When Ashli Brehm of Omaha was diagnosed with breast cancer, she wasn’t about to let the news get her down.
This brave mom of three adorable boys and devoted wife decided early on that she was going to do everything she could to face this challenge her way.
She wanted to be strong for her boys. The last thing she wanted was for them to fear the hospital, her chemotherapy, or any other health unknowns.
But how could she possibly turn this scary experience into something fun?
Brehm told LittleThings: “It started with a Wonder Woman T-shirt. Upon diagnosis, I received an outpouring of goodness from people… mail, on the daily… and one of those items was a Wonder Woman tee complete with a cape and a crown.
“When I was prepping the night before my first chemo, absolutely terrified for the chemotherapy experience, I looked in my closet and decided that I could at least fake it until I could make it.
“And so, the first costume was born.”
From then on, Brehm wore different costumes to each of her chemotherapy treatments.
She continued, telling LittleThings of wearing her costumes: “It started out to quell my nerves, but once I was through the first round, I knew that the day of chemotherapy is not what is scary.
“It’s the side effects that knock you down after. But my boys — 7, 4, and 2 — seemed to love the costumes.”
For her boys: “It made chemo days a celebration of killing the cancer cells. A day where I could be positive about the treatment plan and they wouldn’t have to be scared about where Mommy was going or what was going into my body.
“And then, figuring out my next costume each time became so much fun for me. It made me count down the sessions faster. It made it so doable.”
Throughout her chemotherapy experience, Brehm’s costumes weren’t the only things keeping her spirits up.
Brehm told LittleThings: “Between chemo and my mastectomy, I did a 5K and each and every step, my husband ran with me, and I listened to One Republic’s ‘I Lived,’ and I didn’t stop because each step I thought, ‘I just got through chemo, I can totally do a 5K.'”
She continued, explaining, “It was incredible to watch my husband, who has always been supportive and loving and my better half, step up even more so, and really, truly honor our vows.”
“He helped keep things normal for my boys and he cared for me as I’d rebound from each session.
“I can’t imagine any 35-year-old guy thinks, ‘I’ll be having to take care of my wife when she’s 33.'”
For her very last chemo treatment, Brehm decided to pull out one last, extra special costume: her wedding dress.
Of finishing chemo, Brehm told LittleThings, “The most incredible feeling about chemo is when you complete it and you think, ‘I just did that.'”
Throughout this experience, Brehm has learned all sorts of different lessons.
She also realized that: “Everybody has ‘hard’ in their lives. And everything impacts people differently.
“And no one else’s hard has to make your plight seem ‘less than.’
“I have so many people say, ‘I shouldn’t complain, you have cancer,’ and I say, ‘I had a newborn. What you’re dealing with IS hard. It’s not NOT hard just because I have cancer.'”
Additionally, Brehm told LittleThings: “One of the biggest things I have changed since having cancer is waiting. I no longer wait to do something.
“If I want to take the kids to a movie, we do it. If we want to get in a walk, we make it happen. If I’m cleaning the counter and they want to read with me, I do it. I don’t wait. Because we just never know.”
She told LittleThings: “There is goodness everywhere. Everywhere. In every day. Sometimes you have to look harder, but it’s there. There is beauty in even the crappiest parts of life.
“Being alive is so much better than I ever gave it credit for. And of course, it’s the people in your life that make the difference.
“Family, friends, and even, when you least expect it, strangers.”
Her final round of chemo behind her, this mom plans to continue sharing her journey through motherhood on her blog, Baby on the Brehm.
Brehm’s last radiation treatment is also coming up. It will be next Wednesday, on Cancer Survivors Day.
So far, some of her most valuable takeaways, which she shares with other parents about to embark on similar journeys, are: “Love your children just as you always do. Be honest. Do the things you can with them and leave the rest to others.
“Don’t be afraid to emote in front of them, but if that isn’t something you are comfortable showing them, that’s okay.
“And most importantly: Ask for help. Take help. And just say thank you. You need to rest. You need to heal, emotionally and physically. Do not feel guilty for that.”
This fearless mom chose to live her cancer experience her way, and now soars stronger than ever before.
What do you think of this mom’s story? Have you or a loved one ever had to endure chemotherapy? How did you make it through? Tell us your story in the comments below.
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