Finishing chemotherapy for a cancer patient is a major milestone. Often, patients mark it in a special way. Denise Benson marked her milestone by releasing a helium balloon.
“I had a really bad time with chemo and wanted it behind me. I thought releasing the balloon was a way to let it go,” Benson recalled.
Benson was joined by her sister, her chemo nurses and people she had met only that day when she launched her balloon that said, “Celebrate Today 6-18-2012.” She attached a message in a plastic bag that read:
Today I am celebrating my last chemo treatment for breast cancer at Mercy Hospital St. Louis. I still have a long road to recovery ahead of me, but with my family, friends and my medical team who have helped me reach this very important milestone, I will make it. This experience has taught me to never take anything for granted. Please remind the women in your life to have their mammogram and perform regular self examinations. You may just save their life.
“I have really turned into an advocate encouraging people to do self exams and get their mammography,” Benson said.
While she didn’t have great hopes that her balloon would be found, she did ask that they let her know if, when and where her balloon was retrieved.
On Sunday, June 24, less than one week after the balloon release, Benson received an email. Her balloon was found in Petersburg, Va., an hour south of Richmond, by a baseball team of 15-year-old boys. The team had been in a tournament that day and experienced a tough loss. The mother of one of the boys emailed Benson, thanking her and offering prayers. The message read:
“…I took a picture of our team with the balloon after a tough loss. It sure changed their perspective and so I thank you! …You now have lots of people in Virginia praying for you!!”
Benson was excited the balloon was found. “It is absolutely amazing to me that it was found at all and even harder to believe it made it all the way to Virginia.”
Not only was the balloon found, but the message she received was timed perfectly.
“I was going through a little setback and the email was a reminder that with a little determination things that seem impossible can be achieved,” Benson said. “This is the ‘good stuff’ that lifted my spirits on a day when I really needed to be lifted.”
Weather permitting, her balloon journey will continue on Sept. 15 before the Great Forest Park Balloon Race. She will get a view from above when she is lifted in the Mercy balloon prior to the Balloon Race marking the end of her radiation treatment.
“I am actually afraid of heights, but this is an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” Benson said. “My experience with Mercy has truly raised the bar when it comes to what I expect from my medical care. I will never settle for less.”