Bambi Byers, 40, said the Tim McGraw song “Live Like You Were Dying” sums up everything she could say about her husband, Marc, who passed away in March 2011.
“It was my husband to a ‘T,’” she said.
Marc was having trouble swallowing in June 2009, and a few months later doctors discovered a tumor in his esophagus. Bambi said Marc didn’t listen when he was told of his 25% chance of survival.
As cancer spread from Marc’s lungs to his bones, his family of eight from Pleasant Hill, Iowa, went camping and watched football games. Marc took his daughters shopping and his wife on a trip to Las Vegas, and he was able to walk when the Byers family visited the Grand Canyon in November 2010, Bambi said.
But Marc’s health declined rapidly that winter. A friend referred the Byers family to Inheritance of Hope, and they registered just in time for the January 2011 Legacy Retreat® at Disney World. Despite his worsening illness, Marc insisted he and the family take the opportunity.
Bambi said she and Marc had been upfront and honest with their children, ages 5 to 20, about the severity of their father’s terminal illness since his diagnosis.
“The retreat for them was a time just to be kids,” she said.
She said the kids loved the staff and volunteers. They connected with peers on the retreat and were able to ask questions.
Bambi said she enjoyed meeting other families at the Legacy Retreat® and still stays in touch with them.
“I was truly inspired by the people battling the illnesses,” she said.
Marc spent most of the retreat in the hotel and began using a wheelchair over the course of the weekend, Bambi said. However, he found the strength to make Legacy Videos for Bambi and the kids to watch after his death.
“He was very grateful that he got to do the videos,” Bambi said. “He mustered everything he had to do it.”
Marc started hospice care a few weeks after returning from the retreat. He passed away in March 2011 at age 41. The death is still challenging for the entire family, but Bambi said the IoH Legacy Retreat® experience helped the kids cope.
“It helped the kids because when Marc passed away it wasn’t as confusing for them,” she said. “They knew what to expect and knew other kids were going through the same thing.”
The Byers family is still coping with Marc’s death almost two years later. They work with families in the Des Moines area that are dealing with terminal illness. And they still have the Legacy Videos Marc recorded with Inheritance of Hope.
“I don’t remember anything about Disney World or Animal Kingdom. It was the fact that my husband, as sick as he was, was able to make videos,” Bambi said. “He had a bucket list. It was to spend time with his kids and me.”