How to kick-off chemo (or any other serious medical treatment)

Ten years ago, this was supposed to be a week about celebrating marriage.

One year ago, this was supposed to be a week about celebrating a little lady turning one.

A week ago, this became the week we'd figure out a way to celebrate all those things while starting my cancer journey. 

When Carl and I got married April 12, 2008, I was already envisioning the massive party we'd have ten years later. Same place - Vaughan Towers at Carter Finley Stadium. All of our friends and family back together for a good time. Maybe we'd make it a fundraiser of some sort to give back to one of the organizations that has come to mean something to us.

Carl and me on our wedding day - April 12, 2008.

Carl and me on our wedding day - April 12, 2008.

Isn't it funny that you can envision something that's not entirely off-base with the truth?

Last week, we DID celebrate. 

On Wednesday, a group of friends and family gathered at my go-to Chick-fil-A (Falls Village). It was incredible! From my co-workers that I see every day to people I haven't seen in years to a surprise visit from a cousin that lives in Charlotte. It was heart-filling and energizing. 

As difficult as it was for my Type-A self to stay out of it, I did. And I'm glad I did. Carl and my sister and the Lattas and my high school girlfriends did an amazing job of organizing the event. I just showed up.

That brings me to my first key piece of advice if you know someone who is getting ready to embark on a serious medical procedure or treatment:



They will thank you.

They need it more than they know.

When you take a moment to pause and reflect on the great people surrounding you, it makes what's next seem not so scary. 

And it doesn't matter how many people are at your kick-off party - it can be 1 or 1,000. Just make sure it's people who genuinely care. People who are vocal in their support. People who are going to call, text, and simply show up when help is needed along the way.

Thursday morning, our actual anniversary and chemo start day, I planned to see the girls off to school, go work out, then head over to Rex for the infusion. 

Instead, Carl arranged for the girls to leave the house early and at 7:30 a.m. my stylist, Heather, showed up.

Heather (in pink) helping with my hair in 2008.

Heather (in pink) helping with my hair in 2008.

Now let's pause here.

Most women would be incredibly excited to see their hair stylist show up first thing in the morning, right? Right. That would be a normal reaction.

Instead, my heart dropped. 

Post blow-out with Heather April 12, 2018!

Post blow-out with Heather April 12, 2018!

Carl and I had agreed that he would arrange with Heather when we would have our heads shaved, and when I saw her at the door, I assumed he was way ahead of the head shaving game.

Fortunately, I was wrong. (And let's be honest, I know Heather better than that.)

Carl and my sister arranged for Heather to come over, blow out my hair and then Carl and I headed off to the North Carolina Museum of Art for a surprise photoshoot with our longtime friend and family photographer, Chris Nieto - ALL BEFORE CHEMO WAS SUPPOSED TO START!

My mom and sister even met us there with the girls - all decked out in their pink.

Talk about something to take your mind off the day!

That leads me to my second key piece of advice for kicking off chemotherapy:


Get them out.

Do something to take their mind off the time.

Hoverstads - NCMA - 0443.jpg

It never would have occurred to me how important this particular series of events would be, but now I look back, and those 24 hours leading up to the start of my chemotherapy completely influenced how I mentally approached my first infusion. 

While there were a lot of unknowns going into Rex on April 12, I was calm. I felt supported. I knew I had a tribe of people standing behind me. 

Oddly, just like my wedding day...

I knew I could do it then, and I know I can do it moving forward.

And, if you're keeping track of the 10 year party vision - yes, we have a cause-based initiative going, too.

Be part of our JEN > CANCER Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure team. 

Run, walk, donate. Participate however you'd like, we just want to have you as part of the team.

And with that, I'd say we celebrated our 10 year anniversary better than I envisioned. 

Jennifer Hoverstad