I want to share a story about a beautiful, young woman named Kayla! I first met Kayla while handing out licorice to the 3-Day walkers this past August. Coincidentally (or not!) she just happened to be driving by and decided to stop and see what was going on. Kayla had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy, so we had an immediate connection both as breast cancer patients and teachers. We’ve been in touch ever since. Recently, my oncology nurse told me that I just had to meet a young patient who was dealing with chemo in a very creative way. I instantly knew that she was talking about Kayla. Below is an excerpt from Kayla’s blog on her decision to turn her CHEMO sessions into THEMO sessions. Talk about spreading unexpected joy!
When I had 5 chemo sessions left they started to drag so I came up with “themo” instead of chemo. The idea was that everyone who came to chemo had to dress up in the theme for that week. Because I have the coolest friends and army, it has spread beyond my visitors. Teachers at my school get dressed up, the kids get dressed up, friends spread all over the country send me pictures of them in theme, my dad even got strangers at the airport to sport facial hair for me on mustache bash day! It seems like such a goofy thing but it has made me excited for chemo every week. I am so excited to see how everyone will be dressed. My social worker and some hospital staff have gotten involved even. Theme one was superheroes, two was mustache bash, and three was 80s night.
The next theme was Prom Night. All of my fellow teachers were dressed to impress and my dad went all out to get us a stretch limo so we could arrive in style. I had planned on one of my friends being my prom date but once again Evanston Hospital and the hockey gods had bigger plans for me. For the second time this year, I ran into Lord Stanley!! So for prom night I got Lord Stanley in bed with me. And you know what… my dad was totally fine with it!! The whole day felt like a dream… from my incredible dress to my date. Themo started out as a little idea so I wouldn’t hate treatment and has expanded beyond anything I could ever imagine.
My final theme was “My favorite things” so everyone was decked out in Hawks apparel. When I say everyone I mean EVERYONE. My entire school was head to toe(ws) in red. During a math lesson Tommy Hawk busted into my classroom and it was a party from then on!! Reporters came to capture the event, WGN filmed it, and the Blackhawks showed their love again! I was paraded out and escorted to the hospital by the entire school. Upon arriving we had the pleasure of passing out thank you presents to all the wonderful staff at Evanston Hospital and goodie bags to patients having treatment at the same time as me. It was really important to me to make sure I said thank you to everyone and also encourage those around me.
I truly could not have gone through this experience without the Evanston Hospital community and all my friends and family. Not only did I get through chemo, but I did it with a smile on my face and I have all of you to thank for that. You can see the joy I felt in these pictures. I have never been one to hide my emotions – my face shows it all. I have been the happiest, luckiest girl through these experiences. It’s been hard but it’s been fun! And days like these have made it all worth it. It’s a special experience getting to see how much people love you. Most never know that till they’re gone. I wouldn’t trade every awful, sick day, every mental breakdown day, every “how the heck am I going to do this?” moment for anything in the world because of the love I have received.
I encourage you all to watch Kayla’s video – she’s quite inspirational!