Beth’s cancer fight draws a crowd
AVON – Beth Kutansky and her fiancee Kris Galione were in the car last week headed to Denver International Airport for a flight to Florida. But not for the requisite local’s spring escape from Vail. “I’m taking a drug now after each round of my chemo treatments,” Kutansky said from the road. “It boosts my white blood cell count, but the main side effect is bone pain. The cold makes it worse, so we’re headed down to Florida for a few days to meet my sister and my cousin. I told Kris, if I’m going to tolerate the next few rounds, I needed a little break.”Kutansky, 28, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphona last August, six days after Kris asked her to marry him.
“I was so blindsided by this, that was one of the most difficult parts,” said Kutansky. “At the time I was diagnosed, I was working out all the time, I was healthy, eating well – I was the healthiest I had ever been in my life when I was hit with this.”Indeed, Kutansky, ever hopeful about her prognosis and future, hopes that her case can convey a message to others. “I think being aware of your body and taking things seriously is important,” she said. “I had never gone to the doctor concerned like I did this time.”Turns out, the exhaustion she had attributed to working overtime – and that uncomfortable lump in her neck – were no trivial symptoms.”That’s something that has really changed for me,” she said. “There’s a sort of loss of innocence with your health. You can never take things for granted anymore after something like this – it won’t ever be ‘just a pain’ or ‘just a chill.'”
And it certainly won’t be ‘just a co-pay.’ Kutansky – employed with East West Resorts and fully covered by the company’s substantial insurance plan at the time of her diagnosis – had mounting medical costs, and surely more to come.
Enter her good friend and colleague Elisse Kelley. Director of human resources at East West Resorts, Kelley worked with the company, the Vail Vallley Charitable Fund, and the community to organize a massive “Bash for Beth” at Finnegan’s Wake on Feb. 28. The event, attended by about 300 of Beth’s closest friends and supporters, featured an entire floor of silent auction items and live performances by Nowhere Fast and Little Hercules. “I owe my first born child to Elisse,” said Kutansky. “She’s a very good friend, to put this whole thing together. Sometimes I feel guilt for how much she’s done, how much everyone has done for me. I am so overwhelmed by all that people have done to help me. I know I keep using that word, but I am so overwhelmed.”
In addition to the financial assistance, Kutansky also reaped enormous emotional support from the turnout. “At one point, I was standing up on the landing at the bar, and I needed to sit down and take a breath,” she said. “I looked down on the crowd, everyone that was there. It was literally everyone I know in the Valley – all my friends, all my fiancee’s friends, there were so many people there to support us.”
Kelley said Kutansky is an easy person to support.”Beth is never about herself, she is always about other people,” Kelley said. “She’s just said over and over throughout this process that she only hopes we can raise enough money to help other people, not just her.”Needless to say, the event will indeed help Kutansky – both with her medical debt and future expenses.”It will absolutely help with the past expenses, but also with the medical expenses that are sure to come,” Kutansky said. “You know, my entire medical future is now uncertain. I could have heart complications from the chemo, since I have a family history of heart disease. I could have complications trying to have children. “It’s this new felt security, this sense of not having to look at every decision in my life as I go forward and be stressed out about the cost.”
One of the greatest out-of-pocket costs Kutansky incurred was for procedures at a Denver fertility clinic to harvest her eggs prior to beginning chemo treatments. But those costs may be just the beginning of her medical bills if she and Kris decide to have children. “I had worried that we couldn’t even try to have kids because it would just be too expensive, with complications and everything,” Kutansky said. “Now I have this sense that it’s something we have the security to look forward to. It’s overwhelming.”Meanwhile, Kutansky is holding her own with a strong optimism and an unfaltering belief in her luck in life – despite the tough cards she’s been dealt recently.”I’m definitely positive about my prognosis,” she said. “They say they can cure me, it’s just a matter of time.”