Written By: Kim Burch and DeAnna Guay
Hello, my name is Kim Burch and I am a stage 3B colorectal cancer survivor. The story I am about to tell is one of friendship, love and loss. AfterI was diagnosed on Sept., 6, 2013, my best friend, DeAnna’s (whom I have known since elementary school and also someone who has been right by my side, every step of the way) mother Ava Riley, was diagnosed with colon cancer as well.
On July 17, 2014 Ava went in for a colonoscopy and was later told that she had a tumor that was almost completely blocking her colon. On July 25, 2014 she had surgery to remove the tumor and was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. The cancer had already spread into her abdominal cavity and her surgeon told us she only had months to live. To hear those words was heartbreaking, to hear that your mother, wife, a grandmother, a great-grandmother and friend is being given a death sentence. It was unbearable.
It took me back to my diagnoses of rectal cancer on September 6, 2013. My best friend DeAnna has been there from my first round of chemo and radiation, through surgery and the beginning of a second round of chemo. Now it is my turn to be there for her and the family, who I have known most of my life. To see the strongest person I know breakdown was very hard to watch, but at the same time to see her go into fight mode for Ava, our mother was what I knew she would do.
So we began the search for an oncologist. Things moved pretty fast, port placement surgery was done August 1, the first appointment with the oncologist was August 13 and the first chemo treatment was September 2. The chemo treatments made Ava very sick and she had issues with her potassium levels. Several times she thought of stopping treatment. On October 21, her CT scan showed the cancer was responding to treatment, which gave her an incentive to continue. DeAnna was going down to Hamilton with her mom every weekend and to each appointment.
We were on the same every other week chemo schedule and would text back and forth on how long we spent doing treatment and how we were feeling. I went down one weekend and we cooked up meals to freeze, so there would be something that could just be popped in the microwave. We had a nice visit, and even painted our nails with blue colorectal cancer ribbons.
For her 71st birthday, November 12, we had a girl’s weekend in Fredricksburg. Ava felt good enough to walk around the pioneer village, even though it was freezing. We visited shops and checked out restaurants. I had finished with my six months of chemo on October 22 and was starting to feel my energy returning.
On November 18, 2014 Ava was put on Avastin, which her oncologist hoped would not make her as sick. She continued to have issues with nausea and dehydration, but she kept going with chemo treatments. Ava was well enough to travel to her son, Danny’s for Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, on November 24 six weeks after my last chemo treatment, I went for a CT scan, which would show where I stood with my treatment. It was a very long week, waiting for my December 1 appointment with my oncologist. Finally Monday rolled around and we went in for the CT results. When Dr. Richey walked in with a female intern, my heart kind of sank, I was so afraid it was going to be bad news. Then he said the CT scan showed no cancer and that I was cancer free! The first person I called when I got out of his office was DeAnna. DeAnna had been there to take this photo on my last chemo treatment on October 22, 2014.
Ava continued to struggle with her treatment; she began to rapidly loose weight going from 101 pounds on December 2, down to 90 pounds on December 27. She put on a very brave and strong front while the family was down for Christmas.
On December 29, Ava went to the ER and she was admitted. She remained in the hospital until January 5 when she went home with hospice. DeAnna was there with her taking care of her until she passed away in her home on January 8. We will be walking as Ava’s Avengers. We walk to remember, treasure and love her always!