One year following brain cancer diagnosis, former Sugar Grove Library director Holmes feels better than expected
SUGAR GROVE—It’s been a little more than a year since former Sugar Grove Public Library Director Beverly Holmes Hughes was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme—an aggressive brain tumor—but she is doing better than might have been expected.
Following her surgery in May 2014—during which the doctors removed as much of the tumor as they could—and six weeks of radiation, she underwent chemotherapy treatment. This week, she began her 11th round of chemo pills, which she takes one week of each month.
An MRI of Hughes’ brain in April 2015 showed no new growth, leading her doctor to define her condition as stable.
“He reminds me that we’re in uncharted and undocumented waters,” Hughes said.
She said he and her other health care providers caution her about reading too much about her disease on the Internet.
“The research talks about survival rates, and at this point, the doctors wonder about the impacts of the radiation,” Holmes said. “But, if enough of us live long enough, hopefully we can change the statistics.”
In the meantime, she walks with the assistance of a walker, saying her balance and her stability are not exactly right. She also fatigues easily, part of which is due to her chemo treatment.
Out of necessity, Hughes works 30 hours a week as the director of Library Services for DeVry University. She is the sole financial provider for her husband, Chuck, who has congestive heart failure; her sister, Janet, who has diabetes; and her sister’s adopted children, four of whom still live at home.
Beverly’s doctor has told her that she needs to get more rest.
“I have to listen to my body,” she said.
Because of her compromised immune system, she works from home. This also allows her to rest when she needs to, and to schedule her hours to work when she will be the most productive.
Beverly and her family do simple things for fun. They drive through Morton Arboretum, watch movies at home, and she sits with the children and talks to them when they come home from school.
“We’ll just keep making more memories,” she said. “The alternative would be dismal and dreary, and I’d be no fun to be around.”
Beverly said that she could worry about what is going to happen, but that won’t change anything. She is able to compartmentalize her illness and put it aside enough to allow her to enjoy the time that she has with her family.
“We have honest conversations,” she said. “But I like to look at the rainbow instead of the clouds.”
Beverly said she doesn’t feel that she has the key to how to cope with her cancer—this is just the way that she copes best.
Beverly joined an online group of individuals in situations similar to hers. She said they celebrate every piece of good news and get teary at times of loss.
She said that all of the love and prayers, support and encouragement she has received from people within the community has meant a great deal to her.
“It’s been one of those silver linings,” she said. “I can’t quantify it, but it certainly makes a difference.”
Beverly communicates with people mostly through Sugar Grove residents Pat Graceffa and Louise Coffman, both of whom have been steadfast friends.
Graceffa, who once served as president of the Sugar Grove Friends of the Library, has shared her love of the library with Beverly over the years, volunteering and contributing to much of what the Sugar Grove Public Library is today.
Coffman said she first met Hughes upon joining the Corn Boil Committee years ago. She also volunteers at the library.
Coffman has held a couple of fundraisers for Beverly to help her out with her medical bills and other expenses. During the holidays last year, Coffman held an event where she provided the materials for people to assemble their own snowman earrings at a charge of $10 per person.
Coffman said that people ended up giving her an extra $10 or $20, and others who couldn’t make it to the party gave her a $20 bill anyway.
By Christmas, she had raised $1,000.
“All the money went to Bev,” Coffman said. “I love that. This community is so giving.”
Coffman held an open house fundraiser at the end of April. Forty-five people showed up for another chance to show their support for Beverly, who was able to join them for a time. Attendees enjoyed champagne and appetizers and purchased the angel jewelry made by Coffman. She raised another $1,600.
“People were just thrilled to see Beverly,” Coffman said.
Coffman plans to do more following late July’s Sugar Grove Corn Boil.
“I’m just trying to do little stuff just to keep it in people’s minds that Beverly still needs our help, and she’ll always need our help,” Coffman said.
“(Beverly’s) a bright light,” Sugar Grove Library Director Shannon Halikias said. “She’s amazing, both for what she’s dealing with as well as what she’s accomplished in her life.”
Halikias said she originally met Beverly a number of years ago, when Halikias was at the Aurora Public Library.
“Her gentle and ready smile was well known,” Halikias said.
Halikias said that since she has been with the Sugar Grove Library, Beverly has provided her with her decades of historical knowledge about the library. She said that with such a long-term body of service, Beverly has much knowledge not necessarily captured in notes—of the development of policy, what works for the community, what has been successful, as well as what has failed.
“I’ve been able to call her with questions, and she’s always been very positive,” Halikias said. “She’s been so helpful for charting our future.”
The two women recently met for lunch. Beverly said it is gratifying to see Halikias moving the library forward in such a positive direction, building on what she and Graceffa and the Library Friends envisioned years ago.
“To see it in action is a good experience,” Beverly said.
An ongoing fundraiser, “Beverly’s Battle Against Brain Cancer,” is continuing to collect funds to help the Hughes family through an account at Castle Bank. Monetary donations can be made to the Beverly Holmes Hughes Fund at any Castle Bank location, including the Sugar Grove branch located at 36 E. Galena Blvd.
To keep up with Beverly’s progress, as well as to find out more about how you can help her battle, visit the Beverly’s Battle with Brain Cancer page on Facebook.