Kim Voelker-Wesley, 41, from Montrose, hugs her son Cameron Wesley, 3, while her mother Terrie Gronau from Montrose sits in the dining room of her home in Montrose on Thursday, January 3, 2019.
Voelker-Wesley fights skin cancer, which spreads to the chest, lungs and liver after five years of remission. The disease has deprived her of her livelihood and her independence, but not her hopes. She has a New Year resolution: to live. (Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)
DETROIT – Kim Wesley's New Year's resolution is pretty simple: she wants to live.
The 41-year-old single mother has eight small children, However, an aggressive skin cancer has spread throughout the body and physically drained it.
She spent New Year's Eve getting chemo, and her pale blue eyes were glued to the hanging plastic bag, filled with venomous, liquid hope.
The Swartz-Creek woman, who was in remission for five years following a 2012 melanoma diagnosis, learned last year that the disease had returned and spread to the chest, abdomen, lungs, and liver.
She was blinded by the relapse Months ago, a CT scan showed no illness, she said, noting that her doctor clearly said she was in the clear. However, a routine mammogram in January 2018 revealed that the cancer was back.
Wesley would lose her red hair, her energy, her livelihood, her car accident from two strong chemo drugs she'd landed in the hospital for over a month last summer, vomiting so often she wanted to die.
But she does not remember this part. The quiet woman who smiles at the nurses during the chemo treatments only remembers that she had survived the hellish nightmare and wanted to live.
The former workaholic, who has worked full time through Chemo, wants his old life back. She has always worked and cared for her children. She wants to be independent again, drive herself to appointments, bring her kids to bowl and as usual to the movies.
She needs the chemo to work. She has to stay strong and positive.
She needs a miracle – and a car.
After the cancer returned, Wesley became too ill to work, and had to give up her full-time job as a certified nursing assistant in a nursing home in the Grand Blanc, where she earned around $ 52,000 annually. She worked for overtime and double shifts to cover her bills, which included a $ 750 mortgage a month and a $ 400 monthly auto money payment for her 2012 Dodge Journey, she said.
Her parents helped to save her four-bedroom house; The car was repossessed after being left behind in payments. She now has a disability: $ 1,053 a month.
Cancer has taken its toll, she admits. But their hope, their faith and their dignity are not available.
Kim Voelker-Wesley, 41, of Montrose, hears results on Monday, December 31, before starting chemotherapy at the Rose Cancer Center, Royal Oak, 2018. Voelker-Wesley is fighting skin cancer which spreads after five years of remission in the chest, lungs and liver. The disease has deprived her of her livelihood and her independence, but not her hopes. She has a New Year resolution: to live. (Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)
"I've heard that you need to stay positive … you're not sitting to die," she said in a few days before her New Year's chemo treatment Rose Cancer Center of the Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. I've always been a strong-willed person, I'm not one of the people who say, "I do not have it."
And so she fights through nausea, fatigue, money problems.
Because, to be honest abstaining from despair is not an option.
"I really do not only fight cancer, but also to get my life back," she said. "Sometimes it's too much and I get depressed and just cry, but then I remember being so against cancer if I just stay positive and fight. "
Above all, she said," My children need me. "
An unusual mole
It was during one 2012 carnival outing when Wesley's mother saw a lofty, dark mole on her daughter's back, it had been there for a while, it started flat, but over time it got darker and darker with the rising.
Than her mother noticed, say te Wesley, the mole had gone black and started to itch and bleed. Her mother told her to get it checked, and she did.
It was melanoma. She had traveled to her lymph nodes, so Wesley had two surgeries that removed the cancer and remitted it, she said. For five years she believed that she was cancer free and even had two children after being treated for cancer.
Wesley's children are between 1 and 13 years old. She is alienated from her father – they split up in 2014 – and she took care of her parents and three sisters largely with the help of the children.
In November 2017, Wesley had what she thought was her last routine CT scan. There was no cancer and her doctor told her that she no longer needed the routine exams, that she was in free space, she said.
Then she was blind two months later. Wesley went to routine mammography in January 2018 when lumps were discovered. A biopsy followed.
The cancer was back.
"When I read the results, it was melanoma and I just had tears," Wesley recalls, sitting in a car with her mother as she learned the news. "I started crying … She started crying."
Mother and daughter then went to the doctor, who delivered further bad news.
"He said that this time around, surgery was not possible because that was the case in my blood and spread to my organs," Wesley said. "He just said I had to start chemo."
The news also made her mother Terri Gronau (60), who was Wesley's main support system, drive her to appointments, watch her children and feed her every night while her daughter is fighting for her life.
"We were just shocked, I thought she was in remission," Gronau said. "To think that everything starts from a small point on her back, it's scary and exhausting and sometimes makes me sick, I'd rather it than me."
Fighting the Unthinkable
Gronau has seen her daughter through a few dark days. The supportive mother sitting in the hospital parking lot with her grandchildren is dreadful while her mother is getting chemo. Wesley gets chemo every two weeks.
"She has a good heart, she loves everyone," Gronau said about Wesley, her eldest child. "Seeing them like this is hard for anyone, I think it's hard for them because they're used to being strong, they're used to being the others others could rely on."
But she watches her daughter fight through. One strong mother supports the other and hides her fears and pains for her children.
"I see she's worried about the kids, she tries to stay positive and does not blame anyone." Part of her personality and her mind, "Gronau said, smiling just as her daughter does when she talks about the disease.
But the dark days were tough, Gronau almost lost her daughter in July, as her potassium levels went from the two at the same time The Chemo drugs Opdivo and Yervoy, which fell to dangerously low levels, could not stand the latter.
"There are not many people who can bring them together, but they had to try. The cancer came back so aggressively that it had to be hit aggressively. It was tough, "gronau said, remembering the nausea and the vomiting was uninterrupted." It was awful. She carried a bucket. She threw too much. "
Wesley reached a break point.
" She looked at me one night … She turned her head and said, "I have to go to the hospital because I'm dying." Gronau.
Wesley spent the entire month of June and part of July in the hospital, the Yervoy drug was discontinued, and the aggressive treatment was supposed to do it.
"They scanned me again since then. It's from my lungs, "Wesley said. I've got some spots on my liver, but they've gotten smaller. At the moment I am reacting positively to the remedy.
And she holds on to that.
She said her doctor told her to keep the chemo drug until she stopped working, and when and if she says the doctor said to her, " he has two other medications in his back pocket. "
Wesley does not give up.
She is out of her job in medical leave. Her employer, she said, told her that she can work again when she is stronger.
Suzette Harrison, staff manager at the Wellbridge nursing home in Grand Blanc, where Wesley worked, describes Wesley as a reliable and hard worker. He has been taking shifts all the time, even when she was through chemo.
"You could always count on them, and when they hit them, they hit them hard," Harrison said of Wesley's fight with cancer. "She has always been at work, she is a very hard worker who supports her family and herself."
According to Harrison, Wesley's employees often tried to persuade Wesley to stay home to improve. But Wesley heard nothing about it.
"I think that was more of her motivation to move forward," Harrison said. "That was her strength, she did not want to lie down and die, she wanted to live."
It was only when the aggressive chemotherapy began that Wesley finally had to stop working.
"When it came to me, it had hit her harder already, I knew she was going through it, and I thought," Kim, you should really rest, "Harrison said, noting that Wesley's job remains open Come back to her when she feels better.
Wesley prays for the day every day.
"I pray that my health will be better for my children to have their mother. I pray that my children will take care of them. I pray for other people. I pray for my family, "she said
The fight continues
While sitting in the hospital hall on New Year's Eve, waiting for her name to be called for chemotherapy, Wesley rocked in her chair while She rubbed her hands on her thighs, smiled through the fear, talked about missing work and joked that she did not like her new white hair or elven cut.
When her name was finally mentioned, she said, "That I am. "And got up and went to the Chemo Center with a T-shirt she had bought for herself. It read," You have that. "
Follow Tresa Baldas Twitter: @Tbaldas.
If you want to help Wesley, a Kim Wesley Cancer Fund has been established: https://www.gofundme.com/kimberly-wesley-cancer-fund
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