A Letter to our Daughter

Dear Hallie,

Today, March 31st, you should’ve been making your grand entrance into this world. A world that you would’ve inevitably changed, for the better, with just your first breath. A world that would never be the same because of you and your smile, a smile we know would’ve been so infectious, Hallie Hope Hart. 

We had so many hopes, dreams and plans for you, Hallie. We envisioned you to be a perfect mix of us, all of our best qualities rolled into one amazing little kid. We imagined your red hair and freckles like mine and blue eyes like your Dad, despite our wishes against, given those sunburns you’d be up against in life. We imagined you to be sweet and stubborn, also like your Dad, right?! And funny like me! But we could only imagine what that combo would mean come those teenage years. I do know that you would have had your Dad wrapped around your finger from day one. I knew I’d be the bad cop, but I was ok with that! We imagined you to be such a big personality, a smile that would melt us and a demeanor that lit up any room you walked into. We knew you would come roaring into the world, in charge from day one, with a mission to make it a better place and everyone around you, a better person. We planned to teach you to love fiercely and to live a life of service, of purpose and of passion.

We dreamed of the days when you’d be in school and we’d build exploding paper mache volcanoes or make the best egg drop contraption, if those are even still a thing. I couldn’t wait for the day that our fridge was full of your projects and artwork. Since you came from us, the artwork would likely be awful but we’d learn how white lies while parenting really are ok sometimes. I couldn’t wait for the days of spring sings, school performances, activities and more. Your Dad couldn’t wait for the Girl Scout cookie sales, he loves those cookies! I couldn’t wait to volunteer in your classroom, read books together, teach you how to ride a bike. We bought a house and had a specific plan for your room, which was right across from ours. You’d be close to us in the beginning but we’d support and encourage your independence as your grew up.

We imagined the passions you might have, the hobbies you’d hold as you got older. We saw you likely following in our footsteps with sports. I am not sure your aunts & uncles would’ve had it any other way. I’m pretty sure they all would’ve had you on the line, doing defensive slides (since it doesn’t run in the family blood) and shooting hoops from the day you could walk. We saw ourselves sitting in the stands at your games, beaming with pride. That’s our girl. Yes, I’d probably be yelling at refs too, but I promised myself I wouldn’t be that parent. You would’ve had the best jump shot around and you would’ve for sure had the best fan base between your grandparents, aunts & uncles. Your Dad and I would’ve been your biggest cheerleaders through anything.

For me specifically, I remember knowing from the moment I knew I was pregnant that you were a girl and I was most excited what that meant – someday you’d be a bride. That time of my life was the best. The memories of wedding planning with my Mom are some of my most cherished moments and I couldn’t believe that I’d get to do that with you. There’s a picture of me and my Mom right after we said I do, before the reception and our smiles were so big. I was now going to get a moment like that with my own daughter. You would have been the most beautiful bride ever. I could just see your Dad & I, so proud of you and the woman you had become as we passed you on to your husband. Of course, knowing that big personality you were bound to be, I was already praying for that future husband of yours. 🙂 

Today, we are not sure what hurts more – knowing the story of your sweet life and the either/or situation it became that crushed every part of our spirit or knowing the life we will live every day moving forward that will be defined by missed moments and milestones with you. We admittedly have no idea how to navigate these days. I wish I could explain the depths of this ache. Esther 4:14 says, “Perhaps this is the moment for which you’ve been created.” We know God had a plan for you, we know he handpicked us to be your parents and for me especially, we know the reason He sent you to me. You saved my life, which I still haven’t been able to say out loud. Or accept. It’s just not fair. I sure don’t get to be the one to complain though. I am here because of you. I wear that verse on a necklace close to my heart everyday for you, sweet girl. Until the day that we can start to turn this ache into action to honor you, we find hope that you are in Heaven, looking down on us. We know you have a few great grandparents up there absolutely fawning over you. We also love that you have a few aunts & uncles up there protecting you, just as your aunts & uncles here on earth would’ve done. They were so excited for you Hallie. They were so ready for you! And your Grandparents. Pure joy is defined as the moments in which they found out you were on the way. I’m not sure we would’ve ever gotten a chance to hold you when they were around, and it shouldn’t be any other way. You also would’ve had so many honorary aunts and uncles Hallie, our best friends. Judging by the way they have taken care of us through this, they would’ve spoiled you. They say it takes a village, and what a village you had. Oh Hallie, you would’ve been the most loved kid ever. Ever! For all of us left here, it is so hard. As your Mama & your Dad, we wish there was something we could’ve done to protect you. And we wish just as much that we could just hold you.

We are spending the day today in one of our most favorite places, thinking of you, aching for you. It is beautiful. We would’ve spent a lot of time here together! We love you so much kiddo and we’d give anything to be in a hospital today, showing you off to our family and friends. You have so many people here on earth that love you so much. You would’ve been the baby with the most visitors ever! 

We could spend everyday for the rest of our lives spinning our wheels on how much this hurts and how unfair this is Hallie, but we will do our best to do the opposite in your honor. Your sweet little life has already moved mountains here on Earth. Your story, in 19 short weeks, had more meaning, more impact, more power than some lives that span 90 years do. You have given us perspective that we would’ve never had, perspective that only few can truly understand, perspective that we hate we know but we trust one day will become more clear. We would trade it all in a heartbeat to have you back, but we can’t. We will fight everyday to do what’s second best, our only option now – live to honor you. That is the what your Dad and I were created for Hallie! As our hearts begin to heal, we promise to act so that our world will always know your story. We don’t know exactly how yet, but we will! We also promise that if we are blessed with kids in the future, we will raise them to be brave and to live a life of purpose like you Hallie. You will always be their big sister. 

And you will alway be our first daughter Hallie. You will always be the sweet girl that made us parents. It’s a title we always wanted! Keep looking down on us and we will keep living for you. Your footprints are all we have here on earth but we promise to let them guide us through this life with a passion unmatched, even on days we hurt the most. For now, we cling to the hope we have in knowing one day we will be reunited with you, as a family. One day, we will hold you. We love you more than you could ever know Hallie! 

Love you forever & always, Your Mama & Dad

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Cancer Free!!

So, what does it feel like to be told you’re cancer free & you have no restrictions? I have no freaking idea!! I can’t settle myself down enough to even start processing through what happened today.

Before I jump in, I’d be remiss in not first saying happy birthday to my Dad! Totally stole his thunder today but he promises me a cancer-free daughter is the best present he could ever get. And secondly, a huge congrats to our BFF Besties Moe & Sheila on welcoming their son, Nolan David late last night! I’d like to think his timing is everything – he came a couple weeks early just to join today’s celebration. He is perfect & so precious and his mom is a warrior!! I love knowing Nolan will only know me as his cancer-free-Aunt-B!!

I met with both my Oncologist and my Radiation Oncologist, as well as both of my nurses with them. Each conversation was peppered with a lot of this:

  • “So you’re telling me I can do anything?” “Yes, Bethany, that’s restriction free.”
  • “Does this mean I can work out?” “Yes, Bethany, that’s restriction free.”
  • “Wait, so does this mean I can get on a plane?” “Yes, Bethany, that’s restriction free.”
  • “Wait, I can finally get a manicure & pedicure!” “Yes, Bethany, that’s restriction free.”
  • “Does this mean I can stop washing my hands all the time?” “Well, we still recommend you wash your hands, Bethany.” Haha! ….But perhaps I can finally throw away the 18 bottles of hand sanitizer?! Yes, yes you can.

It’s going to take me awhile to get used to “normal” life again! I can’t quite process it in my mind.  My next doctor’s appointment is….get this….June 27th. 3 freaking months away. WOW. That feels so surreal!

So what is going through my mind? A million things. You want a raw look into a newly-crowned-cancer-SURVIVOR, here you go!!

I was so excited to share the news with all of you today. You, our army of support, have no idea the impact you’ve had on me and Kevin. You have walked with us through our darkest days and you have also been our biggest cheerleaders. Our win today is so much because of you. I mean it when I say there’s no way we survive these circumstances without ALL of your prayers, support, acts of kindness, meals, texts, etc. No way.

I can’t believe we are celebrating being cancer free. I continue to ask myself how in the heck did we get here. How is this our celebration. I don’t think we’ll ever have answers but celebrate we will.

I am so PROUD to be a SURVIVOR now instead of a fighter. I am so thankful to be done with treatment. Keep in mind, I was puking my guts out for the first 15 weeks of my pregnancy. I was diagnosed at 16 weeks. I had surgery 3 weeks later and treatment started 5 weeks after that. My body does NOT know normal! It’s been almost a year!! I am thankful that I now have time to heal. I am thankful my hair, starting today, gets to start growing back!! I wonder what normal feels like and I’m pumped to be on the up and up to feeling “normal.”

I am SO thankful for our doctors and nurses. I pray to God everyday none of you ever have to face anything like this in your lives but the sad part is, someone will or someone you love will. Loyola is your place! They have taken such incredible care of my physical body but they’ve gone out of their way to take care of our hearts. No one knows how to navigate this, they tell us that all the time, but every single person on our medical team did it so beautifully. It brings tears to my eyes!!

And lastly, our hearts ache. I can’t stay on this topic much for today, but I will say this…. This celebration, this win today, came at a mighty, mighty expense. I understand conceptually that Hallie was created to save my life but that is really freaking hard to be the recipient of. No child should ever save their parent! For as big as my smile is today, there’s an ever bigger hole in my heart behind that smile. I did my absolute best everyday to remember who I was fighting for. In my worst of moments, I tried to pick myself up by thinking of my daughter’s sacrifice. I fight because she didn’t get to. For some reason God decided it was me and while I’ll always struggle accepting that, I do so in honor of Hallie. I fought everyday to make her proud. I sure hope I did!! Someday I’ll get the one hug & huge high five that I want more than anything — from her!!

Love you all so much, Team Beef. So freaking much.

We are CANCER FREE!!!!!!!!

A Perfect Weekend! 

Wings, pizza & BBQ, basketball, Elton John records, fine wine, the Wobble, firepit, a sunburn, sleeping in, girl talk for days, coffee mornings shared with some of my favorite people – guys, I had the best weekend! 

We had a full house and I’ve come to learn about myself that I love nothing more than waking up to that. A good chat over a cup of coffee to start the day, you can’t beat it. 

My sister and Brian got in Thursday night for the weekend. This is the first year ever I didn’t fill out a bracket and let me tell you, it’s been liberating! I’m just pulling for upsets left and right. There’s been a lack of buzzer beater excitement this year so I am worried about One Shining Moment but I’m trusting they’ll find a way to still make it great. Our house did turn somber yesterday when word got out that Archie is leaving Dayton. I have one happy brother in law but Anna and Brian were not ready to hear that yet.  My sister and I did manage to get a sunburn Friday while making the most of the 80 degree day (yes we broke the outdoor recliners out again!). We also enjoyed a quick firepit before basketball Friday evening with most of my family stopping over. I love having these humans in my house!! 

This past week was also the annual Yelp Managers Summit so everyone was in town from all over the country. I had serious FOMO of course seeing everyone here on my home turf without me. Once it ended, my bestie Kaela came out for the weekend. We had a delightful brunch yesterday. Kaela is so wise, she is such a good listener and she gives the best advice/perspective. I could sit with her all day and talk and well, that’s exactly what we did all weekend. She’s also the best dance party partner. Last night, my other PHX bestie Ashley came out to the house too. When I moved to Chicago, Kaela & Ashley gifted me a picture frame of themselves for my desk – not the three of us, just themselves. It makes me laugh everytime. I’ve even gotten updated pictures from them. 🙂 Cancer is stupid but I’ll always be so thankful for all the memories I’ve gotten to create with my friends who have made such an effort to come spend time with me. It means the world! And my abs sure hurt from all the laughs. 

These two did get me up and dancing last night. The Wobble is a dance I can’t not dance too when I hear it. I’m infamous for it at Yelp – not because of my moves but because I can’t not do it when I hear it. I danced through one or two rounds of it to look at my watch and see my heart rate at 150. We had a good moment of laughter over that! So out of shape.

Kevin and I spent a brief moment this morning planning for the week ahead. It’s busy & it’s heavy. We have a big day medically Tuesday and of course Hallie’s due date Friday. The difference in tone today though is my heart is so happy after such great quality time with a few of my favorite people this weekend. The way everything came together to have a full house this weekend, the distraction from reality it became, it was exactly what I needed to face this week head on. I, we, are so incredibly well supported and while I know that everyday, I felt it in such a big way over the past few days.  For today, my heart is full. I know how fortunate I am through all of this to have such incredible people in my life and while that doesn’t change what we have to face this week, it sure as heck helps to know and to feel that the burden is shared. 

Beef 

Checking In 

Round 5 continues to take its toll. My counts this week were the lowest I’ve seen them since before Round 3. I was hoping to break free from home last night to participate in a work event, but my WBC was too low. I had a new outfit and all so that news was a total buzz kill. I got my hopes up big time and since my counts hadn’t been low like that for a long time, I hadn’t even considered it as an option. I’ve gotten good at missing out on life, but the surprise of this one really bummed me out. I’m also anemic, which explains the crazy exhaustion, so the hibernation continues.

And yes, you guessed it, fluids. Stupid water. 

5 days until my post-chemo check up with Dr. Potkul. When I think about it I get butterflies in my stomach. Part because any doctor appointment moving forward will have that element to it and part because I want to know when my body scan will be scheduled for. I’ve never been good at the whole patience thing and patience seems exponentially harder down home stretch. 

Emotions are all over the place but most of the time this week, I actually feel like I feel nothing. It’s probably because I’m so physically exhausted. Too tired to feel, to process – that’s a thing, isn’t it? It’s just a really weird week. I think that’s the right, rather best word to describe it. It’s hard to explain and thus I haven’t felt inspired to share. Perhaps because nothing quite makes sense right now. Perhaps also because it’s a weird place medically as we wait for NED & we prepare to tackle a post-cancer life. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time. I continue to hold close to Esther 4:14 this week as it really is the only thing I’ve found hope in. I also hate Pinterest these days. Everything that pops up on my feed is about delivering a baby or newborns. I deleted that app this morning, for now. I’ve also found myself straying from social media and instead picking up books. I can only see so much. 

Continue to keep us is your prayers. We know these are the days that are deep in the trenches and we know how hard it can be to walk alongside someone in those times. So many of you continue to do that tirelessly for us and we appreciate your love & support so much.

Beef

The Good News Is…

Hello Team Beef,

Well, the good news is I do have a brain up there, after all.

Even better news is, my brain scan came back completely normal. They said it looked to be comically inclined, which I’ve always known of course. Kidding. But hey, a normal brain!!

In typical fashion, I quickly marked this off the list and moved on to what’s next to being fully NED. In sharing the news with a good friend and my part of course being, “I’m happy but…,” while listing off all the ‘next steps’ left, she responded with, “…the idea of an end point is a fallacy. All you have is what you have today and today you have AWESOME news that your brain is cancer free and that bodes well for your strong and healthy future!!!!”

Mic drop!

She’s right. My life for the next 5 years at the very least will be working towards that next appointment & that next scan. My brain operates very much off of lists – accomplishing one thing and moving on to the next. I’m not much of a “rest on your laurels” kind of girl. That bode very well for me in my fight with cancer but it’s time to give myself a break and celebrate the WIN!!

So!

My brain is NORMAL and that is step one: CHECK in being NED!!

High fives all around, Team Beef!

 

 

 

Drink More Water, They Say

The three most hated words in a cancer patients life, “drink more water.”

Feeling nauseous? Drink more water.

Headache? Drink more water.

Any side effect? Drink more water!

I’m especially looking at you Smart Water when I say that water has become impossible. And yes, I know, there goes all potential opportunity to be their brand ambassador some day. Your job is safe for now Jennifer Aniston.

But here’s a new one for you this week. Potential permanent ear damage? Drink more water! Makes sense, right!? NO!

But in all seriousness, that’s what the paperwork says. Fluids & “get up slowly.” For your ears!

I’ve had some ringing in my ears ever since Round 4 and then Tuesday I woke up with what I naively thought was an ear infection. I mentioned it all during labs and that’s when I learned about ototoxicity – damage to your inner ear from the Cisplatin drug I got each round. It causes pressure in your ears (what I was feeling) and also explains the weird moments of dizziness. The extent of repercussions is cumulative for how much of the drug you received so time will tell the ultimate impact. For now, I pray constantly the ringing specifically doesn’t get worse, who can handle that? I’ll take the pressure. I’ve learned you have to barter side effects with cancer. I’ll take this over that.

Of courseeeeee there’s another side effect. Of course. And I guess I will keep drinking water. Raise your hand if you also want this week to be OVER!

Looking ahead, next week is the start of a couple big weeks for me. I am in pure survival mode right now. Overloaded is an understatement.

I have my brain scan on Monday, which is the first of my scans & labs on Tuesday. I haven’t had a moment to think about the brain scan. The following week I have my big post-chemo appointment on Tuesday with my oncologist where we’ll do the physical exam & then we will schedule the body scans. That will then lead us into that Friday, the day Hallie was due.

Did your heart sort of skip a beat reading that like mine did writing it?

I still have so many days where I can’t comprehend that this is my life. How is it that the end of my treatment is lining up with the due date of my daughter? It’s pretty cruel. It’s like a crushing reminder that there’s so little to celebrate in a “NED” when you realize the cost it came at. Being vulnerable is something no one is good at, myself included. Being honest is also something that is hard, especially here for the world to see. The battle with cancer was easy in my mind (considering). It’s about attitude, taking one day at a time, trusting God’s bigger plan and leaning on the support you have when you can’t do it alone. Grief? Grief sucks. It comes out of nowhere. It destroys your happiest moments. Last week was awful. A disaster really. The people closest to me know that I have been terrified for March and it sure has lived up to my fears. It’s ending one insane battle to realize you are just beginning another, one that hurts a hell of a lot more than any damaged ear or bald head or scar across my abdomen ever did.

Last night I came home to a package. It was a book and the most beautifully written letter from a fellow Mom who lost twins at 19 weeks. She said her greatest fear was they’d be forgotten and so to make sure Hallie would never be forgotten, she sent us this book. She said she hoped Hallie’s brothers and sisters would read it someday: It’s moments like that, generosity like that, love like that, and a willingness to share your broken moments like that that you start to feel some sort of hope. We were speechless! 

There is a lot to pray for with the next couple weeks and we humbly ask for them all. The scans, the exams (still, why couldn’t this be skin cancer!!), surviving the days that should’ve been filled with so much joy. I will do my best to write here but I’ve admittedly been at a loss lately. It’s so much easier writing about medical updates. 

Beef 

Round 5 1, Beef 0

Cancer is a b*tch. And good morning by the way! Sadly the radio silence has been a direct reflection of how rough these past few days were. I think yesterday was the worst day physically I’ve had since this all started.

I was actually doing relatively well Friday into Saturday. It sure helped that every time I woke up from my slumber my Mom was cooking something downstairs to entice me to eat or that I had the luxury of coffee mornings with my babysitters (Hilary & Mom) which I really fell in love with. Things turned Saturday night and into Sunday morning when I started throwing up though, which isn’t normal for my chemo fallout. As Sunday went on, I progressively felt worse and worse. Turns out I had an infection & my doc got me on a prescription Sunday evening. Yesterday was hell, there’s no other way to put it. My doctor said Sunday how glad he was that we’re done with chemo as these side effects all start to add up. Yes. Yes they do. If I had a ‘cry uncle’ button like that ‘easy’ button from the Staples commercial, I would’ve hit it 10 times yesterday, through tears. I don’t write this for pity, I write this for perspective. When my treatment plan was laid out for me back in November, I never could’ve known the physical toll it would take on me. I was warned but that didn’t even do it justice. When someone asks me someday what’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done, I’ll easily reply with, “surviving chemo.”

And then just like that, you turn a corner.

I am feeling quite sluggish today and I’ve got a few things bothering me, but I have definitely rebounded. My world is very hazy right now.

Today is day 7 of the 21 days in a round. The stress on my mind right now is these remaining 14 days & keeping myself healthy – specifically next week when my counts tank. Day 22 seems too far away in this current moment, but I am fixated on getting there because days 22 means I can finally start to heal physically. I have scans and doctor appointments on my mind too but I really don’t have the mental energy at this point to think about those.

A sincere thank you for all the prayers this round. Your texts & messages of encouragement are the things that keep me going in really hard moments. Keep praying for this body of mine, we’ve come this far & also for this heart of mine because this has been so, so much.

Beef

 

Guest Blog: The Lessons of Cancer

I sit here drinking out of my blue coffee cup this morning, alongside it in Bethany’s cabinet is also the pink coffee mug that we bought at Egg Harbor upon hearing the news of their pregnancy. A fun shopping trip ensued with bright hopes, giggles and fawning over soft, hopeful and fanciful baby items. Each tender touch of the trinkets and treasures brought hope and joy as Bethany and Kevin headed into the unchartered waters of parenthood. That morning seems so long ago, a faint memory as those unchartered waters swelled quickly into the unforeseen stormy seas.

I was texting with my friend this morning, she diagnoses cancer for a living and she reminded me of the tears and prayers that are offered on behalf of each positive diagnosis. She begins these journeys for people, a weighty profession as she hoists the sails on what I would imagine are distinctly different voyages. I am grateful for each healthcare worker at Loyola Medical Center, they did not begin their journey there and I am so grateful that they landed there and they truly live up to their motto of treating body, soul and the human spirit.

I have always heard that the lessons of cancer would be wonderful for everyone to learn if they could be saved from the journey of cancer but I am quite certain being the stubborn hearted people that we tend to be that we would be quite incapable of the lessons without fully embarking on the journey. So, as we complete this portion of the sojourn, I am going to think back upon some of the valued moments and lessons to take away from these past five months of watching Kevin and Bethany navigate this tempest launched upon their lives.

Without sounding cliché, life is precious, it truly is, never has life seemed so vulnerable, not only in our personal walk but in the current climate, life is significant, just look in the eyes of all you encounter and know that really, a created life is magnificent, there is beauty and hope and momentous potential in every one of Gods creations. This has never been more evident than watching as you all reached into their pain to buoy them with your incredible creativity, wild generosity and continued acts of kindness. It takes time and courage to step into someone’s pain and accomplish truly brilliant things. I am giving you a standing ovation, applauding you, thanking you. There is beautiful sweetness in all of this, sweetness that never would have been tasted in any other way and sweetness that has now fashioned them, marked them, changed them. Your benevolence was overwhelming and one of my greatest joys has been seeing it all take place. It is actually astounding, humbling and fascinating to see how uniquely you used your time and treasure to care for them. You softened the blows, injected joy and laughter, fed them, visited them (some quite sacrificially from great distances), prayed for them, fueled them, sat with them, carried and covered them. Gratitude pours forth from this mothers heart and hopefully spills all over to your precious souls who softened their harsh reality by caring deeply and dearly for them. You have become the benchmarks for how to live going forward!

Sometimes the crushing weight of circumstances press so hard on your soul that out of the weightiness comes forth thoughts, emotions and passions awakened to seeing life differently, a new filter to view your days ahead. It is an upside-down world. I believe God beckons our honest questions of why because they open the door to uncovering some of the answers that lead us down paths we would never have had the courage to step upon had we not been forced. There is unleashed opportunity for stepping into this war-torn world and using our allotted time for impact. Suffering extends membership into a fellowship of broken sojourners. Conventional life is a distant memory and out of this wintery, desolate chapter spring small signs of hope forcing their way through. I am so proud of Bethany and Kevin, their outlook, their fight, they have had so much to deal with and they navigated it all with grace, grit and great generosity to all they have touched on the journey. I am now giving them a standing ovation of monumental proportions for their victorious accomplishments in piloting this unique process. I am just so incredibly proud of them, weren’t they just something! May I just take a moment to brag on them. And can we talk about Bethany and her writing, I can’t wait for her to document the next chapter of life, she must not stop, this is a gift born out of the weightiness, and I can’t wait for the tears we’ve cried in following her written journey to evolve into tears of joy.

I know there is good that will force its way through and we have only scratched the surface in understanding the purpose of Hallie’s life. Piece by piece some semblance of sense will come to fruition as the days ahead provide time to process what has transpired. I am confident that Hallie Hope who delighted us when she was just a blue and pink coffee mug, has already surpassed our wildest expectations in her purpose. She did not live in vain and I am confident that she will be the catalyst for so much good to come. Our hearts will always ache and our finite minds will always want to wrap our heads around the what could have been but my prayer for Kevin and Bethany is this, that they will love deeply the purpose of this little girl, that she will change the trajectory of their lives as they lean into God and discover that in all that they are facing, they will remain confident that she was uniquely created for a purpose. To live a life of impact will continue to honor her memory.

Because God says it so much better (I believe this is an appropriate time to plagiarize), I will always remember her dearly when I treasure these tender words from Psalm 139:

You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, darkness and light are the same to you. You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.

-Mary
 

Chemo is DONE

A double post day coming at ya hot, but being able to say out loud that chemo is DONE puts all social media rules to bed. That said, my return to the blog does come sheepishly after all the way my guest bloggers wrote this week. I’m starting to think my calling in life is not just to write a book alone but with my fellow guest bloggers – all for the book tour alone! 

But back to the headlining news…

Chemo is done!

There were days I never thought I’d get here.

So I say it again, chemo is done, y’all! Never again, God willing.

Today was actually incredibly hard. I thought I would be so pumped when I woke up, and I am don’t get me wrong but I found myself struggling with two things specifically, among others. First and most obviously, the coming days that actually make chemo weeks so hard, including the awful shot tomorrow. Yes I’m done with chemo sessions, but those are the easy part! Reclining for an hour? No prob! So while yes, today is worth a celebration, I’m just trying to get myself to the other side of the weekend as painlessly as possible. Secondly, and less obviously, finishing treatment on your path to beating cancer sure loses a lot of its allure when you realize all you lost as a result. I sat in that chemo chair today wishing I was prouder of myself than I was, wishing I could find my smile, wishing I could celebrate care free but that is nearly impossible to ask of me.

But. Like every other hard day in this impossible journey, my people pick me up.

I came home to a celebration that forced me to not only realize, but also celebrate the magnitude of today’s accomplishment. My bestie Hilary knocked it out of the park, as she always does, when I drove up to see “BEEF” balloons waiting for me. I mean, cmon! That’s awesome. Inside were our families and best friends gathered to toast a glass of champagne (Special Juice, aka Welches sparkling juice for me and Sheila) & break some bread in my honor. I sabered a bottle of champagne & my brother brought me a bell to ring as well. It was loud! And yes you read that sign in the background right, NO DAYS LEFT!

Here are a few more shots from the afternoon: These guys sure know how to make a girl feel good! And they’re not half bad looking, eh?! 

As Hilary & I prepare to slumber for the evening to the tune of Flip or Flop, know that I know with all of my heart that I couldn’t have done ANY of this without your incredible love and mighty support since day one. Team Beef has come through for me every minute of every day & I don’t take that lightly. I have SO much love for all of you!! 

Please pray for tomorrow with the shot and recovery. Knowing what you’re in for is the worst. And pray that adrenaline takes over and I can have a smooth recovery this round. I do believe that’d be a fitting way to end chemo. Thank you!! 

I go to bed tonight exhausted, emotional & really excited at the prospect that my hair can finally start growing soon. I can finally be on a path to being a “normal” human again. Wow. 

Catch ya on the flip side guys, after a couple more guest bloggers. đź’ś

Love you guys! 

Beef

Leader Sets the Tone! 

Jami Zakem (rhymes with “Rock em'”) here. I’m Bethany’s friend, former boss, and proud to be one of her mentors. I feel honored to be here, visiting from SF, to give Bethany a little boost for this last stretch.Today is the final day of chemo. You’ll notice there are no exclamation points. It’s because while, exciting, it’s just one of many lines for Bethany to cross to be on the other side of all of this.

But, still, how does one celebrate the last day of chemo? Well, if you’re Mary, you buy your daughter a foam “champagne hat”, bust out the Chemoji hats, and shower everyone around with love and laughter. Works for me!

Because today’s final chemo will take place at 1:30pm, after I’ve already left for the airport, I’m going to use this blog post to report on yesterday’s happenings. 

Yesterday was the day before the last day of Chemo. That’s like Chemo Eve, right?  

A few weeks ago when I texted Bethany and suggested I visit her this week I was beyond thrilled when she said “Do it.” I was also nervous. Over the 8 years that Bethany and I worked together we have grown close with a deep mutual respect but this was new territory.

Needless to say, the nerves went away the minute I entered her house on Tuesday night. Bethany looks amazing, greeted me with a big hug, a Bethany smile, and was ready to chat and catch up, along with Kevin, Hilary and Mary.

Bethany’s energy level was high. When I asked her about it she said it’s because she is given steroids on chemo days. I believe a direct quote was “oh, I feel like I could run through that wall right now!”. Love this girl.

On the advice of a nurse, Bethany stayed up until 10pm the past two nights in hopes of getting a better night sleep. The report from Bethany is that it worked.

Bethany and Hilary picked me up at my hotel yesterday morning with Bethany driving and a cup of Starbucks for me. You see what she did there?! Aren’t we supposed to be taking care of her?

Yesterday’s chemo session was at 9am at the Loyola Center for Health in Burr Ridge about 20 mins from her house. It’s a beautiful facility and I was able to witness first-hand how much joy and light Bethany brings to the place. She says it’s because she’s the only patient under 60 but I think it’s because Bethany brings joy and light wherever she goes.  

Her treatment lasted an hour and we were easily able to fill the time by chatting. The chatting continued on her couches at home after the treatment. Gang, there is a LOT to catch up on!

Bethany’s only side effect yesterday was a metallic taste in her mouth at the end of treatment. From what Bethany told me, it’s going to be the few days after treatment that are the tough ones so while she’s ready to celebrate the end of chemo today, I think she’ll be happy when the weekend is behind her. 

In the afternoon I went back to my hotel for a few hours to give Bethany a little time to rest before our fajita party. Say what?! Although I’m sure all of my Jewish Aunts and Mom would have coached me to make Matzoh Ball soup, fajitas just seemed more fun for our Chemo Eve celebration. And they were. Such a warm, fun night around the dinner table with Bethany, Kevin, Hilary and Mary.

And that brings us to today. Bethany’s FINAL chemo session. F as in Final. F as in Fight. F as in F-cancer. She still has a long road ahead to heal physically and emotionally but this sure is one huge milestone.

Bethany has said over and over again that she couldn’t have gotten through this without the support of all of you but I know you’ll agree with me when I say that we couldn’t have gotten through this without her leadership. 

At Yelp we often say “Leader Sets the Tone” and that is exactly what Bethany has done for all of us. While she has had every right to just continually say “this sucks”, “I hate this”, “pity me”, she has instead set a very different tone. Here is the tone she’s set:  

  • I’ll find humor where I can 
  • I’ll be grateful every day
  • I’ll let people around me know I love them
  • I’ll be real
  • I won’t sugar coat but I won’t indulge in self-pity
  • I’ll share myself and let others in

She is a true leader. Whether it’s at work, in sports, in sickness or health. She sets the tone and we all follow. What a gift to all of us.

Today Bethany is feeling tired and with mixed emotions. While she knows she is expected to celebrate the end of chemo as the huge milestone that it is, she also needs to rest up for the weeks to come.