Celebrating 50 cancer treatments with champagne and cupcakes


    Debbie Hemmes and her family recently celebrated her 50th with a golden-themed black tie affair. But it wasn’t the typical 50th celebration you may be thinking of. 

    No, it wasn’t her birthday. It was Hemmes’ 50th chemo session.

    “It’s a celebration for sure,” Kelly McCollister, Hemme’s daughter, said.

    Hemmes and her family have been having “chemo parties” since Hemmes was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012. McCollister says she was in denial when she first heard her mother’s diagnosis but, eventually, that denial turned into acceptance, and she started thinking about ways to make her mother’s chemo sessions more bearable. 

    “It just kind of came to me,” McCollister said. “Let’s throw a party for her. Every time that she has chemo, let’s throw a party. That’s exactly what we did.”

    Every time Hemmes had chemo, McCollister would think of a different theme for the party. Today is a golden theme because 50 is the golden year. The room at Abramson Cancer Center was decorated with gold streamers and other gold decorations. Hemmes’ family brought cupcakes with gold icing and opened a bottle of champagne for a toast. They even had a cake and sang “happy chemo” to Hemmes. For Hemmes, these chemo parties have helped her get through her chemo infusions with a positive attitude.

    “Having a chemo party is just a way of celebrating and not moping about the disease itself,” Hemmes said. “The party basically is a celebration to keep on going.”

    Currently, Hemmes is in the maintenance phase of getting chemo treatments once a month. McCollister credits the chemo parties with helping her mother get to her current state.

    “I truly, truly believe in the power of positive attitude and the power of family and the power of support,” McCollister said. “My mother is living proof.”

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