Memories For Kids will be forever dedicated with a heavy heart to my dearest friend and sister-in-law, Cathy Stephan Gravelle. In December of 2009, Cathy was diagnosed with Melanoma Cancer. Cathy was diagnosed at the young age of 37. At the time she was married to her wonderful husband Mike and together they had 3 beautiful children; Maddie (9), Charlie (6), and JP (2).
Cathy had a mole removed from her back in 2001. It was diagnosed as a single-spreading malignant melanoma. Cathy had the mole removed via wide excision and was told the margins were “all clean”. Cathy routinely went to her dermatologist and oncologist. She underwent chest x-rays as directed by her oncologist. In 2007, Cathy was diagnosed with another melanoma mole on her cheek. This mole was considered “in situ” and was removed with all clean margins. We all thought there was nothing else to worry about.
In December of 2009, Cathy was officially diagnosed with Metastatic Melanoma. The once believed to be “all clean” melanoma had metastasized to her brain, lung, adrenal gland and bones. As you can imagine we were all in complete disbelief. How could a young, amazing, energetic, compassionate, creative and wonderful mother of 3 children be diagnosed with stage IV terminal cancer? How would the children make it through this horrific experience? What could I do to help Cathy create positive memories for my niece and nephews before this cancer stole her life?
How could I ever wrap my brain around a great memory idea and plan it when every ounce of energy that I could muster up went into trying to go on with my life as “normal” while my friend was dying and there was nothing I could do about it. What I really wanted was someone who could swoop in to plan and execute an amazing memory Cathy could have shared with her children in the last months of her life. A special memory the children would cherish and remember forever.
In the days and months to come Cathy would undergo Gamma Knife surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. It was a race against time……..time unfortunately won, on June 11, 2010, cancer took her life from all of us!
I wanted to do something to help other parents and children in this unfathomable situation. The unfortunate reality is that for children with a terminally ill parent, the final months are filled with bad memories and disappointments as the ill parent spends most of their time in hospital care. There are many organizations that help children with a terminal illness, but there is a major void in any organization helping children who are facing the loss of a parent. Looking through the eyes of a child……….and after many tears and endless determination Memories For Kids was created to help create lifelong memories for children who have a parent with terminal cancer. Our hearts go out to each and every one of you!