I'm so excited for Forecastle Festival this weekend! I'm also extremely honored to bring you this story about hope, happiness, and healing today. Emily Weixler McCay is known around Louisville for her beautiful smile, her love of spreading glitter, and her Highlands-based business, The Diaper Fairy Cottage. Emily, a wife, mother, DONA trained doula, and entrepreneur, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia last fall; she set "attend Louisville's Music Festival season" as a healing goal. I felt so humbled that Emily agreed to share her story with HerKentucky readers, and I look forward to seeing her (and all of y'all!) at Forecastle!
Louisville folks know you as the Glitter Fairy. Can you please tell me a little bit about your business, The Diaper Fairy, and about your penchant for spreading glitter and happiness wherever you go?
Seven years ago, I opened a modern cloth diaper delivery service, The Diaper Fairy, to fill an unmet need for Kentuckiana families. Our specialty door-to-door laundry service offers the opportunity to set dirty diapers out on the front porch with the promise that we will come by and replace them with cleans. How cool is that? A Diaper Fairy lands on your porch and takes the dirty work out of choosing cloth diapers. Let’s face it, what we do isn't glamorous and we’ve always been in on the joke that we’re #1 in a #2 business. So, if we can throw some glitter and fun at the dirty work of parenting, my Flock of Fairies and I are all for it!
Around 4 years ago, we saw an opportunity to fill another niche and expanded again into a brick and mortar boutique, The Diaper Fairy Cottage (because every Fairy needs a Cottage). Our goal is to provide parenting items and resources that could be hard to find locally. Our boutique offers much more than diapers. We’ve focused on natural parenting gifts and gear, classes and private consultations on topics such as breastfeeding and baby-wearing, and we’ve built a vibrant and inclusive parenting community that meet for toddler crafts hours and new baby support groups.
You’ve been through so much in the past year or so. Can you please tell me a little bit about your diagnosis, treatment and your wonderfully positive outlook?
Last year on Halloween, after being fatigued and anemic for several weeks, blood work and a bone marrow biopsy uncovered an underlying blood marrow failure cancer called Myelodysplastic Syndrome. I was quickly referred to Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis, MO and by my first consultation, just 11 days later, my aggressive cancer had progressed to Acute Myeloid Leukemia. I was basically admitted on-site and underwent two back-to-back rounds of induction chemotherapy to try and get me in remission.
I was hospitalized for a solid seven weeks in St. Louis during the process which is incredibly isolating and hard. I relied on daily meditation, an escape into the music playlists that my husband would make for me, and constant walks up and down the hallway. I found strength and support in focusing on the pictures and cards that plastered the walls of my hospital room and would take time to sit in windows streaming with sunshine to help keep my inner light lit.
The induction chemo worked for just a few weeks and my cancer quickly returned as soon as my bone marrow attempted recovery. My doctors had to move up a timeline for my stem cell transplant because I was so ill. My brother was identified as the fastest, closest match and he donated his stem cells in early February with another month long hospital stay. To (over)simplify an explanation of how a stem cell transplant works, his cells were transfused in, they engrafted into my bone marrow, and started to grow new healthy blood for me. I’m now 100% my brother’s blood inside and right now, I’m 100% leukemia-free. He has literally saved my life.
Early on in my diagnosis, my husband and I made the decision to share the news and my journey through a group we call “Emily Conquers Leukemia”. The group now nicknames themselves “ECL Nation” and it’s filled with friends, family, and colleagues that are nationwide! I have been so fortunate to have an incredible amount of support through my treatment. I have often said, I have felt like we have a network of hands under us, holding me and my family up as we CONQUER this. I’ve had people thank me for staying visible during these past nine months and honestly, I don’t know how else I would have done it.
Maybe the silver lining in this terrible strike of lightning is for us all to recognize it’s about living a life of intention and loving those around you. A life of gratitude. The reality could be that life is quality over quantity. None of us are promised tomorrow.
The journey hasn’t been easy, at all. But I do credit having a “Good Vibes Only” outlook for helping me reach each daily milestone of survival. I have learned so much through this process. I very much take it one day at at time. There were days where I have had to take it one hour at a time. I now move at a slower pace and I don’t multi-task nearly as much. I find it easier to stay present and be in the moment.
I know Festival Season has been a huge milestone in your recovery. Can you please tell me about how you set Forecastle as a goal for yourself and your physicians?
Live music has always been a very important part of my life and has fed my soul for years! In fact, before my diagnosis, my husband and I were planning to attend My Morning Jacket’s “One Big Holiday”, a destination music festival in Mexico in February…But as it turned out, my stem cell transplant timeline settled in during the *exact* dates of the tropical festival. (We’ve often joked that I attended “One Big Transplant” instead!) I knew I’d be just under 6 months out from my stem cell transplant when music festival season was underway, and Forecastle specifically. I’ve always loved our hometown, yet national, music festival and we’ve been honored to be vendors the past couple of years.
While being a vendor wasn’t going to be an option for us this year, Forecastle and AC Entertainment made it clear that if my health allowed it, they would welcome us as guests. As soon as I heard that, I prepped my transplant team for making it a recovery milestone. My health and endurance has continued to improve since my move back home in early May, and so my transplant team approved me to go! This year will be a little more chill for us as I’ll need to make sure to stay super hydrated, take breaks from the heat and sun, and I honestly can’t give out a lot of hugs because I’m still immunocompromised. Still, to be here, meeting this milestone, feeling healthy and normal, feels AMAZING.
Finally, can you tell me a little about the Parent Comfort Tent?
Yes! As it turned out, while we aren’t vendors this year, a last minute opportunity presented itself to host the Parent Comfort Tent again this year. The space is located at the back of the festival grounds, where it’s quieter, on Kentucky Landing’s Buy Local Boulevard. The Parent Comfort Tent gives space for parents to comfortably feed a baby, change a diaper, or pump milk if they are away from their nursling. The booth features fans to cool the private tent, comfortable chairs for feeding, extension cords for breast pumps, and a diaper changing table for the littles. We are also providing breast milk storage bags, disposable breast pads, diaper wipes and diaper cream. The space will be available all three days of the Festival and will be open until 9pm each night. We hope knowing this tent is a comfortable option for families means more parents will attend Forecastle and enjoy the festival. Because, honestly, couldn’t we all use a little more music and celebration in our lives?
Thanks so much to Emily for sharing this journey with HerKentucky! Wishing you continued healing and happiness, Emily!