Haley Clegg Nusbaum lives with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area and works for Visa. She was the primary caregiver for her mother, cookbook author Holly Clegg, who died of gastric cancer Nov. 1, 2019. The Holly Clegg Gastric Cancer Research Fund at MD Anderson Cancer Center has grown to nearly $330,000.
Our team at MD Anderson became an extension of our family during and following my mom’s 10 months of treatment for gastric cancer. Less than 24 hours after her diagnosis in Baton Rouge, we drove to Houston, where we had the privilege of receiving care from Dr. Brian Badgwell and Dr. Mariela Blum Murphy. They both had a calming, beautiful way of letting us know that her cancer was late-stage, treatable but not curable. Despite the stage IV diagnosis, they matched my mother’s optimism and can-do attitude by preparing an aggressive treatment plan: chemotherapy, a HIPEC surgery and a clinical trial for the combination of a HIPEC/gastrectomy surgery. Our family cannot thank MD Anderson enough for providing such unbelievable care and compassion. They gave us confidence in each decision and held our hand each step of the way.
My mom was a fighter and determined to defy the odds. She exhibited courage, dignity and bravery and took each challenge with a smile on her face. During active treatment she even spoke at a stomach cancer conference. The irony was never lost on her that she was a cookbook author without a stomach. However, after 10 months, our MD Anderson team partnered with us to reach the decision of quality of life over quantity. Moving my mom into hospice care was one of our most challenging but rewarding decisions. My mom called the rabbi she had been leaning on throughout her journey, and he said, ‘Now is the time to keep living, not to start dying.’ That is exactly what she did. During her four months in hospice she lived each day to the fullest. It was not uncommon for her to say, ‘I am the happiest person in hospice,’ surrounded by loved ones. We relocated her to Dallas to be close to my sister’s family, and she was surrounded by my dad (they celebrated 40 years of marriage on Sept. 1), my siblings and our spouses, her siblings and their spouses, her mother, her six grandchildren and close friends.
My mom loved the opportunity to participate in research studies and be patient No. 19 in a clinical trial. Knowing gastric cancer research is underfunded, she launched the Holly Clegg Gastric Cancer Research Fund on the day she entered hospice, June 20, 2019. She had a dream that this fund would help others have a different outcome than her own. Its success to date is due to countless supporters and her grassroots approach that no donation is too small. We are thankful that when my mom passed she knew that the first trial supported by the fund was soon to launch — the start of her dream being fulfilled! #TeamHolly will always live on.