From hospital gown to evening gown: Ringing in the end of radiation treatment

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wendysbell.JPGWe see plenty of people in hospital gowns in the halls and clinics here at MD Anderson. But women in evening gowns? Almost never.

So, at least a few jaws dropped when Wendy Hunsaker and 12 of her closest female friends and relatives walked into our Radiation Treatment Center on a Monday afternoon, clad in evening gowns.

Wendy was here for her last round of radiation treatment for breast cancer. And, when it was over, she intended to celebrate by ringing the bell surrounded by friends and relatives.

But first, a wardrobe change: Wendy would trade in her hospital gown for a knee-length white beaded evening gown, a cashmere wrap and glittering gold heels that, as Wendy put it, "The Wizard of Oz's Dorothy would envy."

A guest list of "prayer warriors"
Wendy began planning her intimate black tie celebration soon after she started radiation treatment in October 2012. She'd been inspired by her sister-in-law, Linda, a two-time triple negative breast cancer survivor who'd stressed the importance of celebrating the end of her cancer treatment.

Wendy ordered gold glittered invitations instructing guests to wear "evening gown bling" and planned a seated dinner at her home to follow her bell ringing.

wendy2.JPGMaking the guest list was easy. There was Wendy's husband James, of course. And then there were her "prayer warriors" -- the 12 female friends and relatives who'd been praying for and supporting Wendy since her diagnosis.

Among them: three college friends from across the country, a local friend who'd paused her dinner party preparations to drive Wendy to radiation treatment after she misplaced her keys, Wendy's sister-in-law and mother-in-law, and a friend Wendy had met years ago in Scotland who'd accompanied her to
MD Anderson once a week for treatment.

"We've battled. Now we feast!"
Many of Wendy's prayer warriors had never met each other before her end-of-treatment festivities.

But, they quickly bonded, swapping stories about their hostess, who'd managed to feel peaceful through most of her cancer journey. They laughed about how every detail of this event -- the invitations, the evening gown bling attire, the dinner party -- was "so Wendy."

And, it was. As Wendy entered the hallway after completing her final treatment, her entourage cheered at the sight of her trademark smile and right arm waving in triumph.

A few minutes later, they cheered again. Wendy had returned in her evening gown, ready to ring the bell.

"It gives me great honor to do this," she announced just before ringing the bell as loudly as she could. 

"We've battled. Now we feast!"


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