By Ashley Kahrs
In October 2011, my mother, Audrey, was placed in the hospital for having a severe gallbladder attack. It was so infected the doctors made the decision to remove it. My mom had lost 15 pounds, was jaundiced and anemic and was getting worse every day. After spending over a month in the hospital post-surgery, her symptoms were finally getting better. My siblings and niece celebrated her birthday in the small hospital room. Finally she was well enough to have the all the pre-op tests and what they found was shocking.
Thanksgiving morning 2011 my phone woke me up a bit after 6:30 a.m. My father, Anthony, was calling me, “Hi sweetheart. I need to tell you something. Mom has cancer. It’s pancreatic…” My heart dropped and the world around me was gone. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I screamed and burst into tears. I hung up the phone and balled my eyes out in my husband Andrew’s arms before I told him the news. We got out of bed and threw on whatever clothes we could find. Driving to the hospital, which was 5 minutes away, was a blur of emotions.
When we walked into my mom’s room and she saw us we all started to cry. I crawled into my mom’s hospital bed and just hugged her. I couldn’t let her go. The room was filled with sadness and some other undeterminable emotion. I now know that the emotion was the will to fight, to survive and beat this horrible cancer. Shortly after my brother, Scott, sister-in-law, Kerstin, and niece Jeanina filled the room with love and support. As a family we discussed the next steps to take. Doctor after doctor came in to talk to us about what they recommended. Everyone agreed she would need a surgery called “The Whipple,” which would remove the cancer, part of her pancreas, and the surrounding lymph nodes.
Kerstin had just had a very dear friend go through this exact same type of cancer and recommended my mother be transferred to UCLA Medical Center where she could receive proper treatment. My mom was accepted into their pancreatic cancer program and would be under the experienced care of Dr. Timothy Donahue. As you could expect my mom and dad were so thankful. My mother now had a fighting chance. That night my brother picked up Thanksgiving dinner and as a family we celebrated what we were thankful for: finding the cancer, getting into UCLA and our family being such a strong support system for one another. During a time of tragic news here we sat laughing and smiling like it was just another day, just in a hospital setting.
In December 2011, my mother was transferred to UCLA where she would be treated with the highest care possible. In a few weeks’ time, with her health improving, they would go ahead and remove the cancer tumor. Soon it was the big day, time to remove the cancer. The Whipple would take about 6 hours and was very high risk. Eight hours later Dr. Donahue came down stairs to find my family and let us know the news. The tumor was larger than they originally thought but they were able to remove the cancer. As of that moment mom had a great chance of surviving. Her life changed forever that day.
The past year my mother went through numerous rounds of chemo and radiation, suffered an umbilical hernia in two locations, has been on more medications that I can even remember. She has had test after test, CT scans, PET scans, weekly or daily doctor’s visits and through it all has never given up. I am pleased to say Audrey Ann Everts, wife, mother, friend is cancer free. She fought a hard long battle, went through hell and back a couple of times. My mom is my hero. I don’t know many people who could survive what she has.