Alissa Bousquet was enduring her last chemotherapy session, and her husband Brad naturally wanted to do something special to celebrate. So as she sat and waited for her treatment to end, a surprise entered the hospital room from around the corner. But what had started as a small, touching gesture from her husband snowballed into a deed that reduced many patients to tears.
This inspiring story came to be for one simple reason: Brad and Alissa live in a small town. Now, the problem with living in a small town for some people is that, more often than not, everyone knows your business. When you’re in need of support and a helping hand, however, there’s nowhere else you would rather be.
The Bousquet family discovered, then, that great strength can sometimes come from even the smallest of communities. Indeed, when Brad reached out to their relatively tiny town of Oakland, Nebraska, for help, many of its 1,244 residents were happy to oblige.
After all, the family of six had for years lived happily in the town of Oakland, about an hour outside Omaha. But back in December 2015 their world suddenly turned upside down when mom Alissa received her devastating news.
It happened because when Alissa turned 40, she went for a routine mammogram. Unfortunately, though, it was here that she discovered that she had stage one breast cancer. The diagnosis was even more shocking as Alissa had no family history of the disease and was exhibiting no apparent symptoms. In fact, Alissa was lucky that it was detected at all.
Sadly, around one in eight American women develop breast cancer at some point in their lives. Early diagnosis, however, can have a huge impact on the prognosis. And so, although the news was heartbreaking, the family remained positive and drew some comfort from the fact that it had been caught early.
Nevertheless, statistics show that American women have a greater chance of dying from breast cancer than any other kind of the disease, with the sole exception of lung cancer. The good news, though, is that breast cancer death rates have been on the decline over the last 25 years. This is due in part to early detection, improved screening procedures and greater awareness.
Of course, in the months following Alissa’s diagnosis, her family and friends rallied around her. In fact, in January Brad posted defiantly on Facebook, “It’s time to kick some cancer’s ass. You’ve got this, Alissa!” And over the next six months Alissa made regular visits to Omaha’s Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center for treatment.
To start with, Alissa underwent two lumpectomies to remove the cancerous breast tissue. Then, following a four-week recovery period, she had to endure six rounds of chemotherapy treatment. The final session was scheduled for June 23, 2016.
But Brad was blown away by his wife’s bravery throughout her often grueling treatment. “She has amazed me with her strength, courage and positive attitude,” he wrote on Facebook. “I wanted to do something special… to show her the tremendous love and support she has.”
So it was that a plan slowly began to evolve to mark the occasion. But what started as a simple text conversation between a few friends and family members ended in a massive gesture that moved even perfect strangers to tears. “I secretly sent a text to several of Alissa’s friends and family,” Brad later explained on Facebook. “I asked them to help me surprise her by showering her in roses.”
First, Brad contacted a local florist. A single celebratory bouquet wasn’t, however, what he had in mind. No, Brad’s plan was this: allow people to purchase a single rose for a donation of $10. Then, not only would Alissa receive the roses, but a cancer charity would benefit from the profits raised, too.
So as Alissa casually chatted to her husband during her final chemo treatment, she received an overwhelming surprise. What happened? Well, in walked her two teenage daughters with four of her best friends, but they didn’t just present her with a couple of bouquets. No, Alissa was in receipt of literally hundreds of colorful roses.
As it turned out, the florist had been simply overwhelmed with orders. In fact, as word of Brad’s plan had started to spread, the local business found itself inundated with orders. Sales quickly hit the hundred mark, and then, quite rapidly, they passed 300. After 500 roses had been ordered, Brad told the bombarded flower shop that it could stop taking orders.
And so, in total, 170 families bought 500 roses in Alissa’s name. Moreover, the community managed to raise in excess of $4,500 for Susan G. Komen cancer research. As for a visibly stunned Alissa, she repeatedly exclaimed “holy moly” as box upon box of gorgeous roses were placed before her.
But what does anyone do with 500 roses? Well, Brad and Alissa decided to share the joy with the other cancer sufferers undergoing chemo that day. Naturally, then, they decided to disperse the flowers among the other patients.
As well as the beautiful flowers, though, the patients received a special note from the Bousquet family. It read, “My family would like to give you the gift of roses. I hope that they add joy to your day.” And the letter went on to explain what the community had just achieved.
The note continued, “I know too well what families face when they have a loved one touched by cancer. If there is one thing I have learned form this journey it is that the support of friends and family is priceless.”
It finished, “Please consider these roses a bit of support from our family to yours.” Brad later said that one of his favorite moments from that day was witnessing the tears of joy that came from surprised patients as they accepted his special delivery.
Alissa’s fight is not quite over yet, however, as she faces yet more surgery. But as the Bousquets continue to “kick cancer’s butt with a great attitude,” they hope that she will be cancer-free before the end of the year.