Search & Replace S02E17: Kim Becker

It is often impossible for us to process our grief when we care for loved ones at the end of their lives. And yet that’s what Kim Becker did through the framework of her family and Hello, Gorgeous!, the non-profit organization that she and her late husband, Michael, had started together. The mission of Hello Gorgeous! is to ensure that when a woman has cancer and goes through treatment, she can smile and look in the mirror. Find out how Kim redirected her grief into Hello, Gorgeous! on Search and Replace. 

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[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialist at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode. 

[00:00:09] Joe Taylor Jr.: What if today was the day you got the news that everything in your world was about to get rough? I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search and Replace. 

Kim Becker cherished the life she built with her husband Michael.

[00:00:27] Kim Becker: I had the honor of being married to my soulmate for 23 years. Three years after we got married, Michael was diagnosed with a very rare liver disease called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. And we originally thought that it was just a diagnosis, it would be treatment and that it would be done. And what we didn’t realize is that it would be ongoing for 20 years.

We had a great life and a wonderful marriage, but it was filled with doctor’s appointments and emergency room visits. And so it was Memorial Day weekend of 2017 and Mike had a stroke at home. He woke up and couldn’t walk, and the doctor just sat down with us and said, we’re on a bridge to nowhere. 

He was an amazing man. Loved to sing. He did a lot of karaoke. You know, there’s that deafening silence when you’re losing a loved one and you’re watching the monitors. I didn’t want that. Like, I wanted to absorb every ounce of every minute that I had left with him. And so I had the music on and there were two really cool songs.

And so from the time Seth was three, he and his dad would sing Drift Away by Dobie Gray. And so that song came on while we were there. And the other song that had such significance was Carry On My Wayward Son by Kansas. And it was Carry On My Wayward Son, there’ll be peace when you are gone. So every time we hear those songs, we’re like, okay, you know, we know Mike’s there. We know he’s watching out for us. We have the perfect funeral form. And I’m so glad I somehow mustered up the strength to be able to deliver his eulogy. 

I wish that everybody got to see the world the way that Mike did. And one of the things that Mike always said was, when my life is over, I wanna go sliding into home base with absolutely nothing left. And I wanna say, that was awesome. And I have no doubt that that’s what he did. 

[00:02:12] Joe Taylor Jr.: Caring for loved ones at the end of their lives focuses all of our energy, often to the point where there’s very little room left to process our own grief. And yet that’s what Kim did in 2017, through the framework of their family and Hello, Gorgeous, the nonprofit organization that she and Michael had started together.

[00:02:31] Kim Becker: We worked really hard to make sure that we kept his memory alive. And so I needed to honor him, that I couldn’t have done it without my family. And I realized that I couldn’t do it all myself. So I had to come up with a two-prong approach. So Mike died two months before Seth was getting ready to start high school.

So I needed to make sure that Steph had a stellar high school career. And the other thing was I needed to keep the organization going cuz he loved, Hello, Gorgeous. He absolutely loved people. Don’t understand. My husband would be sick for 20 years. We’ve had the organization for 16. He’d be laying in bed with IVs in his arms and tubes hanging out of his body everywhere and he would always answer the phone. ‘Hello, gorgeous, this is Mike. How can I help you?’ 

Our goal with Hello Gorgeous is to make sure that a woman with cancer can smile at her reflection when she looks in the mirror. You know, cancer can be so devastating and then you get a treatment on top of that, then that just mars your appearance to the point where you’re unrecognizable.

So that’s truly the mission of Hello Gorgeous, is to make sure that when that woman has cancer and goes through treatment, that she can smile and look in the mirror. So we show her how to counteract all the effects of the steroids, how to dry our eyebrows back on. We get her a wig that’s more conducive to what she looks like normally. And to still be able to do this and impact the lives of women battling cancer is pretty amazing, so I’m grateful for that. 

[00:03:52] Joe Taylor Jr.: Kim’s passion for helping women in their own battles with cancer doesn’t just stem from the experience she shared with Mike. Kim received her own cancer diagnosis in 2006 during a phone call in a grocery store. Having caught her cancer early, Kim was cancer free after a surgery six months later. 

[00:04:10] Kim Becker: I will tell you that I have the best job in the world. So I’m really such a lucky girl to be able to say that. It’s the doctor’s job to treat your cancer. It’s my job to make sure you look really good while you’re going through it.

Because so many times what happens is the fact that women, they go to the doctors and they ask them for tips and tricks and how can I do this? And I’ve heard it over and over again where the doctor will just say, it’s not my job. I think of all the women that I met that have never touched a wig that maybe didn’t even wear makeup. Certainly didn’t know how to make it look like they had eyelashes, didn’t know how to draw their eyebrows back on. 

And so, the services that we provide, I want to be that go-to place that after she’s diagnosed with cancer, when she’s up at three o’clock in the morning, wondering how she’s gonna show her face at her kid’s soccer game. How’s she gonna go to work and lead her team?

I want to be able to offer her all of those things that support her so that in a time that feels very abnormal, we can at least help her look a little normal. 

[00:05:08] Joe Taylor Jr.: Kim says she’s learned one important thing from her own experience and from her time spent with so many other people going through their own rough times.

[00:05:16] Kim Becker: Mike’s favorite Bible verse was Psalm 139: 14, I am fearfully and wonderfully made. We actually had it painted very large on my wall across from where I’m sitting at the moment. 

I think that it would be more than anything, even though you don’t understand why you’re going through what you’re going through, you just have to have faith.

And I think that even for women with cancer, it’s just a season. It’s not forever, right? Yes. Am I still a widow? I’m still a widow. But you know, every day they say that greets is kinda like a broken bone. It heals and when it rains, it hurts a little. But the pan gets less and less and less as time goes by.

So I think that’s the one thing is to just remind everybody you know, you are truly fearfully and wonderfully made. And that it what you’re going through right now, it’s just a season. 

[00:06:08] Joe Taylor Jr.: That’s Kim Becker, co-founder of Hello Gorgeous. We’ve got links to Kim’s work in our show notes and over on our website

Also on our show notes resources from the American Psychological Association for caregivers and family members dealing with the loss of a loved one after an extended illness. Their research underscores the importance of taking time to process grief and to ask for support when you need it. 

We’ve also got some recommendations on how to cope with the impact of a serious illness on your body image, and how to help manage the emotions you’ll face when dealing with a cancer diagnosis.

All that and more on our website 

Search and replace was produced by Nicole Hubbard with support from 

Christine Benson, Connie Evans, Amelia Lohmann, April Smith, and executive producer Lori Taylor. Music was composed by Alex ReFire. I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. 

[00:07:05] Announcer: This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production. Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialists serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. 

Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals. At

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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