Dear future KWF recipient,
Hi! First, I want to introduce myself. My name is Beth Brubaker, and most days you can find me running after our 2-year-old daughter, spending time with my family, and teaching high school students.
However, if you are reading this, we also have something in common. You have heard the same words I did on September 26, 2018.
“You have cancer.”
Those words turn worlds upside down. At 31, my life instantly changed. Those words take normalcy away. They shook me to my core.
Now, I want to say welcome to the sisterhood that no one wants to be a part of. We are truly a sisterhood. I also want to tell you that everything you are feeling right now is justified.
I felt completely out of control. Medical professionals began planning every moment of my life for the next two years. I heard words that were foreign to me.
Instantly, they became part of my lexicon. That was incredibly difficult to accept… It is really hard.
There was also a “small” addition, we will say, to my breast cancer journey. Four days after diagnosis, I found out I was 1 in 3000.
I was the 1 in 3000 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant. Crazy, right? Every cancer journey is different, and all of them, regardless of circumstance, are challenging and downright scary. It is okay to be scared. You are beginning a journey. Some days, it will feel like a 40-yard dash and other days, it will feel like an endless marathon. YOU CAN DO THIS. However, I want to give you a small piece of advice.
Just say YES. I know what you are thinking - say yes to what?
After two surgeries and six rounds of chemotherapy, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl in May 2019. For nine months, my husband and I poured every ounce of our energy into keeping our daughter and me safe. There was so much joy in her delivery.
What I did not count on, however, was how difficult it would be to not only go through the typical postpartum experience but also restart chemotherapy with a newborn. After delivery, I still had 10 rounds of chemotherapy to go. Every Thursday, I would leave my sleep-deprived husband and newborn daughter at home to go sit in an infusion chair for hours at a time.
I would then go home absolutely wiped and try to be the best wife and mother I could be. Not only was I physically exhausted but emotionally drained. Any shred of self-worth was gone. I cried every week.
I was not thinking about anything except getting through these last rounds of chemotherapy. And then the email.
One of the breast center’s nurse navigators and my best friend from high school watched what was happening. They saw me struggling.
While sitting in my infusion chair during yet another chemotherapy treatment, I received an email with a subject line.
“Spa Day - Karen Wellington Foundation.”
Those wonderful people in my life nominated me to go on a spa day. My first thought? No. There were people more deserving than me. People who were REALLY struggling through their treatments.
Then, I took a step back. I realized how much I wanted to do this. I NEEDED a day that I was not just a cancer patient. I needed to have a day that I felt like myself.
I said YES.
23 days after finishing my final chemotherapy treatment, instead of an infusion chair, I sat in a pedicure chair. I spent a glorious afternoon with my best friend, laughing and relaxing.
I was still bald with no eyebrows or eyelashes to speak of. However, for the first time in 11 months, I felt absolutely beautiful. This was a tremendous turning point for me. It gave me the pick-me-up I needed to finish the rest of my treatments (I still had radiation and immunotherapy to go).
Even more so, it gave me the strength to be the best role model I could be to my daughter. I needed to be strong for her. I needed to show her that ordinary people, given extraordinary circumstances, can overcome anything.
Now remember - when you get that phone call, email, or surprise at your door, Say YES. Do not think twice. By saying yes, you are realizing Karen Wellington’s dream - to give women like us a much-needed opportunity to have FUN added on our calendar in the midst of cancer. By saying YES, you will join one of the most welcoming and loving families there is. By saying YES, you allow yourself that much-needed place of peace.
My dear friend, I know that right now, having fun is probably the furthest thing from your mind. Trust me, I understand. You may also feel undeserving of something like this. I promise you that you deserve everything. You will get through these tough moments.
Just remember my piece of advice through it all.
With light and love,
By: Beth Brubaker
2019 Spa Recipient
Recipient Ambassador Board Member
“We went from feeling stressed and scared at doctors’ appointments to feeling alive at the Grand Canyon. This trip was truly the most wonderful blessing.” – Donya Kazemi, daughter of recipient Fariba Kazemi
Fariba Kazemi and her family were gifted a trip of FUN this past March to Flagstaff, Arizona where they were able to unwind and relax… except for the moments when Fariba’s oldest daughter, Donya, would pose on the edge of a cliff, that is! I had the pleasure of speaking with Fariba and her “daredevil daughter” this past month to learn a little bit more about the positive impact of their trip and how it reconnected them as a family.
Fariba, an Exchange Student Coordinator for over twelve years, was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2019. Sometime between the craziness of cancer treatments, surgeries, and stress, Fariba’s 20-year-old daughter, Donya, nominated her mom for a much-needed gift of FUN through KWF, without knowing what exactly it would entail. Donya is studying acting at Wright State University; though she is kept quite busy as a college student, her desire to put FUN on her mom’s calendar became her top priority during this time. “We needed something positive to look forward to as a family during a period where everyone was weighed down by ‘what-ifs,’ and this was exactly what we needed,” said Donya as we chatted about her discovery of KWF and the reason she nominated her mom, “Having a trip on the calendar would just bring a positive energy into our lives that so desperately needed it.”
After Fariba’s nomination, she was sent the news that she and her family were headed to Arizona to explore all that nature has to offer them. They stayed at a relaxing AirBnB, hiked around Sedona, ‘off-roaded’ in their Jeep, and adventured in the Grand Canyon. “It was so nice to have a time to release all of our negative emotions and just have FUN!” Donya exclaimed in between laughter about the excitement of their KWF trip. With excitement and adventuring came bonding for Fariba and her family. Both Fariba and Donya described a beautiful narrative about the strength of their family dynamic throughout Fariba’s cancer journey, but also on their trip. Fariba recalls that their time in Arizona was such a great way to reconnect as a family away from the stress of cancer, even if there were instances where she was “almost given a heart attack” by Donya’s adventurous spirit!
I think we can all learn a lesson or two from Fariba’s daughter, Donya: let’s be daring! And that doesn’t always mean that we have to pose on the nearest cliff to do so. Let's be daring by pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones. Let’s be daring by nominating a deserving woman like Fariba to receive a gift of FUN. Let’s take a page from Donya’s book, and dare to say YES to KWF.
By: Ashley Fasola, Scripps Howard Communications Intern