Stephenson and Erlandson grew up together in Anderson, Indiana. Over the years they grew apart. Erlandson moved to Gallatin, and Stephenson stayed in Indiana, but when Erlandson’s daughter married Stephenson’s son, their friendship was renewed.
“I call her my friend-in-law,” Stephenson said. “I think even if they hadn’t gotten married we would still be great friends.”
Erlandson was diagnosed with breast cancer about 10 years ago. She went through radiation and believed she was on her way to full recovery until recently. She had a double mastectomy in October and suffered numerous complications. Around the same time, Erlandson’s mother was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer in her lymph nodes, and her father was diagnosed with kidney cancer and is scheduled to go through surgery near the end of the month. Stephenson said this was all the more reason she deserved something extra special for her birthday.
“Janet gravitated toward Wonder Woman as kind of a I’m strong, I can beat this, I can do anything,” Stephenson said.
A while before Erlandson’s 50th birthday, she showed Stephenson a picture of a Wonder Woman cake and joked she wanted it for her birthday.
“She didn’t know I was coming down, because I live in Indiana,” Stephenson said. “I contacted a few folks down there and told them, I’m coming down, and I’m going to get her that cake.”
Stephenson had the Wonder Woman cake with pink ribbons made in Indiana for $50. Stephenson set out for Tennessee from Indiana with the cake on Thursday, and after a 300-mile, five-hour trip, the cake was destroyed. It was around 4:30 p.m., and Janet’s party was set for Friday evening.
“I was devastated. I was shaking. I was crying. I was so upset, because I wanted this so bad for her for everything that she had gone through,” Stephenson said.
She called her son, who lives in Lebanon, and asked him if he knew of any local bakeries that could help. He found Sweet Thing Bakery, and she went in 10 minutes before closing, tearfully, with destroyed cake in hand, to seek help. The bakery’s owner, Staci Tyree, greeted her, but between preparations for the Christmas at the Mill shopping event and a full schedule on Friday, Tyree had no time to make a new cake.
“Teresa had a heart of gold, and I wanted her to know it didn’t go unnoticed. Since I couldn’t help her by making the cake, I decided to buy the cake from Publix,” Tyree said.
Stephenson had no idea her second $50 cake would be paid for when she went to Publix to order it.
“My kids were like ‘mom, are you really going to spend another $50 on a cake?’ I just said you don’t understand how important this is to me and to her. This what she wanted and this is what I’m going to do. I want this to be special for her.”
Tyree went to Publix on Thursday evening to make sure the bakery there would be able to make the cake. The bakery’s manager wasn’t there, so Tyree called the next morning to ask about the status of the cake. The manager told her everything was on schedule, and Tyree purchased the cake for Stephenson with a note wishing her a great weekend.
“I started crying in Publix when I read the note,” Stephenson said. “I’m not really one to cry in public, either.”
Tyree, who has owned Sweet Thing Bakery since February 2015, said she was touched by Stephenson’s story.
“I just wanted her to have a great rest of her trip and remember the good times with her friend and family, not the tragic way it started. The world is so full of hate and negativity and I want everyone to know that there is still good hearted and caring people in the world.”
Janet’s 50th birthday was a hit. She had her Wonder Woman cake and was “wowed” that her friend remembered the picture of a cake she had sent months before. They sang her “Happy Birthday,” and even enjoyed some of the cake that got destroyed.
“It was just an amazing, stressful, 24-hours, but it was all worth it,” Stephenson said.
Sweet Thing Bakery is located at 520 W. Main St. in Lebanon.