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Fighting Breast Cancer, Building Bonds: One Family's Story

Cole Kirkpatrick, 14
Cole Kirkpatrick
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Stephen Karlisch

As soon as my mom told me she had breast cancer, nothing seemed normal. I felt powerless to help and was really depressed. I thought about how my aunt had died three years ago. I was close to her, but I didn't know she had breast cancer until the very end. My mom was straightforward from the moment she was diagnosed, so the entire time I kept thinking about the possibility that I would never see her again. I just knew it would be very hard.

When she was getting chemo the level of stress in our house went way up. I remember Christmas of 2008 being the worst time. Everyone's supposed to be happy and perky, but my mom was in pain and just wanted the treatment to be over. It was really scary to see her like that because normally she's so bold and strong. And still she felt she had to do shopping and make the holidays merry. I didn't talk to anyone about what I was going through—not friends or family. I thought that if I said anything to my mom, it would only add to her worries. I really struggled with how to act around her. I tried to quiet down and not argue as much. But I wasn't always successful. We fought a lot. And part of me just couldn't deal and wanted to run away. I wasn't there for her as much as I should have been.

After my mom was better, I worried for a long time that the cancer would come back. I don't know if I'll ever put it fully behind me. There are lots of reminders—she had reconstructive surgery recently, and her back hurts more than it used to. It's still painful to think about all we went through. But I try to stay positive. Little things like fights with friends or a bad grade don't faze me as much. I still argue a lot with my mom—that's probably partly because I'm a teenager. You have to get through the tough parts of life, even if you don't want to. I just want to help as much as I can by just being there for her.