Kelley M. Ward
Kelley M. Ward

One Mountain, Twice the Battle
Tuesday, February 07
Cancer shows us that we are all vulnerable. At age 12, I got a rude awakening when I accidentally heard my mother’s oncologist on the answering machine talking about her recent cancer diagnosis. Not only was this not the way my thoughtful mother would’ve wanted her young daughter to find out she had breast cancer, but at age 43, she had to acknowledge her own vulnerability and prepare for the battle ahead of her while caring for three young children.
Moms and dads are their children’s superheroes; they never get sick, they don’t need rest, they don’t need help making dinner because they are too tired or don’t feel well enough. Moms do everything for their children, putting them first, without a second thought about it. My mom was such a superhero - Momma still is a superhero!
My mother’s battle with cancer began when I was 12 and it came back for more when I was 15. When you’re that young and you see your parent suddenly becoming “human” it tends to resonate with you. I think for each of my siblings, my mother’s triumphant battles against cancer and the way we processed it all manifested itself in different ways. For me, I wanted to do whatever I could to get rid of this terrible disease – cancer. I didn’t (and still don’t) want anyone to have to know what it feels like to be concerned for your parent’s life and wellbeing.
At the end of my freshman year in high school, a neighbor of mine asked me to join her Relay For Life team. I had never experienced the event before but quickly became enthralled with it. sophomore year, just after my mom’s second battle with breast cancer. I decided to manage the team that year and proudly raised over $10,000 personally and more than $20,000 as a team. From that experience, everything changed. I realized that I have the ability to do something to help find a cure for cancer, support cancer research and get others involved doing the same. This is when the seed was planted for what is now my career.
So as I sit here today thinking about it all, because of the impact my own mother’s battle had on me as a young girl, I am now leading a team of 16 cancer patients and other individuals directly impacted by cancer in raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a leader in oncology research. The MMRF is the first organization to build an end-to-end cancer research system to accelerate the entire process of treating an individual with myeloma. Because of the work being done by the MMRF/MMRC, 10 new FDA-approved drug therapies have been brought to market in the past 10 years to help treat patients, which has caused the life expectancy after diagnosis to triple. This is monumental in oncology and to the families we serve every day. This is why I get up and go to work each and every morning and why, in just a few weeks, I will proudly get up and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro alongside six very brave patients and nine other passionate supporters and caregivers.
No one should know the fear of a parent being diagnosed with cancer, or worse, the sadness of losing a parent to the disease. I am so proud of my mother’s persistence, her focus on her health,and her willingness to educate herself and her daughters as much as possible about her disease and advocate for genetic testing. But I am even more proud of the motivation that she has provided me in my life to keep helping others make a difference by raising money and awareness for cancer research. I will certainly be carrying her support and love with me while we are on the mountain. This is for you, Momma, and for all the other superheroes out there still fighting cancer every day.
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