As she lay dying in her hospital bed, single mother Beth Laitkep from Virginia made the request of her life: she asked her best friend Stephanie Culley to take care of her six children when she passes.
Beth found out about her cancer in 2014, when she was pregnant with her youngest child who had to be delivered via emergency C-section so aggressive chemotherapy treatments could start.
Despite initially being effective, the treatments did nothing to stop cancer from returning a year later. Then it spread from her breast to her bone, spine and brain.
Photo credit: GoFundMe
Beth and Stephanie had been best friends since high school, but the cancer brought them closer.
“I felt this pull to reconnect with her,” Stephanie told The Washington Post, “this pull that I could not stop.”
But when the doctors told them that there was nothing to be done for Beth’s condition, the two started talking about what will happen to the children.
Beth wanted her children to be cared for, kept together, and not split up.
Find out if Stephanie keeps her promise on the next page
“At that point, we took the kids down to the hospital for her to talk to them about it,” Stephanie said. “We said, ‘If you do not get a miracle for mommy, who do you want?’ They all pointed to me. That melted my heart.”
So when Beth asked Stephanie, “will you take my babies? Will you do this for me?” she agreed.
“I told her yes,” said Stephanie, “I would do it in a heartbeat.”
Beth died on may 19 of this year, with Stephanie describing her best friend’s death as one of the “most difficult thing I’ve watched. I felt like I was in slow motion, it was heartbreaking.”
Photo credit: GoFundMe
True to their word, Stephanie her husband Donnie took the children as their own.
“They are exceptional kids. You can’t help fall in love with them,” Stephanie said about the new additions to her family. “That day was the first day of our new life. I feel like our life is complete now. Those six kids were the six links we were missing from our lives.”
Stephanie and Donnie have temporary custody of all six children, but they are set to appear in court to obtain permanent custody.
READ: Beyond breast cancer symptoms: 10 things to know after being diagnosed
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