My name is Rebecca DiTore. I live in Hatboro, PA. I’m a 31-year-old single mother of two sweet boys – Dante (three years old) and Dominic (two years old). I was married to my high school sweetheart, Mike, for 6 years and 3 days. Mike asked me to be his girlfriend at our 9th grade homecoming dance at Hatboro-Horsham High School and then to be his wife on the 36th street beach in Ocean City, New Jersey. We got married on September 10, 2016. In the six years to follow, we accomplished a lot – we traveled, we changed jobs, we moved and above all else, we had our two loveable little boys.
While previous anniversaries were spent vacationing or out to dinner, this year’s sixth anniversary was different. On September 10, 2022, I sat on Mike’s hospital bed in our living room, tasting the anniversary cake that hospice brought over but that Mike didn’t have enough swallowing function to eat with me. I laid next to him and played some of our favorite songs – including our wedding song “Tangled up in you” which will now read on his memorial bench at Whitemarsh Cemetery.
Mike and I had just begun navigating our new life with two babies when we received his shocking diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. My charming, handsome, dedicated, fitness-buff of a husband started noticing that he was having difficulty gripping dumbbells during his 4 AM workout sessions in our garage. This progressed into more weakness and coordination issues which prompted us to seek medical help. After several appointments, multiple MRIs, and a brain biopsy, we learned that Mike had two cancerous tumors growing in his brain.
The last 17 months were physically and emotionally draining. Mike went through two rounds of radiation and several months of an experimental treatment which seemed exceptionally promising, but ultimately gave us false hope. Mike had a recurrence in his brain stem roughly one year after his original diagnosis. This new growth quickly spread to his spinal fluid, taking away his ability to see, hear, walk, eat, and talk. He died on September 13th of this year.
Our optimism and efforts weren’t enough to give us more time together as a complete family. I’m now left to pick up the pieces and rebuild our lives, and I’m determined to do so in a way that would greatly honor Mike. The Breathing Room created so many joyful moments for my family during this journey. They brought snack baggies for the boys with motivational messages, they included us in their back to school program which provided backpacks and preschool supplies, and they gave us our favorite memory of all: Christmas in July.
Over the summer, I put up our Christmas tree to get a brief reaction out of our boys but with help from BRF, our nod to Christmas in July turned into a full-blown Christmas morning filled with magic. We knew that without a miracle, Mike wouldn’t be here for Christmas, which made this so incredibly special for our family. Mike was so worried that our boys would only remember him declining but I am certain that the vision of our “Christmas morning” is what they’ll remember most from this experience.
I will never have the proper words to thank BRF for helping us create these memories, but what I can do is share our story and encourage others to support BRF so that families like mine can have this level of support, too. Community donations are what made this possible for our family, but they also help with meals, programs, groceries, nutritional supplements and medical supplies, and above all else, they provide critical transportation to life-saving cancer treatments
Please consider making a donation to The Breathing Room in Mike’s memory, or to celebrate a loved one in your life.
Thank you so much.