A Mother's & Daughter's Journey

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October 4, 2013 - Camarillo, California

It was June 2004, when my 60 year young and vibrant mother, Caroline, was diagnosed with a primary brain tumor. She had been having headaches but refused to seek medical help. She was taken to the E.R. after she appeared to have stroke symptoms. My mother's tumor was removed seven days later. Gliadel chemo wafers were inserted into her tumor cavity, and a biopsy determined her tumor stage IV glioblastoma. This was the beginning of my walk with my mother through her cancer journey. Her walk was difficult. I researched treatment options as she underwent whole brain radiation, physical therapy, and began her temodar & avastin chemo treatment. December, 2004, tumors returned. Scans showed 7 new inoperable tumors throughout her brain. She was still strong, but I could see her begin to decline. Our family was challenged and on a race to find an alternative way to save her life while maintaining good quality. February, 2005 we took her to Houston, TX, for an alternative method that showed promise for GBM patients. My mother said her last audible goodbye to her granddaughters on February 14th when we left for Texas. We were away 16 days and it was clear we were too late. We brought my mother home to Southern California on my grandmother's 80th birthday, March 2, 2005. My grandmother watched her oldest daughter take her last breath March 26, 2005. These are the superficial details of my mother's journey. What's missing is what my family experienced during this time. I watched my mother lose her mind. I watched her personality change. I watched her hallucinate, lose bowel control, climb walls to pick at something that didn't exist, lose recognition of people she once loved, and her ability to speak. Her cancer robbed her of all dignity. Her pain was minimal, but our family suffered the horror of watching this wretched disease eat away her brain while my mother's body returned to the fetal position from which it was born. I learned that it's not the dying that suffer most, it's their loved ones whom have to witness the event. Those left behind bare so much pain when the departed find peace. I share these words, these painfully blunt truths, as awareness is key to the path for a cure. I suffered greatly after my mother took her last breath, just nine months after her diagnosis. The cross I bore was heavy and the walk was long. But, my journey had truly just begun. I am a daughter, a wife, a mother, a friend, and I have brain cancer. March 15, 2011 I was diagnosed with brain cancer at 45 years young, just six years following my mothers death. I never had a headache or noticeable symptoms. I was healthy and physically fit. I had recently gone back to college to finish my degree and even made the Deans List. I have brain cancer! As horror from thoughts of witnessing my mothers death filled my cancer infested brain, I forced myself to face this new realization. I had daughters whom needed their mother. I had a husband whom wasn't ready to raise two daughters alone. With my husband and father at my side, I researched and interviewed surgeons, and chose Linda Liau, M.D., at UCLA. Dr. Liau removed my tumor on May 23, 2011. The biopsy report showed my tumor as grade II oligoastrocytoma. I was lucky. I did not require chemotherapy or radition. A comparison of my mothers tumor and mine showed no matching genetic markers. And, my genetic markers showed that my tumor should respond well to current treatments when my cancer returns. And, it will return. It's not a matter of "IF", but "WHEN". That's the nature of the beast that lies within me. It's a watch and wait game. Not a very fun game. It's been two-and-a-half-years since my surgery and my tumor has not returned. I am told this is unusual. I feel blessed and cursed at the same time. My MRI scans have been stretched out to every 4 months, with my next scheduled before Thanksgiving. I became vegan after my surgery, partially due to choice, but more from listening to my body and its rejection to meats and craving plant foods. My goal is to become as healthy and strong as possible, so when the time comes for necessary treatment, I will tolerate things well. My doctors are pleased with my progress. I don't know if my diet has played a roll in deferring my tumor from returning, but I'm enjoying my newly adopted diet. Living with cancer is no walk in the park. Not for me and not for my friends and family who walk with me on my journey. As healthy and strong as I may appear, I still suffer. I suffer the reminder of my disease every morning I wash my hair and feel my scar. I suffer each morning and night I pop my Kepra medication. I suffer every 4 months as my MRI scans near. And my family suffers. We suffer financial loss from medical expenses. My husband works endless hours just to keep us afloat. My daughters have nightmares remembering the night they saw me foaming of the mouth from the seizure I suffered. Even though they see me fully functioning they worry endlessly as each MRI scan approaches. Will this be the scan that changes our life even more. Living with cancer has changed me and my family. It has changed us both bad and good. I have a new appreciation each morning I open my eyes and breathe. I embrace each day I wake my daughters. I have slowed down to listen and look at the people and world around me. I am hopeful I will be here in the physical world for many years to come. I surround myself with things that give me pleasure. My friends, family, music, food, the ocean, and books fill my days. And, I try never to miss an opportunity to tell those whom I love how much I appreciate them, love them, and thank you. On Monday, October 7, 2013, I'll be 48 years young. I have two beautiful daughters of 12 and 16 years. I have a 31 year young stepdaughter expecting my first granddaughter, March 2014. I have a loving husband whom I've shared the past 25 years with. I am surrounded by wonderful friends. I am Kimberly. I have brain cancer. I am blessed. "I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become." --Carl Jung "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." --Gandhi Brain cancer awareness is essential to finding a cure. You can live without breasts, but you cannot live without a brain. Please don't take that statement to mean anything but the precise hard fact. I have several friends whom have beat breast cancer and some whom have not. Breast cancer awareness and the funding of its research has brought great improvements to treatment options and survival rates. We need this for brain cancer... awareness, funding, and research to find a cure. I'm Kimberly, I have brain cancer, and this is my story. Thank you.