OK.

Ari came in with a solemn look on his face.  “The good news is…”  Am I the only person whose stomach sinks when that phrase is uttered?  It just means there is not-so-good-news.  “The good news is that you don’t have to have surgery.”   What!?  I was relieved but at the same time angry.  I couldn’t imagine a pill or an apple a day would kill this pain.  I couldn’t walk or sit up.  I needed to get better pronto.  Not that I wanted to have surgery… please refer to previous mention of passing out.  After 3 doctors and the ER chief told me that I most likely had appendicitis, I was just very confused.  “You have a mass… a benign tumor about the size of a golf ball.  It has outgrown its blood supply and is dying.  As it dies, it is releasing toxins into your body that are causing you extreme pain.”  I cried.  “You will most likely have this recur for the rest of your life.”  I cried again.  “When you said the taco looked good, I knew you had an appetite which means no appendicitis.  You never eat tacos.”  I smiled, trying not to laugh and induce more pain.  Ari was so kind as he gently explained everything to me.  I couldn’t even begin to express how proud I was of him in that moment for doing what he does best –as seemingly simple as it was– to help me.  I could barely speak, but I didn’t have to say anything.  I know he saw the gratitude in my eyes and felt it in the grip of my hand.  He pulled out a piece of paper and tried to draw a diagram of what was happening.  I felt a new kind of love for him in that moment.  We’ve been married for 4 1/2 years now and I’ve never had the chance to see him work.  (Sorry, baby…  I wasn’t listening to you as you were explaining and drawing.  I was thinking all of these nice things about you instead.  I’m pulling the morphine card again here.)  Visiting him in the ER was an unexpected blessing and a turning point in my respect for him. I am in awe of what he has on his plate every day… far more serious cases than mine.  He deals with cancer all day long.  He has to tell people they may not make it.  He has to diagnose the worst kind of incurable pain.  Then, he comes home to me and I wax poetic about brides, emails and politics.  He never says to me, “Babe, I deal with cancer all day.  You’re problems are not that big of a deal.”  He should.  I love you, Ari.  Thank you for being you and for your unending kindness and heart of gold. 

I was taken home with enough pain meds to put a cattle farm out, put in bed, and watched.  They don’t tell you how long it will take for it to go away.  They just say “self-medicate until it feels better.”  Fun, right? I like concrete solutions. This did not seem like one. Come to find out, my mother and grandmother have experienced the same thing.  I am not one for pain pills, so I took one and tossed the rest.  I would rather be in pain than not be able to make decisions.  That’s just me. Luckily, after about 4 days, the pain started to subside.

I was so fearful that I wouldn’t be able to do wedding #2 that week, but –again– thanks to my brilliant team, it was beautiful.  We all joked about me coordinating the ceremony from a gurney.  Not funny.  If you are in weddings, you know what the wedding hangover is like… swollen feet and 5 showers wouldn’t make you feel so fresh and so clean.  And then there was Cayman the day after this wedding. I can handle a lot, but I couldn’t imagine –after being in a hospital bed just days before– doing a huge wedding then getting on a plane to an island where I’d be surrounded by the who’s who in weddings.  Hello! Slow. Down. Life! Engage is the kind of event that I felt I had to be at the top of my game for.  I felt the pressure caving in on me.  I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me or see that I wasn’t at my best.  I didn’t want to seem unsocial or distracted.  I just didn’t want to talk about it.  But, as I reflected on my past Engage experiences, I was overwhelmed by the thought that it is an incredible privilege to go and even if I got sick or was in pain, I wasn’t going to die. I’d kick myself if I didn’t push through.  I did not have to be perfect. I got encouraging messages from my soon-to-be room mates, Jasmine Star and Harmony Walton, who I was really looking forward to spending quality time with.  So, I started to go through the “packing motions” as best I could.  I know them well.  Suitcase out, pack the travel size toiletries, undies, socks, bras, clothes, Luna Bars and Greens Plus Bars, Jay Robb, green tea, make the bed, get the computer, charge my extra iPhone battery, take out the trash, rinse and repeat.  Even 3 hours before my flight I still hadn’t checked in.  Fear of not being my best was holding me back.

Then, a note from Ari that morning : I hope paradise is wonderful and don’t forget to look around and be grateful for the opportunity to be in such a place.  And remember to cut yourself some slack. You are only a person who can do so much and be so many things to so many different people. Just be who you can be and if it is not enough for some, then they are asking too much. I love you.

I pulled the trigger and checked in for my flight.  Now do you see why I married him?  Thank you, Ari (and so many great friends), for encouraging me to go and just be me.

My Engage!10 Grand Cayman MegaPost is up next… so excited to share what turned out to be the best week ever.  Thanks for listening, friends.



images :: smilebooth …taken about 12 hours before my ER visit. It was such a fun night!

P.S. Congrats to the randomly chosen winner of the FujiFilm Instax Mini, Joe Anna Haydon! Email me your address and I’ll send your new camera right over.

P.S.S. Happy 38th anniversary to my parents! I love you both more than words. Thank you for inspiring us to love deeply every day and enjoy the best parts of life- family, friends, great food and beautiful sunsets.

P.S.S.S. I’m getting on a plane in a few hours. Excited about a little surprise weekend fun. More to come…

And yes, if you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know I have to give something away. Just have to. Why not?!
Leave a comment on this post telling me about the person in your life who has encouraged you the most and win a copy of one of my favorite books.

Show Comments (43)
  1. Charity @ A Charmed Event

    Beautiful. I could read it 100 times.

  2. Anna Kim

    Wow–I am so glad you’re okay. This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for reminding me to keep things in perspective. What a sweet, sweet man of yours!

  3. Gianna SanFilippo

    What a sweet story, I hope you’re feeling back to normal. As supportive as my hubby is, I always feel encouraged by my youngest brother. He is always reminding me of how far I’ve come and how even when I stumble he looks up to me. He’s my biggest cheerleader.

  4. Jules Bianchi

    I’m so glad you’re okay, Lara…and I’m so glad I got the chance to meet you at Engage! I hope to have the opportunity to hang out with you more at another one.

  5. Lisa Green

    An insightful post that no doubt reminds all of us that life is fragile and to stop and smell the roses every once in a while. I am happy that you are feeling better and will get well. Warm wishes for a speedy and pain-less recovery.

    • Lara

      Thank you Lisa (and all)! I’m feeling 100% now. So grateful for all of your encouragement!

  6. Khadine

    Yet again you brought tears to my eyes. Lara, Ari is so right. “You are only a person who can do so much and be so many things to so many different people. Just be who you can be and if it is not enough for some, then they are asking too much.” I hope you keep that in mind and keep that note close to you on a daily basis. So happy to hear that you are feeling better.
    You don’t me or anyone else to tell you how much you lucked out on getting a good man. :-) Way to got Ari!!!

    Take care of yourself Lara.

  7. Khadine

    Oh and the person that inspires me the most is my husband. He is seriously the light and joy of me. I will not be where I am today spiritually and emotionally (stronger) if it wasn’t for him. :-)

  8. Erin Faye

    I am glad you are felling better! How scary!

    My mom is my biggest fan and encourages me all the time to take chances and follow my dreams.

  9. Jasmine*

    Love love love…love….this post! :)

  10. cara

    I can’t thank you enough for sharing this — though of course I’m sorry you’ll continue to have these pains, it’s so uplifting to read how you and your hubs work through the ordinary craziness that is your lives, to see how each of you show your love, what you each do to try to be good for the other, and of course the sweet notes your husband wrote! Can I also say how uplifting it is that you’ve discussed prayer, not in a blase way, but so matter-of-factly, almost nonchalantly — I mean, without making it a big deal, but that it is? Wish I were functioning better to make this make more sense — but *that* style is also incredible to me. Thanks for sharing *all* of this!

  11. Leika

    This brought tears to my eyes and struck such a chord with me. I’m dealing with a long-term injury, and actually broke down and cried when they told me I didn’t need surgery, because I just wanted the pain to be over. Like your Ari, my husband was my great encourager. He reminded me to count my blessings (I WILL be able to walk without pain one day), but accept that it’s ok not to be as strong as I think I *should* be right now (and will be again!).
    Thank you so much for sharing, and glad you’re feeling better!

  12. brooke @ claremont road

    I’m so glad to hear that you’re okay — what a scary thing to go through. That husband of yours sounds like a keeper!

    My husband has also been the person to encourage me the most. When I decided to quit my job and start a business with colleagues, he was 100% behind me even though it means a very tight budget for us and not being able to buy a house for a while longer. He says that seeing how much happier I am is worth the sacrifice. Awwwww.

  13. Emily Ley

    Ah, this post made me cry. Its so wholehearted. Love!

  14. Heidi @ Zenadia

    Thank you so much for sharing this incredibly inspiring post. Sometimes it’s hard to slow down and not let everyday stress interfere with life. I’m so glad you are feeling better, and glad you got to attend Engage!! Can’t wait to read your post about it. =)

  15. Wendy

    You never fail to be inspiring Lara! You, little-big lady ROCK in my eyes!

  16. Jenni Bailey

    Beautiful post, Lara. The world could use more Lara and Aris. Glad you are feeling better.

  17. Lisa Jeffries

    My last few weeks have been much like yours… I’m pretty sure I’ve worked around 15 hours per day this week while Nick has been in New Hampshire. I cannot for one second imagine being totally knocked off my feet like this… so thank you for sharing… reminding us that we’re all HUMAN.

    So, for the person who has encouraged me the most? It’s certainly not an individual. It’s Dad, Mom, and Little Sis. Dad and Mom have never once said “No” to the business loans I need here and there to bring big ideas to life and my sister does not get on airplane without meeting someone, telling them about me, and bringing me their business card. Nothing compares to their support. NOTHING!

    Hope you are feeling much better, and more importantly, I hope you find a way to stay in control of that pesky tumor and keep on keepin’ on!

    PS – Take some comfort in the fact that while you may have to deal with this for the rest of your life, at least that could certainly be a full, long life. Kudos to Ari for treating people every day to who may be hearing that awful word, “cancer”.

  18. Lisa Jeffries

    PS – There are over 400 items in my Google Reader. This is the ONLY post over 4 sentences that I committed time to reading tonight… just in case you need a tad more positive encouragement ;-)

  19. Monica Smith


    I am a firm believer that God knows who and what we need right when we need them. He gave you Ari because He knew you would need someone to hold you up when you couldn’t do it yourself. He has done that with your staff as well as your family and friends. You are blessed!

    As for me, my best friend Jose has been the cheerleader in my corner. We met on 9/11/01 and have been close ever since that fateful day. We have been to hell and back during our friendship and no matter what, we have always been there for each other with kind, truthful words of encouragement and love. When we met, we promised that we would always be there for each other and that we would give the other our last dime.

    God has a funny way of brining people into our lives in ways that we oftentimes don’t expect. But, He has a plan and it is so comforting to know that He will never leave us nor forsake us whether by His own presence or through someone else.
    Take good care of yourself and Ari!

  20. jane button

    First time commenter! I’m so glad you are feeling better – what an ordeal, but what a wonderful outcome, and what an amazing husband! however, i would have to argue that mine is just as encouraging and wonderful – he is my cheerleader, my support system, and my best friend. we’re both very lucky girls!!! :)

    • Lara

      Thanks for your sweet words everyone. Jane, so glad to have you as a reader. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  21. Calder

    As you glided around Engage, graceful, cheerful, poised and smiling, I had no idea what you had just been through. I’m glad you made it and still managed to tear up the dance floor, ER visit be damned! Hugs.

  22. Noelle McCoy

    Great insight. The person in my life that has inspired me the most… my Dad. I’ve always been a “horse lover”, my dad, not so much. Once when I was younger, I was exercising a new school horse and got bucked off. My dad came running to me, and was probably thinking “Great! Now she’ll not want to be around these horses anymore”. He was right. It freaked me out. But instead of letting me walk away from something I had dearly loved for so long, he made me get back up in the saddle and ride. He taught me walk forward into challenges, even when I might not feel like doing so. He’s the best dad ever and I love him with my whole heart. =)

  23. bridalbar

    So I’m not a warm and mushy type but even i had to stop reading and come back to this amazing post a few minutes later when i regrouped. Thank you for sharing Lara! You tucked your pain away like the pro you are on that island but I’m glad you shared it here. And now I only wish you are Ari could have shared that place together…hopefully that has something to do with your mini trip this weekend! xo


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  25. Evonne Wong

    Lara – glad that you are OK! My dad was a radiologist (he retired 14 years ago) and I totally understand what Ari goes through everyday at work. Whatever issues we have with work seem so minute compared to all the doctors and nurses who are out there saving lives. Take good care of yourself and enjoy the quality time you have with Ari in between both of your busy schedules. Life is short!

  26. T.J.

    “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

    Glad to see God working through the pain for His glory. You are awesome Lara, Keep seeking Him!

  27. Christy Eriksson

    I love to hear how love deepens! These are the moments.

    • Lara

      Christy, I got the copy of Flux you sent and it’s incredible! Thank you for your sweet words. So blessed to meet you and spend time with you on the North Shore. Cannot wait to come back!

  28. Elizabeth

    Not sure how I missed this blog post but goodness! So sweet and scary at the same time. I am so glad you are ok!

    My husband is my biggest inspiration. He knows what to say and when to say it. He motivates me, encourages me, loves me and believes in me even when I don’t.

  29. Feuza

    wow hospitals are no fun, been there, sorry to hear but glad to hear its nothing more serious and you are okay! God is with you
    God bless

  30. bethany

    hi lara! i’ve been a twitter/blog follower for a while, but felt compelled to leave a comment after saving & reading this blog post. what a crazy, trying few days… thankful that you & your husband were together for the ordeal and that through this, you would be able to reflect & remember so many important lessons learned. also glad you were able to make it to engage & pull off everything that needed to be done in time– will continue to cheer you on from the sidelines!

    • Lara

      Hi Bethany, thank you so much for these kind words. I debated whether or not to blog it, but it was a pivotal point for me. So glad to have you cheering me on!

  31. Lisa Barr

    I think when you marry, and your husband is with you “in sickness and in health” that’s the best thing in life. You’re a VERY lucky woman; and you know that.
    The person that encourages me the most is my dad. We are born 1 day apart and always share our birthdays. He says I’m his gift…in reality he is mine. Truly a daddy’s girl I wear it with pride. He is my best friend, truth teller, inspiration, cheerleader, best guy and yes, pain in the neck sometimes. The thing is, when I was going through my own 3yr/7surgery illness called cancer, he was always there with phone calls, funny jokes, drawings (he is the master of stick figures!) and just holding my hand in silence. I’d heard all my life, “when you hurt, I hurt”, and it wasn’t more visible than when he was with me in the hospital.
    I think he is the one that encourages me to move forward on those days that were the darkest. He was the first person when I got my “all-clear” from my doctor. I honestly don’t know what my life would be without him in it. I hope I don’t have to for a VERY LONG time.
    My dear friend, I am thrilled that you are getting better. Please take care of your body – God has your spirit and obviously Ari has your heart.
    Blessings! xo

  32. Jessica @ The Budget Savvy Bride

    I went through a similar experience with benign masses in my lower abdomen on my ovaries in college. I had the same pain and confusion over what was happening to my body. In the end the doctors did surgery and took out my appendix ‘just in case’ since it had been exposed to the toxins of the dying mass. Luckily I haven’t experienced another episode like that since, and it’s been about 4 years.

    It’s a scary thing to go through- so glad that you had your hubby by your side throughout it! I love that you are able to find the beauty and lessons in such a trying experience!! You continually inspire me!

  33. Jennifer Stein

    WOW! I just jumped on to read for a minute or two between editing and such and now tears are rolling down my cheeks! Meeting you for the first time at Engage, I never in a million years would know you weren’t at the top of your game. You exemplify grace and class like no one I’ve ever met. And Ari, what an absolute pumpkin. We have to do a double date press trip or something someday so our hubbies can meet. So glad you’re okay and will pray that you will continue to heal quickly so you can get back to being superwoman! XOXO

  34. Kathryn

    Lara- this was my first time visiting your blog, but this post was the most amazing blog post I’ve ever read. Something I absolutely needed to read. I pulled so many lessons from your experience and words. Thank you.

    • Lara

      Thank you so much for your kind worlds Kathryn. So grateful to have you here. I’m still learning so many lessons from that day.

  35. Lydia

    Lara, you brought tears to my eyes! So many little lessons for me in this post. As a friend said, these trials are what pin back the veil and reveal a little more of who God is to us!

  36. You all are rock stars!  So much great progress this week!  If you are just now joining us, it « Lara Casey

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