In disease, in health – and in the new locks
Brittany Muszynski remembers the old adage that all brides are beautiful. But as her own marriage approached, she began to doubt it. “I was like, ‘I’m going to feel so ugly when I get married,'” she said.
Muszynski expected to meet her fiance, Mickey Majzik, at the altar partially bald and with a shaved scalp due to the six months of chemotherapy she started in August 2020 to treat her triple negative breast cancer. She admires women who proudly wear their bald spots, convinced that their beauty is not diminished by the ordeals of chemo. But she is not one of them.
“It sounds terrible, and I feel silly to admit it, but honestly I cared more about my hair than I had cancer half the time,” she said.
Muszynski and Majzik, both 31, met in July 2013 on the dating app Tinder, though they say they likely would have met through mutual friends. Both are from Philadelphia. She comes from the Mayfair district; he’s from Fishtown. “We recognized each other’s photos on the app,” she said.
Both went to high schools in the city – Muszynski in St. Hubert and Majzik in Philadelphia Learning Academy-North – and stayed in the area for college. She graduated from La Salle University in Nursing in 2012. He received two degrees from Temple University: a Bachelor of Commerce in 2013 and a Masters in Cyber Security in 2016.
Less than a week after their Tinder match, they set up a first date at Bottle Bar East, a watering hole in Fishtown. Upon Muszynski’s arrival, she found out that she knew the couple with whom Majzik had been drinking hot drinks.
“I expected it to be just him,” she said. But he had met his friends Sean and Tayler Rahill at the bar a few hours earlier. Muszynski knew Rahill from St. Hubert, where they were on the track team. “It was a good icebreaker to have him there.”
If she made a big impression enjoying the company of the Rahills, however, Majzik didn’t let it be known. Instead, he temporarily forgot about it. “Mayfair didn’t have as many cool bars as Fishtown, so I ordered a Michelob Ultra,” Muszynski said. Majzik found this choice unacceptable at a bar known for its craft beers and set out in search of a respectable alternative. He was long gone.
When he returned, he was empty-handed. “He said, ‘Oh, I completely forgot you were there,'” she said. He had an explanation for his behavior: “I was drunk, like you sometimes are in your early twenties,” he said.
But the next day he realized that it was so easy to chat with Muszynski that he might not have needed the pre-lubrication. That afternoon, he texted her.
“I said, ‘Hey, I’m going shopping later,'” he said. “I want to try and start eating healthy. Do you want to come with me ? It wasn’t Muszynski’s experience in healthcare that he said might interest him to take a look at Wegmans’ biological section. “It was just an excuse to see her,” he said.
Muszynski liked the novelty of the suggestion. She also liked that he hadn’t waited more than 24 hours to ask her out again. “I never had a guy chasing me where he wanted to see me the next day,” she said. “It made me feel like, wow, he must have been having a good time. I wasn’t expecting that.”
At the store, he took the lead, unfolding what was to become for Muszynski a culinary awakening. Thai and Indian ingredients were new to her. He was a Food Network enthusiast committed to learning about the flavors of the world. “Her family is like my family – they love their chicken fingers and fries,” she said. “We both grew up eating simple things.”
Muszynski was raised by her mother, Marylouise, in the northeast of the city with two younger siblings, Daniel and Grace. Her parents divorced when she was 8 years old; she has not seen or spoken to her father since.
As a school secretary, “my mother worked very hard all her life to support us,” said Muszynski. Majzik grew up with both parents, Barbara, who works as a receptionist in a podiatrist’s office, and Bill Majzik, who is supervisor of the facilities department at Temple University, and an older sister, Dana Hart.
They met their respective families before their relationship became official. The setting for both meetings was, unfortunately, the funeral – one for Majzik’s grandfather, David Schindle, and, six weeks later, for Muszynski’s grandfather, Robert Rybaskowki.
“A lot of things happened that summer,” said Majzik. “We have learned to be there for each other.” They agreed to be exclusive on Labor Day 2013, two months after they met.
When Muszynski’s cancer diagnosis arrived in 2020, their abilities to be there for each other through difficult times had not been tested for some time. Their first years together, they said, were a snap. They have traveled to the Dominican Republic, Colorado and Mexico.
And they saw their respective careers take off. In 2017, both got new jobs: Muszynski left Einstein Medical Center to become an oncology nurse at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. Majzik, who worked as an advisor in Temple’s financial aid department until 2016, became a business analyst at SEI Investments in Oak, PA. They bought a house in Fishtown and interrupted their trip to pay off the mortgage.
In 2018, Muszynski was ready to get engaged. “I started making jokes about it, like ‘When is this going to happen?'” She said. Majzik joked back. “I said, ‘Do you want a dog or do you want a ring?'”
She wanted both. They have Jenny, a goldendoodle. Before Jenny was trained at home, Majzik had started to confidently ask Muszynski’s friends if she had mentioned a favorite diamond shape or setting.
On June 19, 2019, he asked her to accompany him to a concert at MilkBoy, a local club. She had never heard of the CBDB group and was not in the mood, so she asked him if he could invite a friend over. He insisted, softening the deal with dinner. “He told me we would stop for dollar oysters,” she told Lloyd Whiskey Bar.
She reluctantly agreed, then felt her mood collapse when she heard that the oysters were exhausted. “I was like, great. Then he started training me to this gig I didn’t want to go to.”
Except it wasn’t a concert. Majzik had rented MilkBoy for a proposal evening. “I was going up the steps and I see this giant sign that says, ‘Will you marry me? Then I looked up and all my friends and family were there. “
In front of 60 guests, he knelt down and presented her with an oval diamond ring. “It was the ring of my dreams,” she said. “I was so surprised and so excited.” She said yes. They set a wedding date of two years from that day.
Muszynski had already decided to put her long blonde hair in a bun for the wedding when she found out that she was suffering from a particularly aggressive form of cancer. She and Majzik were also learning, along with the rest of the world, how to navigate the covid-19 pandemic. They also learned to manage his health.
“The first time I saw Mickey cry was when I was diagnosed,” she said. “But he became my rock.” Her colleagues in the oncology unit, knowledgeable about what she was facing, also supported her.
Last summer, just before her first chemotherapy treatment, a friend told her about Wigs & Wishes, a New Jersey foundation that gives free wigs to women with cancer. She made an appointment.
“I came in very nervous,” she said. Then she meets Martino Cartier, founder of the organization and professional hairdresser.
“I remember she walked in and told me she was engaged and had cancer,” Cartier said. “At that point, I knew I had to do something to change her life.”
He sat her in a living room chair and told her that on the 14th day of chemotherapy, her hair would start to fall out. “I said, ‘No pressure, it’s entirely up to you, but when you’re ready to shave your head, I’ll be there for you.'” A week later, she came back. This time she left hairless.
“He turned me away from the mirror, and within two minutes all my hair was gone and I felt a thousand times better,” Muszynski said. Cartier had equipped her with a wig that gave her back the vision of her wedding day.
“It was a dirty blonde, with highlights and a little bit of roots at the top to make it look natural. It was like having an amazing blowout 24/7. It made me feel like me- even like I’m not just someone with cancer. “
After she left the Cartier salon, they became friends over text. “He started watching me all the time and loving all of my Instagram stuff,” she said. “He became my ray of sunshine in the rain.” At a benefit for Wigs & Wishes that Majzik and Muszynski attended this fall, they asked him to officiate their marriage.
On June 19, Cartier, a pastor of the Universal Life Church, married Majzik and Muszynski in front of 190 guests at the Stoneybrooke Barn in Atglen, Pennsylvania. That afternoon, Cartier was Muszynski’s ray of sunshine in a more literal rain: as her brother escorted her she walked down a grassy alley to join Majzik under an arbor adorned with roses, the sky opened and a lukewarm drizzle fell.
Cartier is not unaware of this. “Think of it as a baptism,” he said. “Without rain there is no life.”
Muszynski, in a lace mermaid wedding dress with buttons at the back, has vowed to love and honor Majzik. Majzik, who donned a royal blue suit, vowed to continue to love Muszynski, whose cancer is now in remission, sick and healthy. “God bless Brittany and Mickey,” Cartier said after declaring them married.
As the couple sank into the bucolic barn in the distance, Muszynski’s wavy blonde wig, underlined by a wide tulle veil, bounced with spring in its step.