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July 23, 2012 - Jodelle Greiner
Interviewing Alison Lutterman brought back memories — memories that are never far from the surface, anyway.
I knew before meeting Alison that she had been diagnosed with brain cancer. What I didn’t know was she’d been diagnosed with cancer more than once.
Attending the Relay for Life at the Martin County Fairgrounds later Saturday, I watched as numerous cancer survivors walked across the stage and announced what kind of cancer they’d had and how long since they’d been diagnosed. “Brain cancer” made an extra impact every time it was mentioned.
I met Krista Brewer when she was 10 months old — a little cutie with blond peachfuzz — the first time I interviewed her family in Gainesville, Texas. By then, Krista had already been undergoing chemo for six months. She’d been diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was four months old, and the doctors agreed it had been growing before she was born.
At age six, another brain tumor was found — a different type of cancer.
At age nine, she was diagnosed with bone cancer and doctors said it was incurable. Shortly afterwards, they found she had a mutated gene. Doctors told her parents, Justin and Janice, that Krista would keep getting cancer.
At 11, doctors found a tumor on her brain stem. Krista died two and a half months later.
In May of this year, Krista would have turned 15. This September, it will be four years since we lost her.
People often call children with cancer “angels.” Krista was certainly brave — what she endured because of her cancers and treatments no child should have to face — but she was also mischievous, moody, sweet, creative, loved the color pink and her numerous pets, and a dozen other things. She was a child with cancer, but she was so much more than that. Krista had a life outside cancer. And it was her family who gave that to her.
If ever a family had reason to be bitter and take out their frustrations on others, it was the Brewers. But they didn’t. Krista’s parents, older sister, and the extended family are some of the most gracious, warm and friendly people I’ve ever met in my life. To this day, I’m in awe of the way they balanced Krista’s cancer and raised her as a regular child, all while keeping their hearts open to the world.
I left Texas just days after Krista’s funeral — I’ve never seen so many men wearing pink at one time in my life, and I never expect to again — but I still often think of Justin, Janice, Shelby and the extended Brewer Bunch, that collection of Brewers, their kin and friends.
Hopefully, Janice is right and everything Krista went through will lead to a cure. If you guys are reading this, I hope you’re still FROGin’.
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