Abby Casmer’s reason to get out of bed

When Abby Casmer was admitted to the hospital for two weeks all she could think of was her dog, Maybell. 

Abby was in the middle of Maybell’s obedience training and had come a long way with her Aussiedoodle when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in late 2022. As Abby worked her way through treatment, Maybell stepped into a very important role. 

“She helped me not just deteriorate in my bed,” Abby said. “I don’t think I would’ve gotten up if I didn’t have her.”

Every day, Abby had a job to do. She had to get out of bed to feed Maybell, take her out and continue her training. In being Maybell’s caregiver, Abby inadvertently made Maybell her caregiver. 

“It was definitely the companionship I needed,” Abby said. “When I was going through chemo there were times when I didn’t want to get out of bed—I didn’t want to do anything.”

In one of many silver linings to follow, Abby’s trainer offered to train Maybell as a service dog, free of charge. Abby’s treatment gave her the time to properly focus on Maybell’s training, which was a big undertaking. 

“She’s so smart, she needs something to learn,” Abby said. “It took a lot of training that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t go through chemo.”


Cancer’s many silver linings



Maybell is just part of the many good things that came from Abby’s cancer journey—a journey she is grateful for. She connected with a doctor who helped get her through logistical challenges and bonded with a nurse named Susan, whose shift often aligned with her chemotherapy appointments. 

“I would sit next to Sydney, who was in charge of all the nurses and bother her about Susan. I’d say ‘I’m not getting this chemo until you give me Susan. When I was done with treatment, I got Susan a bobblehead and a cardboard cutout of my face.”

Having a strong care team plus her sister at her side during chemotherapy helped get Abby through treatment. During recovery, Abby found joy and purpose through in-home caregiving. Being immunocompromised, she couldn’t work her existing job at the restaurant Texas Roadhouse, so she began working in a one-on-one capacity. Her first client was a 93-year-old woman going through her first chemotherapy treatment. 

“She was terrified,” Abby said. “That was the point where I felt like my cancer diagnosis happened for a reason because if I weren’t here for her, who would be? I don’t think she would’ve even gone if I weren’t there.”

Abby is keenly aware of the silver linings that came with her cancer diagnosis. She offers her transformation at Texas Roadhouse as another example. 

“Before diagnosis, I did what I had to do at work, I didn’t socialize,” she said. “Now, I have all sorts of regulars to come in and ask to sit with me, and people at work are some of my best friends.”

These transformations have helped Abby make it to the other side with gratitude. 

“I’ve reached the point where I’m grateful for my diagnosis because it got me out of the hole I was in before. It brought me out of my shell.”


Honoring Maybell’s impact


Artist Peri Goodman


Brushes with Cancer is another way Abby is opening up through her cancer journey. She discovered Twist Out Cancer’s program while she was searching for cancer-related resources. 

“The idea of telling a complete stranger my story and seeing how an art piece would turn out is really cool,” she said. 

For the 2023 Midwest Brushes with Cancer program, Abby was paired with multi-year Artist Peri Goodman.

“We connected pretty well, she was super easy to talk to,” Abby said. “Sometimes, I feel talking about my story makes people uncomfortable or they don’t know how to respond. She was really good at bouncing off what I was saying to keep the conversation going.”

Peri was particularly inspired by Abby’s relationship with Maybell and created an acrylic painting of Abby’s reason for getting out of bed. 

“When she sent me a picture of the painting, I sent it to literally everybody,” Abby said. 

Now that Abby is having post-treatment success, she plans to return to her college studies and is considering enrolling in Chattanooga State Community College.

“I’m ready to be back at school but I’m not sure what I’m getting into,” she said. “It will be an adjustment.”

Until then, Abby splits her time between her job at Texas Roadhouse and her in-home caregiving duties. She now works with multiple clients and uses her experience as an opportunity for connection. 

“They are the sweetest people ever,” she said. “They’re going through their own health journey and they can connect with me on a different level because they know what I went through.”

And those regulars she’s bonded with at Texas Roadhouse? They bought “Maybell” and gifted the painting to Abby for Christmas.