Monday, October 3, 2011

Marvy Mom Monday: Kathleen Hill Edition

The most important thing you need to know (and do) right now for my dear friend, Kathleen, is send her good wishes. Whatever form you'd care to send them: prayer, meditation, Pony Express... just send them. Right this second. Seriously. Do it. I  know you may not know her yet, but right NOW, THIS second, just do it. And I'll explain.

We took separate vacations to Disney World a couple of years ago... but met up at Downtown Disney for some nonsense. She always supports me!
Okay. Thanks. Now here's the scoop.

Today (Monday, October 3) K is traveling to Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital to have what's left of the cancer in her uterus removed. She will go into surgery around noon and will, hopefully, come out with NO MORE CANCER. Back in April, if you were following then, you may remember THIS post. It gives a sense of how scary the situation was then. And it makes me so grateful for how under control the situation seems now.

So, why is Kathleen a Marvy Mom? Oddly enough, mostly because up until just over a decade ago, she never even imagined BEING a mom. She's spent a lifetime hanging with kids and built a career around them: from camp counselor to camp director to teacher to principal to (currently) curriculum coordinator She likes them so much so even chooses to spend EXTRA time with kids as the drama director for her district's middle school. But, being a mom wasn't something she really had in mind. The idea of it, frankly, kind of terrified her.
Theater is her passion. Here are two theater "kids" she hosted in 2010 who were performing in local summer stock shows.

But, just over a decade ago, Kathleen's partner, Melinda, expressed a sincere desire to adopt a child. K did a lot of soul searching and realized that yes, she COULD take on this role, but it was not going to necessarily be a natural fit for her. And then.... she saw Jeanne's picture. As K explained to me way back, she took one look at that sweet, 3-year-old Romanian orphan face and there was no doubt in her mind: that was HER daughter. Thus was born another Marvy Mom!

Jeanne, also a theater lover, getting ready for a scene in Cinderella. Fall 2010

Life in their household went along as it does for most new parents. Getting to understand Jeanne's wants and needs, enjoying the obviously vivacious and charming personality already developed in their daughter.. and discovering after many tense hospital visits, Jeanne suffered from exceptionally high fevers that, while scary for her moms, were really okay. She can't take ibuprofen (or is it Tylenol? I can't remember) because her liver (kidneys? shoot! I can't remember!) doesn't process it well. But other than that, they had on their hands a natural dancer, gymnast, actress, singer...

Then, Melinda got breast cancer. All of this happened before I knew Kathleen so I don't know the chronology of Melinda's disease. My understanding is that she had treatments that seemed very effective and things were going really well. She was well enough that K's doctors decided she needed to have knee replacement surgery which she had been putting off in order to be available for Melinda. Then, Melinda's health got bad rapidly.

Suddenly, K was a single mom.

But as Marvy Moms do, she soldiered on. Kathleen and Jeanne marched through the months and years honoring Melinda by pursuing the things they love. Kathleen is hilarious and sharp witted and caring and has high expectations... and these things are what make her an outstanding leader in school and in community theater. These things also make her the perfect friend when you're up, down or sideways about what life is handing you. And I think Jeanne will agree, she's a plain old exceptional Mom.

Kathleen and Megan (director & stage manager) during some, uhh, downtime of Cinderella, Fall 2010. (I'm not saying we DID drink Cosmopolitans, but I'm not saying we DIDN'T, either...)
Given her history with the disease (oh, did I mention that K lost her mom to breast cancer when she was a young adult? Ugh...) you can see how finding out her own diagnosis last April would have exceeded the average feelings of pure devastating. Her sole concern was how Jeanne, this teenager with a laundry list off losses from which she's manged to bounce back so many times, would cope with this. There were some very scary times this spring. Kathleen's people rallied like no other group (except maybe Polly's People). Rides for Jeanne, meals for months on end, overnight care, cards, letters, phone calls... Team Kathleen has been fantastic.

[A special note on Al: K's brother, Al (who deserves an entire MONTH of Marvy Brother posts), uprooted himself from his "quiet" (read: well earned, golf- and grandchild-centric) retirement outside Chicago to move in with K & Jeanne. He has been the nurse, harasser, driver, smart ass, pharmacist, whipping boy, and you name it. In the beginning, his was almost always the single source of testosterone as Team Kathleen coordinated itself. He deserves a medal for that alone! I know that Al - and all those who came together for Jeanne and her - are forever in Kathleen's heart for what they have done.]

Anyway.... despite scary beginnings in which pulmonary blood clots were discovered and additional ER visits were, ahem, enjoyed, the chemo treatments have really done a number on the cancer. Blood tests show her "cancer markers" - which had been sky high - are now below normal. (Which leads me to ask, is it possible to have "less cancer" than normal?? I'm not a doctor, but that seems odd to me!) She is anxious about the surgery, of course, but is very glad to have it here and get it DONE. She'll probably spend 3 - 5 days recovering at the hospital and then 4 - 6 weeks recovering at home. After she is healed, they'll do another scan to check for any pesky remaining cancer... but HOPEFULLY there won't be any more need for chemotherapy.

An old racing bib I outfitted to wear when I race in honor of those I know fighting cancer.

So, one more time before you're done reading - and now that you know why - send up your good juju to Kathleen Hill. And don't worry, I'll keep you posted on her progress.

P.S. Al is convinced that, upon arrival, Baby TOP needs to be named Albert (though he'll settle for Alberta). He's getting a little testy since I haven't mentioned his great idea. So, Al, here you go. And, YOU'RE WELCOME!


  1. A wonderful read and of course my thoughts and prayers this morning for Kathleen. I even had a good cry as I can't sleep this morning and thought about all the wonderful people I Know and Loved that arent here. Positive thoughts flowing her are a great friend and I want you on my team- whatever that team may be! Anxiously awaiting the "recovery" post! Prayers all day...T.

  2. Thank you Phoebe for sharing this with "TEAM KATHLEEN". I posted on her facebook that Tyler and I are sending positive energies to her and through her today and ALWAYS!!! I work at Inter-Lakes and I have to say that we adore her and are all sending our best up to Dartmouth today. Dawn and Tyler

  3. You know how I feel about prayer and my angels. I've got all of them in motion. Love to Kathleen and special Marvy Mom love to you!

  4. OK - NOW I know who is going to kick me in the butt as I run that last 3 miles in my BAA half for Dana Farber on Sunday. Kathleen is in my thoughts and she will beat the butt off that disease!