I agree with my colleague. I cannot speak to what your current attorney has told you. Generally if your fiance is in the US under a legal status you can get married and apply directly for a green card.
I agree that consulting with an experienced attorney is a good first step. You need to have documentation that supports your major surgery and loss of job. Hardship cases are hard to prove but the more documentation. i.e. a letter from your former employer, also emails are a good way to prove that the relationship is genuine. Again, consulting an attorney is a must in this situation.
I agree with my colleagues. You need to consult a California immigration attorney who is familiar with criminal law as it is the language in the statute which will best determine which charge you should accept.
Your husband may need 2 waivers but they are completed on one form. Just because the I-130 was approved it does not mean that the green card or waiver will be approved. It is best to consult an attorney.
As long as you are a US citizen, you can file for after marriage. I agree with my colleague though that USCIS will want a lot of documentation based on how short you have known. It best to consult an attorney.