IBC {Unforgettable Moments}

I will never forget…my mom’s battle with cancer

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It was the end of summer in 2010. My boyfriend had just returned from two months in Haiti, and I was wrapping up my internship at Camp Berachah, about to head off to Ireland for the following year. We were determined to spend our last two weeks together, so after a week with his family, we packed up my car and headed east to spend the last few days with my family. I remember getting a strange phone call from my mom as we were leaving Seattle. She asked if I had checked my email, and I told her no, but we were just about to head home so I would talk to her then. Once we got to my mom and step-dad’s house, I got on the computer to check my email while I waited for them to get home from work. I was very shocked to find an email, sent to my brother, sister, and I, telling us that my mom had been diagnosed with Stage 3 Inflammatory Breast Cancer. I didn’t quite know what to do, other than try to explain to my boyfriend through tears what I had just read. Much like divorce, cancer is something that you think can’t touch your family…until it does. And much like the divorce, I was not ready to talk about this. I didn’t want it to be real.

So I grabbed my keys, made up some lie about how I needed to wash my parent’s car before they got home, and headed down the hill to process this new information. {I still remember telling the guy at the car wash that I was having a bad day…he even gave me a discount} I eventually came home, and since my parents had known about the diagnosis for a few days, they were at the point where they were able to make jokes and lighten the mood a bit. They insisted that I continue my life and trip to Ireland as planned, and even though it was extremely hard to leave, I got on the plane. I was very thankful for the way my new community in Ireland surrounded us with love and prayers, and for the community back home who did the same. I felt guilty that I was able to continue with my plans as if nothing was happening back home, and yet I know there’s nothing I could have done anyway. Mom underwent a mastectomy as well as chemo and radiation during round one.

 

Mom (with her sweet wig) and I at Red Lobster for my birthday dinner

Mom (with her sweet wig) and I at Red Lobster for my birthday dinner

I moved back to the states with the sense that I was being called to “minister to my family.” I had no idea what that meant, but I signed up to watch my nephew full time for the next year. Three weeks into that job, I got a call that my mom was going in for emergency surgery, as they had discovered a tumor the size of a kiwi in her brain. It was naptime, I was home alone, and I didn’t know what to do. I packed my bags, paced back and forth, and then called my brother-in-law to talk about next steps. We waited for my sister to finish teaching that day, and then made plans to drive down and see my mom before her surgery. We showed up in matching shirts that said, “kill the kiwi! Team Kathi!” My “job” allowed me the flexibility of staying with my parents for a couple of weeks after the surgery, helping my mom with things while my step-dad returned to work. Round two included the brain surgery and another round of chemo and radiation.

 

Allison, Bentley, Mom and I with our "Kill the Kiwi" shirts, right before she went into surgery

Allison, Bentley, Mom and I with our “Kill the Kiwi” shirts, right before she went into surgery

Mom modeling her new walker the day that she came home from the hospital after brain surgery

Mom modeling her new walker the day that she came home from the hospital after brain surgery

 

In March of this year, I got another phone call, with more bad news. The doctors found two new spots of cancer in the brain. At first I was fine, because I knew this time to expect that the cancer would return. But then my mom got emotional on the phone, and it hit me. I paced again {apparently I am good at that}, and then called my boyfriend at the time {also clearly a go-to for me}. He was wonderful and prayed with me on the phone and then got me laughing to keep my mind off things. They decided no surgery would be necessary for round three- just a high dose radiation to take care of one spot, and close monitoring of the other spot.

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Before all of this, I didn’t know much about cancer, but I have learned that inflammatory breast cancer is a very rare, aggressive form of cancer, which will continue to come back, attacking different organs until they eventually shut down. My mom’s cancer is now considered Stage 4, since it has spread outside of the breast/lymph node area. Just a few years ago, the statistics for those with IBC were not very good, but it is amazing to see the advancements just in the short time that she has been battling it.

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This week marks the two year anniversary of my mom’s emergency brain surgery (round 2), and it comes with the results of the latest MRI- the most recent brain tumor (the one they weren’t able to treat with the high dose radiation) has grown, but the doctor is not worried, so my mom has decided that she is not worried. People often ask me how my mom is doing, and I never quite know how to respond. She has a new normal, but within that new normal, she seems to be doing well. She is still the most positive, wonderful, strongest woman I know. I don’t think that will ever change. Her mantra through the whole thing has been “God must not be done with me yet, because He still has me here!”

♥♥♥Unforgettable Moments

Read about my other unforgettable moments here.

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