My mommy, Karen Bendeson, is the strongest, most caring, loving, and hardworking person I have ever known. In 2005, my family recieved a devestating diagnosis of Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Ever since that moment and that diagnostic, my family's lives were changed forever.
Karen worked in the city as a kindergarten teacher for 21 years. She woke up at 5 a.m. everyday and drove an hour out to Harlem to open up the school because she was always the first one to get there. She loved helping the under privileged kids and making an impact in their lives. Even when she would get chairs thrown at her, knifes pulled out at her, and multiple threats daily from most of the older students, she never gave up on those kids. She was heartbroken when she had to go on medical leave because the work was just too much. That's just a glimpse of the kind of person my mother is, as dangerous as the work was for her, she still drove for hours out of her way to help students whose success meant the world to her. Because she went on disability and stopped teaching, there have been extremely difficult times, emotionally and financially, as our family lost a substantial income. This has affected all of us greatly. My mother’s medical costs are very high, even with insurance, forcing our family to cut back on many things we used to take for granted.
I have a great memory of my whole family putting on wigs so my mother, showing signs of the effects of chemotherapy and radiation, might feel less isolated and different. My family really came together and bonded during this time period.
My mother’s cancer has metastasized to her liver and bones, leaving her in a lot of pain. Making the decision to leave for college was one of the hardest I have ever had to make for myself. With my mom's overwhelming support, and knowing that she would be okay, I decided to leave. After committing to Albany, we received devastating news. We were told that the cancer had spread to her brain, where another tumor has formed. When my dad told me this news, I cried for what felt like weeks. He said the doctor tried to simplify her diagnostic for us to better understand and compared her body to a damaged car, one that was so badly bruised that it could never possibly run properly again. Walking out of my dad’s office, I had to pretend like everything was fine, when I felt like my whole world was ending and there was an impending mass weighing me down that made me want to just collapse and never get up. It was the most devastating news I could have possibly imagined. I was told the new tumor in her brain would change her personality, that her memory would start to fade, and her emotions would become more aggressive, all things I wasn't prepared to see. Presently, she has difficulty walking around the house and getting through her daily routines, depending on the activity, she will either use a wheelchair or a walker to get around.
A month before I left for college, we both shaved our heads so she wouldn't have to wait as the hair came out slowly from the new round of Chemo. She was really jealous of how quickly my hair was growing in, while she only had some scruff. I felt bad but she often finds a way around everything. My mom bought different types of wigs and headscarves, none of which I told her she needed, she’s still the stunning woman she once was to me. I personally don’t like the wigs because of how fake it looks and changes my mom’s appearance. She has been wearing the headscarves more often though, which I prefer because the wigs make me feel like she’s trying to hide it, or fit in, but I know she’s more beautiful without them and I wish she would feel the same.
In households that stress the value of a college education, parents may start putting money away for their children’s education every year. My mother’s medical bills didn't allow for this to be done with my college fund. The bank account that my grandfather set up for me, instead helped pay my mother’s medical expenses, therefore I had to apply for many scholarships, which I thankfully received enough of to still go to school.
I wish I could end this story like a fairytale, I wish I could tell you about our happy ending and how she beat cancer and was even able to return to her beloved job. Growing up I have learned many things, not all stories have happy endings, and people don't always get what they deserve. My mother very badly wants to see my school but hasn't been able to yet because she has not been able to make the trip, but I have great hopes that she can soon. We make our own small happy endings like that and little by little, keep moving forward.
Please, any donations will help. The money will mostly (along with other needed medical expenses) go towards a home nurse who can stay with her during the day since my dad can no longer take days off of work to take care of her. We desperately need someone since she no longer can move around on her own and since it's dangerous for her to be alone. Thank you just for taking out the time to read a little about our lives.
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