The Summer of Dave

As told by Sara J. Levy, one of the best friends & bridemaids.

When it finally stopped snowing back in May and summer appeared to be on the horizon, it looked like it was going to be a good one.   There were lots of weddings, showers, and parties ahead, and to top it off, one of my best friends Katie Hennemuth got engaged in the beginning of June.  I crashed the impromptu family celebration at Katie’s parents’ house, because being one of the few friends living “at home” always gives me the right to do that.  Over the next few weeks, lots of things changed in ways I could not imagine.  Unfortunately, in early June my grandmother passed away.  This wasn’t a tragedy by any means, just a sad season of life and it made me very sad.   Being the supportive friend she has always been, Katie made plans to come home for the funeral. They were ultimately thwarted by the cancer we refer to today as Dave.  I recall her texting me that she was on the bus coming home, but she was going to have to miss the funeral because she needed to go back to New York and see a surgeon immediately:  she had a mass on her sinuses and possibly on her brain as well- oh and, “by the way, I’m calling it Dave.”  There is no doubt that from that moment forward, I hated Dave.   I think I even hated anyone else I encountered who, by no fault of their own, had been named Dave. (Shout out to the good Daves!)


First time seeing the patient

However, now that the summer is over and I, as any good Jesuit-educated individual would do, am able to reflect on the past three months, I feel more inclined to thank Dave.  To be clear, I do not wish him well and I do not want him to survive or thrive.  I want him to know that his existence resulted in amazing events and moments, and has forced many to grow and evolve tremendously in a short period of time.  It’s funny:  when you’re 30(ish) years old in 2014 and your best friends are spread all over the East Coast, you forget you don’t actually talk to them every day.  You communicate with them every day, via text messaging and g-chatting and social media, but you go these really long stretches of time not actually talking.  Well thank you, Dave, because that all changed really quickly.  Thank you for forcing me to be okay with not working every single day, and instead getting in the car with my #1 co-pilot Rachel Sweeney, and driving to NYC on a random weekday afternoon.   This sometimes proved more productive than being in the office anyway, since I usually talked on the phone the whole way while Rachel responded to my emails.   Thank you, Dave, for making Vonna spend more time in town than she has since college.  As Sarah Kranick said at one point, “I just want us all to be together.”  Vonna was home so she could be close to Katie if she needed anything, and there was just an immediate comfort in being together with best friends.  (I think more the latter for Vonna, since she is notorious for being afraid of vomit and germs and dirty pillow cases.) I felt the same way, even though I am admittedly not the most attentive caregiver either.  I am happy to be most supportive during naptime!

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The attentive babysitter.


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Celebrating being released from Sloan and America on 4th  of July!

And Dave, even when you were really wreaking havoc and it seemed like every test result came back worse than before, you were making us all that much stronger.  I was actually talking to my best friends, every day.  In the midst of one of the worst updates we got, Katie Perry (not that one) called me.  She seemed to be kind of whispering and crying at the same time.  I asked her where she was, and she told me she was on the floor in the “pumping room” at her office.  It was perfect timing because it made us both start laughing out loud.  This was also around the time the ‘God Squad’ was formed.  This little Jewish girl learned AND participated in the rosary on several occasions and almost got caught on camera attending Novena.  And, Dave, DOZENS of family, friends, and extensions thereof gathered one Sunday in July when a mass and Novena were offered in Katie’s intention.

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Some of Team Kate at the Novena

Even though this summer never should have been about you, it was.  In summary, everything has a silver lining, even a jerk like you.  You brought a family, a group of friends, and a community together in support of one of my best friends.  And this time next year, I will be proud to stand by Katie and Kyle as they get married- an event 10 years in the making.   And guess what Dave- YOU’RE NOT INVITED!



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Some of the Maids with the Bride

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                                                                                                  TEAM KATE!

Dear Dave, From Rachel

Hey Dave.


My name is Rachel.  I’m Kate’s sister-in-law and so lucky to be married into an incredible family whose love and support for Kate blows me away on a daily basis.  I love Kate like a sister.  A little over a year from now Kate will be preparing for a very big day.  She’s going to marry the man of her dreams and love of her life.  She will also, by then, have put the final nails in your coffin.  I can’t wait for this party.  It’s going to be freaking awesome.  I plan on dancing my face off.  There’s going to be a boatload of happy things to celebrate.


Kate wakes up every day with the mission to destroy you.  She’s facing challenges that no one should ever have to face.  And as hard as it all is on her, she doesn’t whine or complain. She focuses on decking you. How are you going to deal with that??


Many people have told me that our daughter, Libby looks a lot like Kate did as a little girl.  With her blonde hair and blue eyes, she certainly doesn’t look like her mama.  Whenever someone tells me this, I take it as a giant complement.  Kate is so beautiful and strong, inside and out, I love when I hear this.  I’m in really good shape if Libby turns out anything like her Aunt Kate because… well… she’s amazing.


Love you Kate!

The Power of Positivity, Prayer and Love

Hi Everyone, apologies for my lack of activity. I had quite the week last week.

It was spent getting my first round of scans post treatment.  Two separate MRIs of my head, a CT scan of my pancreas and a PET scan over the course of Sunday through Tuesday. During every scan, I repeated in my head “this will show improvement” the entire time. I sang that phrase along with the banging of the MRIs and just repeated it over and over again during the four hours of PET and CT scans.  I knew Dave was struggling, I just wanted to make sure! My appointment wasn’t scheduled until Friday to review the results, so you can imagine that the days leading up to it gave me a little anxiety. Every little feeling in my body was taking me to thoughts of possibly further metastasis,  in particular to my liver and bowel and possible advancement in my pancreas. I tried to stop those thoughts, spent a lot of time praying and discussed everything with my family, Kyle and friends.

That certainly doesn’t sound like positivity does it??

I tried my hardest to switch this around by using some of my handy dandy medical knowledge.  I told myself that  any possible spread of the cancer could be handled surgically. Fun fact that I learned in nursing school: the liver can regenerate itself into a full liver even after removing 75% of it! The spot on my pancreas was what was worrying me the most. The tumor there was not primary pancreatic cancer; it was also rhabdomyosarcoma cells, but still. You don’t want to mess with the pancreas. To top it off, all week I had a pain in the upper left quadrant of my belly which I can now  chalk to a pulled muscle :).  My Mom has said from the beginning “whatever it is or whatever happens we will deal with it.” I channeled that, got my boosts from my all my #teamkate supporters and tried to relax with a little meditation (highly recommended).

The appointment on Friday was at 2:45 pm and I woke up in a bad mood. I tried to switch that around really fast, only positivity allowed! My brother Jake decided to come home from the beach early with his family to be present for the results. As my mom and I got in the cab I realized I had forgotten my cell phone… great, now I couldn’t distract myself.  In the end, it was perfect. All I could do was channel positive thoughts. They called us in and the doctor gave a big wave to us from his office as we walked, which made my heart skip. Good news? A fellow was sent in first who asked how I was feeling. Then said something along the lines of “oh and your scan results are great!” Well ya can’t just say that and not explain, guy! So we pressed him for info which he said my doctor would explain further. So in he comes and delivers the most MIRACULOUS news in the world. He explained that the PET scan from Tuesday shows NO ACTIVE CANCER in my body… ANYWHERE. The spots on my spine, hips and pancreas have essentially gone away.  The primary tumor, our good friend DAVE, also showed no active malignancy. He is a shriveled up prune, a lifeless loser. We all burst out crying/ laughing/ asking confused questions. I can imagine we looked like a group of hyenas.  The doctor explained that this was the “best result we could have hoped for” and that the treatment plan remains the same. We must get every single cancer cell.  Please refer to the “bear” story from my first post. We will continue to hammer Dave and his friends until every hidden tiny hint of cancer is GONE.

Back to that news… NO ACTIVE MALIGNANCY. How could this be? How is that even possible? After the initial shock of hearing this amazing news semi wore off. I looked at him and said “this is because of everything, the positivity and prayers not just the chemo.” He said he was sure it was also. I had had an MRI of my back after the first round of treatment because it had been hurting and it showed that the tumors on my spine were “stable” from the first PET scan. So somehow in that time in between, it went away. I am 100% positive, sure with every bit of me that it is because of the prayers, love, positivity and support that I have received from everyone.  There really is no other explanation.  It is because of the people in my life, and some that I don’t know, that I am alive and kicking Dave’s ASS!



Dream Team celebrating on Friday with an awesome dinner!


Dave can’t stop us from going to our friends’ wedding damn it!




My amazing friends Dave and Alli made a donation to Cycle for Survival. It is an indoor spin event that raises money for rare underfunded cancers which includes Rhabdomyosarcoma. I can cry just thinking about it. Love you guys!



All About FUD… The Back Story

Forgive me if it is boring.

It all started when… well we actually have no clue. My oncologist said something along the lines of “well if you got in a car accident and got a CT scan a year ago maybe we would have seen it maybe not”.  My very first symptoms of note started in February, 2014. I had a cold that just never went away and I assumed turned into a sinus infection.  My fiancé, Kyle’s,  birthday is March 4th and I remember not being able to taste the amazing truffle risotto and short rib dinner that I slaved over all day because of my “stupid sinus infection.” I tried all the over the counters, saw my regular Dr. and got antibiotics, tried more over the counters and it still lingered. It didn’t affect my day to day life terribly so I kind of brushed it off.

Time went by and I started to realize I was losing my sense of smell.  I went to an Ear, Nose and Throat  doctor who is an amazing family friend while visiting my parents who put me on 14 days of antibiotics along with steroids and told me if this does not work I need a CT scan. I felt some relief at first but the day the steroids stopped I felt a “whoosh” of symptoms. (Side note:  this also happened to be the day after we got engaged and were celebrating with family in PA).

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My ears felt full my jaw was hurting and my face started to go numb. Being a nurse, I knew numbness meant nerves and this was something serious.  I scheduled an appointment with an ENT in New York who thought it was TMJ (lock jaw) asked if I had seen a dentist then semi- reluctantly said I should get a CT scan. That Monday I got the scan and continued on with my day which consisted of packing and hopping on the bus to go to PA for a week off that I planned to spend lounging at the lake and celebrating two friends’ weddings the following weekend.

And then BAM.

It was 5 PM and I had just placed my bag under the bus and taken my seat against the window. The doors closed and the bus started backing out and my phone rang. It was the ENT.  He asked if I “had a minute to talk.” My immediate first thought was BRAIN TUMOR. He said the CT showed that I had a “mass.” I responded calmly and asked if it was possibly a cyst to which he said no, that it looked solid and more imaging would be needed. He explained that he had already scheduled me for an appointment with a head and neck surgeon the next morning.  So I began a LOVELY two and a half hour bus ride having just been told I had a mass in my head. I called my people, cried a little, turned down the offer of share a bag of pretzels form the nice old lady in the seat next to me in an effort to make me feel better. This is also when the name DAVE came to me.

I don’t know why but I immediately felt the need to give this mass a name, it gave me something to be mad at and also something to lighten the situation a little. When I told my friends, it went something along the lines of “I have a mass in my head apparently and we will refer to it as Dave. Thank you.”  I asked my Dad to pick me up in the Poconos to get off the bus. We sat silently for our 30 min ride. I spent that night sleeping sitting up on the couch because my head hurt so badly. This was serious. The week that followed was a blur… MRI, biopsies, passing out, being admitted, ER visits and then finally diagnosis: RHABDOMYOSARCOMA as an adult.  I was told not to google but PLEASE, it was obviously the first thing we all did. Turns out there are only a few hundred reported cases in adults. Of course I would go get an extremely rare type, right? I like to be different 🙂

Luckily, I live in New York City, home to some of the most amazing hospitals filled with the top doctors. I met with an wonderful radiation oncologist and pediatric oncologist at NYU both of whom I was very comfortable with and discussed treatment plans. They described how my treatment would be similar to treating children and they used the same protocols as other hospitals. Because I am 29 and engaged, fertility issues were discussed. NYU discussed the option of waiting two weeks to begin treatment so that I could harvest eggs.  I agreed immediately agreed and set up calls with a fertility specialist. The issue was my symptoms seemed to be getting worse, I was feeling nauseous and weak and having worsening headaches. I was finally put on steroids to relieve some of the swelling in my brain. I did not know if I could make it the two weeks but I wanted to try if it meant I could have children.

During this week of hell, my brother Jake, who is a researcher by profession, found out that Memorial Sloan Kettering has treated numbers of the reported adult cases in the world. After finding an amazing connection we were able to get an appointment Friday of that same week. I met with Dr. William Tap whose specializes in Sarcomas. Our meeting was intense and ultimately, is hopefully saving my life. He explained that my diagnosis is life threatening and that I basically needed to started chemo “yesterday.”  There was no time to wait. He said that decision was mine to harvest eggs which after discussing with my fiance and family, I decided that there was no point if I was not going to be alive to see these future children.  I followed up with my fertility specialist and she said that there was many options these days for having children and that I will be a mother one day. I know this to be true and I cannot wait. Let me just pulverize Dave first so I can get on with it!

As I sat there looking into the doctors eyes and hearing the words “life- threatening” as he explained the gravity of the situation this feeling came over me. I looked at him right in the eye and said “ok, I know I am going to beat this.” I cannot explain this feeling. I have never felt more strongly about anything in my life. I KNOW, I am going to beat this. I WILL WIN. That is it. That is the only way. That is not to say that I am not scared about what this next year or so holds, I am. But I will not accept ANY other option than DESTROYING every single disgusting cancer cell that Dave has spread through my body.

Dr. Tap wanted to admit me that night to get everything started. He sent me into the waiting room to make some calls to set up some appointments that day with a neurosurgeon and radiation oncologist. I sat there crying with Kyle while my mom gave us a minute. That is when my mantra was born. The second Kyle heard Dr. Taps name he said “Kate that’s like Taffer” aka John Taffer from the popular Spike TV show Bar Rescue. For those who have not had the privilege of viewing this program, Jon Taffer goes into failing bars and shuts them down to redo and renovate them. During the show he often screams things along the lines of “this bar is disgusting, SHUT IT DOWN!” We have watched the show many times and always appreciated Taffer’s love of screaming that phrase.  Kyle turned to me, wiped away a tear and said “Kate, don’t worry, Dr. Tap basically just said in medical terms that he was going to shut it down.” I burst out laughing and agreed. And that is what I am doing daily, shutting Dave’s ass down.



I met with the two specialists that day. The radiation oncologist was extremely positive and told me I may even blow the tumor out my nose  (which by the way, I have blown a few possible Dave chunks out of my nose).  The plan was to be admitted Sunday night  and have a PET scan, bone marrow biopsy, and lumbar puncture to determine any metastasis and begin chemo later that week. I also had a mediport placed for chemo, which I have lovingly named Miss Cleo. She is awesome and does not hurt at all! Thankfully, everyone at Sloan is amazing and those procedures were felt minimal and pain free.

751Admission picture… Let’s do this!

Wednesday July 2nd, around 9 AM I got a visit from Dr. Tap. He sat down in front of me while I sat up in my bed and told me he had the results of my tests. That bastard Dave had spread to my every level of my spine, my hips, and a nice little spot on my pancreas. STAGE 4. Dr. Tap explained that though this is not ideal, it does not necessarily change the treatment plan which is chemo for a year plus radiation in the fall. The same feeling as I had the first time I met with him came over me. Doesn’t matter, I am going to BEAT it. I WILL win. He used the analogy that if a bear is going to attack you in the woods you don’t just shoot once and let it try to get up and get you. You continue to shoot it until it is dead which is what we plan to do. Nothing against bears, this is all against Dave.

I started chemo on that night, did a dance with my Mama during and sat in the family room watching the most insane rain storm which I pictured that similar things were happening inside my body as the chemo was going after Dave. I was discharged on the 4th of July and began outpatient treatment that next Monday.





Welp, that’s the short of it. I plan to make the remainder of the blog about the day to day of Shutting Down Dave and all the joys/ scaries/ and funnies of my journey.

See Ya Later Dave – Love, Kate Legg

Dear Dave,

I don’t want to talk to you or even pay you any mind because you’re soon to be gone, but I thought that you should know a few other things about the force that is going to shut you down, Katie Hennemuth.  Katie simply does not mess about – when she sets her mind to something, she does it, and she is going to annihilate you.

Katie is the type of person that let me stay in her apartment for a month when I first moved to New York.  She’s the type of friend that will come up with the most ridiculous jokes that you still laugh about years later.  She’s warm and kind and an inspiration to all that know her.  Katie is the type of friend that makes you feel welcome and like you have known her for years instantly.  Except for you Dave.  She’s got no time for you.

See ya later, Dave.




beat rhabdomyosarcoma

Peace Out Dave, Love Nina

Dear Dave,

We’ve got a lot to talk about. First of all, let me be clear that I hate you. I hate you a lot. But I want to offer a different perspective on why you rudely invited yourself into our Katie’s life….

I’ve known Katie since grade school. And when all of my friends went to the same high school and I had to reluctantly attend a different one, Katie was always there for me. She is without a doubt one of the most welcoming, loving, and accepting people I know. She always made me feel included, and that meant so much. And as the years have gone by and lots of things have changed in our lives, Katie still possesses all of those amazing qualities.

So, I do understand why you wanted to be close to her. She is hilarious, beautiful, kind, and smart – the list truly goes on and on. But, you totally weren’t invited into her life. No one likes you, and by “no one” I mean a huge army of #teamkate supporters.

So, sorry I am not sorry that you are currently reading a lot of eviction notices. I can’t wait until you are gone for good, and in the meantime you are going to be catching a lot of heat from all of us who love Katie. She is so much stronger than you will ever be.

Peace out Dave. Hope to never see you again.





Nina Mc Master

Shutting Down Dave

Well, hello. For anyone who does not know me my name is Katie Hennemuth. This is my blog ( so lovingly set up for me by my friend Julie) about my journey in dealing with Stage 4 Rhabdomyosarcoma and my tumor that I have named Dave. Giving my primary tumor a name has given me “someone” to be mad at and channel my energy toward.  I KNOW I am going to beat Dave and every single hideous cancer cell that he has spread throughout my body. I have never been so sure about anything in my life. I feel that have been chosen for this journey and ya betta watch out Dave because me and my support system #teamkate are COMING FOR YA!

By way of introduction, I am 29, engaged to my AMAZING fiancé and I am a Neuro- Surgical ICU Nurse (NOT a writer so bear with me). The purpose of the blog is to share my experiences, the good the bad and the ugly, update friends and family, and hopefully help another cancer buddy along the way. In my short time as a cancer patient, I have learned the importance of talking to others dealing with this disease, in any way shape or form, and how incredibly helpful it can be. The outpouring of support, love, prayers and thoughts that I have received thus far is literally mind blowing. I feel LUCKY and that I must pay this experience forward in any way that I can. So if  my stupid/silly/sad/mad/happy/insulting  thoughts on my road to CURE can aid anyone, then my goal is reached.  So here we go!!

Dear Dave, Love Sarah

Dear Dave,

I don’t know who you think you are but shame on you for trying to come in and harm one of the best people I know. Allow me to officially introduce you to this person. Only seems right for you to get acquainted before the fine folks at Sloan officially pulverize your ass, Kill Bill style. I suggest you get acquainted now because your days are numbered. Dave, meet Katie.

Kaitlin Hennemuth is the youngest of three children, daughter to two of the kindest people in the great state of Pennsylvania and a best friend to many. She is a loving aunt to seven beautiful nieces and nephews, a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and a beloved nurse at NYU. She is a sister, and a brother, a loving fiancé, and a mother to a brand new pup. She is a half marathoner, a caring cousin and a sister-in-law. She is a tough New Yorker, a dedicated student and the owner of a beautiful crop of hair. She is a Maid of Honor, a world traveler and a Rubia. She is a skilled nick-namer, an Aries and a true triple threat- beautiful, smart and kind. She is a survivor.

Now this list is only a fraction of what Katie is and what she’s going to be. It’s only going to grow. So start counting your days, Dave, because WE COMIN FOR YOU!

Yours truly,

A Poem for Dave…

Good Luck to You Dave 

Love: Julie

Good luck to you Dave, as you wither away…

Quickly losing your battle with Katie each day.

In fact, her skin looks amazing, her new wig is great.

Your presence has filled her with power and love…a force of strength you must hate!

Let’s be clear – you’re a loser

Lower than low.

Worse than the Grinch, the Hamburglar, or any famous foe.

There are many ‘Good’ Daves in Katie’s life,

with a new one on the way…

Who is set to be born on her September wedding day!

You should see this as a warning, we see it as a sign,

that all is in our favor, for Katie to be just fine!

We look forward to your eviction,

If you were a person, I’d help you pack your stuff.

Hold on tight Dave…because YOUR battle is going to be rough!

shut down rhabdo