By Nancy Gay
As Becky Fontenot glued rhinestones and feathers to a teacup during a Mad Hatter tea party at Moffitt Cancer Center, she took a rare moment for herself.
When doctors diagnosed Fontenot with breast cancer two years ago, she felt like she fell down a rabbit hole. All of a sudden her world turned upside down and became filled with doctor’s appointments and treatments, as well as physical and emotional changes.
She underwent a double mastectomy and continues to take medication to prevent a recurrence. She also takes care of her husband who is battling Alzheimer’s and doesn’t have a lot of time to do things she enjoys. “The idea of a tea party is just such a fun, girly thing to do,” explains Fontenot. “I’ve seen the support groups, but this just took to me.”
Moffitt hosted the Mad Hatter tea party as a way to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month and allow patients to take their minds off of illness and make happy memories at the cancer center.
Moffitt team members dressed as their favorite characters from “Alice in Wonderland” and gave breast cancer patients the royal treatment.
Patient Justine Pierre said the tea party made her feel like a part of the family. Doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer more than two years ago after she went to the emergency room for chest pain. It was caught early, but due to a family history of ovarian cancer, she had her ovaries removed as well.
Pierre said she was having a “good day” and enjoyed painting teacups, building a house of cards and decorating hats. However, she said the best part of the tea party was interacting with women who are also battling breast cancer.
Fontenot echoed that sentiment and found comfort in sharing her story with others at the event. She said, “For something so horrible, it’s been one of my best experiences. You learn and grow through the bad things.”
Moffitt plans on making the Mad Hatter tea party an annual event.