Aisling Kyne, Walking in memory of her mother, Ann Kyne (2012.)
Intro by Dewey MacMillen (Social Media & Volunteer Coordinator)
My name is Aisling Kyne, and I just graduated high school and turned 20 years old in August. I was born in Galway, Ireland, and I grew up in a loving Irish-Catholic family in South Boston, Massachusetts. As a child, I enjoyed playing with my two younger brothers, making art, dancing to music all throughout my house, and playing soccer, karate, and track and field. Unfortunately, I can’t remember much else apart from what I just wrote because cancer wove itself through every fiber of my youth.
The first time my mom was diagnosed, when I was in first grade, I learned that my beautiful mother was going through medical treatments for cancer. I remember hearing on the radio that breast cancer, the kind she had, was taking millions of brave women away from their families every year around the world. When I told her how much that scared me, she told me she had the best doctors in the world and that she would be okay. And she was. She was okay. Dr. Erban and his team worked tirelessly to give my mother the best treatments available at the time. She went into and out of remission for the next 8 years with malignant breast cancer, but never wavered in her faith in God and never showed me or my two younger brothers any sign of fear. In fact, she showed us nothing but unconditional love and support.
If it weren’t for Dr. Erban and the care afforded to my mother at Mass General and Tufts Medical Center, and her own steadfast faith in herself and her strength to endure the struggles she not only faced physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, my mother wouldn’t have been able to hold my hand through my own experience with cancer.
Two days before my 9th birthday, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that only occurs in kids with major growth spurts. Being faced with a diagnosis of a disease for which the survival rate was a dismal 30-70% at such a young age definitely threw me for a loop. I’m not even sure I completely understood what was happening to me at the time, and to confuse everything, there was the enormous pressure to make friends in school even despite the constant bullying. But what I did understand was that I had my family’s support through it all, plus a chemo buddy in the form of a chocolate lab named Harry. Before every single round of chemotherapy, my mom would wipe down the hospital room with bleach, make my bed with sheets from home, and keep me preoccupied with trips to the 8th floor where we did arts and crafts and sang karaoke. She sat and held my hand though the surgeries, she bolstered by courage with blue slushies and ham and cheese sandwiches, and she sat with me while I watched my hair fall out in the water of every tub I took. She cried with me, laughed with me, people-watched from the hospital windows with me, and even broke me and my IV pole out of the hospital to get my favorite cookies and some fresh air at a nearby café. She was the kind of super-mom that you hear about in the news lifting cars off of their kids, except better, because the car was cancer. She took the burden of my sickness onto her own shoulders, and she hit all of my rock bottoms with me, all the while showing me how to handle the crappiness of the “why me’s” and the “but it’s not fair’s” with grace and poise.
I think the uniqueness of my mother’s experience of cancer in parallel with mine, helped the both of us. When she had another recurrence of cancer in 2008, my world was rocked yet again. I still can’t really talk about this part, even though it’s been 8+ years, but from when I was 11-years-old to when I was 15-years-old, I watched my mother, my best friend, leave this earth piece by piece. I’d known what it was like for her to have cancer and feel like a powerless little kid, and I knew what it was like for me to have cancer and for her to do everything in her power to help me, but the one thing I never thought I would ever have to understand is the pain of losing someone you love so much, piece by piece, to the same disease that took my leg and my childhood. She passed away on May 12, 2012, and I’ve never felt pain like that. It literally felt like through the process of losing the abundance of life and love that she gave to me, I lost my life too.
It’s taken the past 5 years, but I’m starting to think of God, or my “higher as the love and life that I experienced through her. I believe in that. I believe in her.
After 5 years of not being able to walk on two feet and being stuck on crutches, I’ve finally been able to receive a clinical trial surgery and prosthetic and rehabilitative care at a Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which has resulted in getting me back on two feet again, literally and figuratively! Without having the knowledge or experience of the love that my mother and family have for me, I wouldn’t be able to be walking here today. Even though she hasn’t been able to hold my hand throughout this experience, I hope she is proud of me. I wouldn’t have been able to get through what I’ve had to endure in my life if not for the way that her love transcends even the bounds of life and death. I couldn’t be prouder to honor her life by walking for her today, and every day, through this life.