Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam
Steven and Sean on the Polar Bear Cam

Thursday, February 15, 2007

From The Bottom Of My Heart


February 15, 2007.

Eleven years ago today, four year old Kyra drew her last breath.

We found out that there was a monster growing in 3-year old Kyra's head at the end of June in 1994.

It was like a dividing line in my life. Before that day I had this simple faith in the natural order of things, children bury their parents and not the other way around.

Kyra before diagnosis
A week before diagnosis

I was seven months pregnant with Steven when I overheard Doug taking the call. I could tell something was wrong but I thought it was his grandmother, not Kyra whom we'd just seen and who had just turned three.

I will never forget our first visit to a pediatric oncology ward. Kyra had surgery, but her tumor was truly inoperable and all they could get was a small sample for biopsy. When we got there, they were waiting for results.

Walking into the ward for the first time took my breath away. There was a newborn in an incubator, crying and crying and his mother would put her arms in the gloves and reach in to hold the baby from the outside. Sometimes the mother wasn't there when the baby cried and I wanted so desperately to hold and comfort that small creature.

Kids riding down the halls on trikes and parents walking behind with IV poles. Most were bald, Kyra was missing a patch where they shaved her head before surgery, but for the most part her long blond hair was intact.

Doug and I stayed at a friend's apartment who was out of town. After that first day at the hospital we went back to the apartment and fell into bed. I woke after about an hour of sleep and went out to the living room, where I cried so hard I threw up, it was like a nightmare that wouldn't stop.

The next day we went back to the hospital, where Kyra's parents awaited the final results of the biopsy and Kyra's prognosis. They left me with Kyra and her new baby brother Gannon while they spoke with the doctors.

Kyra's oncologist came in to meet her for the first time. She did a neurological exam, then moved on to the cognitive portion. She asked Kyra what her name was.

Kyra said, "Kyra Megan Pillsbury, that's spelled K-Y-R-A-M-E-G-A-N-P-I-L-L-S-B-U-R-Y. See my baby brother, his name is Gannon Quinn Pillsbury, that's G-A-N-N-O-N-Q-U-I-N-N-P-I-L-L-S-B-U-R-Y."

Without prompting, she went on to give her address and phone number.

Kyra loved dress-up
Kyra loved to dress up

The oncologist gave me a look. She said, "well, I guess her cognitive abilities haven't been affected by the tumor. How old did you say she was?"

She was less than 2 months past her 3rd birthday.

I have met many kids with cancer who seem to have abilities beyond their years, and Kyra was exceptional. Beautiful, brilliant and articulate. Compassionate and generous.

She loved babies, and was the sort of person who would befriend anyone having a difficult time.

She loved those little stick-on earrings they make for little girls, and she had a whole collection.

Gannon, Steven and Kyra
Gannon, Steven and Kyra just before she relapsed

She loved band-aids and could never get enough of them, decorated in different patterns.

She had a jar in her room and she would make people pay her a quarter before they could do any procedures on her.

Most of all she liked to bestow gifts on those who came to visit, she needed lots and lots of those stick-on earrings and band-aids because she loved nothing better than to give them away to her visitors. Those who came to visit may have had to pay a quarter, but they were rewarded with many of whatever she had to give.

She would have given anyone anything of hers if they'd asked, her happiness was never measured by what she had, but by what she could give. At the age of three she knew she already had everything she needed.

Kyra holding Steven
Kyra and newborn Steven

She loved Steven, adored him. She held him in her lap when he was three weeks old and sang the Raffi song to him,

Baby Beluga in the deep blue sea,
Swim so wild and you swim so free.
Heaven above, and the sea below,
And a little white whale on the go.

Baby beluga, baby Beluga, is the water warm?
Is your mama home with you, so happy.

My words do not give sufficient honor to what she was.

Cancer is a despicable thief. Near the end, the massive doses of steroids she was taking to control the swelling in her brain made her nearly unrecognizable.

The last time I saw her, two weeks before she died, she lay on the sofa as I was leaving and told me the next time I saw her she'd be wearing a long green velvet dress and she'd have long blond hair.

The world is a poorer place for the loss of Kyra.

Kyra, I'm looking forward to the day when I get to see you in that dress with all that long blond hair.

Kyra's bench

From the bottom of my heart to the tips of the stars, I love you.

- Kathleen

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