My name is Vanessa Kime and I am 17 years old. My life took a turn in an unexpected direction when my dad, Rich, father of five and married to our mom, was diagnosed with cancer.
On what was suppose to be a lazy Sunday in late February of 2016, my dad and I took a trip to the emergency room. After spending hours there, the doctors told us that he found three tumors in his upper body: breastbone, rib, and vertebrae. My dad spent two years in this severe pain because he of his stubbornness. After the initial ER visit, we talked to local doctors, confirmed the diagnoses of Multiple Myeloma, and started the first of many trips down to Iowa City.
Weeks went by until progress was made. So much of our time was spent in limbo, waiting and waiting for doctors or rooms to open up. Finally, he was able to start chemotherapy and radiation. And then, we received the news that he would be getting a stem cell transplant and in order for this to happen, he needs to harvest his stem cells. Harvesting his stem cells did not go as expected. It was taking much longer than what we had hoped, so the doctors decided to give him a shot to boost the his cells. This shot happened on March 31st at 8 pm, the night I had told my mom that I would be willingly to go down and help out so she could have a night at home. By 11:30 pm, we were in an ambulance to the ER. Here I am, 17 years old, being told, “to sit tight because we’re not sure where this is going,” by the team of doctors in the ER. I was told to NOT call my mom, or his emergency contacts until further notice. I was told to sit in the chair outside of the room. At this point, I was a mess, but the doctors had finally came out to talk to me; my dad’s heart rate went over 200 BPM and his blood pressure dropped very low. After, they told me to call my mom and aunts (my dad’s sisters) and that I could go into the room. Three phone calls later, I walked in, not knowing what to expect, even though the doctors had said he was very sedated because of the three shocks he got. Looking into that room, my heart broke; I saw my role model lying on a bed in so much pain, his glossy eyes making contact with mine, and heard a quiet, “It’s always you. You’re always in the Emergency Room with me.” I reassured him that it was alright and that I was fine while we waited for a room to open up in the Medical Intensive Care Unit. When my aunt and mom arrived, we got the MICU room, and then I napped. My mom and aunt, spent the quiet, early morning wide awake and watching over my dad. Nurses and doctors spent the early, quiet morning figuring out ways to lower his pain level. This one shot sent my dad into the ER, but it also was able to get 15 million stem cells out of him in one sitting, making our goal complete.
In May of 2016, he got his first stem cell transplant. After three weeks, he came home and recovered. He built up strength, picked up cooking, and did what any cancer patient does: wait.
In July of 2016, after a week of waiting for a bed to open up, we were admitted into the hospital for his second transplant. As of today, my dad is in the recovery stage and working on raising different “counts” (white blood cell, etc) back into range.
This whole journey has affected my family in different ways. I cannot speak for the rest of my family on how their life has changed, but for me, I’ve gained the strength to do things I’d never thought I’d be able to do. But along with that, I’ve taken on stress that no 17-year-old should have to take on. I worry for my younger siblings just as much as I worry for my older siblings; the younger ones depend on me to go grocery shopping while my dad’s in the hospital, and my older sisters are still learning how to get on their feet and become less dependent on my parents.
In the early 90s, my mom came to the states to go to Southern Illinois University; she entered a country not knowing anyone or even the language, but then met my dad. Within a year, they were married. As of late July 2016, Richelle is 22 years old, Tia is 18 (19 in less than a week), I am 17, Catherine is 15, and Isaac is 13. My mom also attended Palmer College, got her doctorate degree, and has her own Chiropractic and Acupuncture Clinic in town. My dad spent years in the Navy, attended Southern Illinois University, and his most recent job was as Vice President of Sales and Marketing at a company nearby.
On February 21st, after spending the day in the ER, when we got home one of the first things my dad said was, “We need to raise $130,000 to pay off the house and then I’ll be happy.” My dad lives for being a dad. He grew up not knowing what he wanted to do with his life, but the moment my sister made him a dad, he knew. He has dedicated his life and every moment to the six of us for the past 25 years, and even after getting diagnosed with cancer, he still does.
Letter and cards of support can be mailed to:
Wish On A STAR, Inc.
PO Box 266
Van Horne, IA 52346
Att: Rich Kime