Kellee's Kickin' Cancer Fund

$25,100 of $100,000 goal

Raised by 207 people in 16 months
Created July 27, 2017


Kellee’s note
   Here’s the kicker. I’m dying. Not like “oh well, we’re all going to die” or “we could all die any day” or “none of us knows how long we’ve got.” No. No. No. I am literally, at this moment, dying at a much quicker rate than I anticipated, and it sucks, sucks, sucks. It’s a big wad of suckiness. Barring some extraordinary godsend of a miracle — which would be marvelous considering that I could see my soon-to-be 7-year-old daughter become an astronaut, baker, architect, painter, Minecraft champion, president of the United States and interior decorator — I am not going to be cured. I’m sure it’s going to be hard for her to juggle all those jobs at once, and I’m positive keeping me around would be more helpful than not.   
   So come on miracle. I have so much stuff to do.
   In the meantime, we’re all just over here living the best and happiest lives we can, for however long we have together. It’s not all pure joy like my saturated Facebook page tells. Sometimes living and dying is hard, but most of the time and on most days, we laugh.
   My family needs help. I need your help, or we wouldn’t all be here together. I didn’t want to have a GoFundMe page at all. It’s so exposed and raw. I’ve put it off and put it off. My friends tell me to get over myself.
   So here I am getting over myself. I’ve relied on my friends to tell most of this story. It’s just not something I can do alone. So thank you Amy, Lisa, Kevin, Lori and Stephanie. You are the best of people.  — Kellee Edwards

The short story
   Kellee needs our help.
   Our amazing friend, Kellee Dawn Edwards (and sometimes Whitlock), was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in February 2016. It’s a rare type of inoperable cancer that is known for its aggressive nature. She’s had lots of chemotherapy, lung radiation, brain radiation and a few kinds of immunotherapy, plus all kinds of drugs to control the side effects of those treatments. It was hard and awful, and she was so, so sick. The cancer went away for several months, but in March 2017, scans showed it was back in the lung and had spread to the liver. Doctors graded her at Stage 4 and said cure was no longer an option. Two months after starting a new clinical trial at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center, scans showed the cancer had grown and spread to the bones. She has started yet another trial at UK and is searching for alternative methods to help give her more time. She is also planning trips to New York and maybe Texas to see what other hospitals are offering. 
   Kellee is the the smiliest, most giving, most stubborn person we’ve ever known. “Why wouldn’t you smile?,” she said. Every Christmas, she finds a family down on their luck. She finds a way to play Santa even if that means rounding up her friends to donate. She gives books to little libraries and food to neighborhood pantries. She and her husband give elderly folks rides home from the grocery store and carry in their bags. Their family motto is: If you have a chance to be someone’s superhero, put on your cape. Be kind and love everyone. Kellee does all that stuff everyone else always means to do. She doesn't want a gold star. It just wouldn’t occur to her not to do those things.
   Now, she needs our help.
   We are asking for your help to make that happen.

The family   
   Kellee and John have four kids: 21-year-old Elizabeth Whitlock, John’s daughter from a previous marriage; 25-year-old Dylan Edwards and 20-year-old Ethan Pate, Kellee’s nephews; and Kate, who will be 7 years old Sept. 2. Dylan and Ethan live with Kellee and John while they work and go to school. Elizabeth works and will be a senior at the University of Kentucky this fall. She lives about five minutes away in an apartment.

Kellee and Kate
   Kellee didn’t think she could have biological children. On her birthday, the day she turned 38, she told John she wasn’t feeling well. He joked that she was pregnant. On Sept. 2, 2010, Katherine Jo Hannah Whitlock burst onto the scene. We could tell you a lot more great things about Kellee and Kate, but she will tell you being Kate’s mom is what she does best. She says it’s been her absolute pleasure to be her mother and leaving her is impossible to stomach.

What Kevin says
   I first met Kellee when she joined the Georgetown News-Graphic on the copy desk, a role that meant she took others’ work and helped make it better. I have since learned that’s a perfect fit; everything Kellee does is done to make others better. She has helped me through heartache and loss, and she has celebrated with me as I found a new and lasting love. When she first met my fiancée, Kellee’s immediate embrace (both figurative and literal) meant the world to me because if she was able to stand up to Kellee’s exacting standards, then it was a true match.
    And now, as Kellee faces her own daily battles with cancer, she hasn’t changed her stance at all; she’s still looking out for everyone else. Whether it’s helping her husband John cope with what we hope isn’t the inevitable or cramming a lifetime of memories into a finite amount of time with her daughter, Kellee keeps putting others first. I hope we don’t lose her. I can’t stress that enough. But if we do – or maybe even when we do, since no matter who you are, everyone eventually faces The End – it means everything to me that we all carry a little bit of her love in us.
   She has made the world a better place. I hope we can do the same for her. ­­— Kevin Hall

The damages
   The truth is Kellee’s family has no financial resources left. The average monthly cost of her healthcare is $40,000 before insurance. This does not include hospital, emergency room visits or travel. Cancer has taken anything they had and, as time goes on, will take more. Cancer-related costs exceed what the family makes in a month, making it hard to keep up with routine, basic expenses. For now, Kellee continues to work from home as a graphic artist and a writer. John works as a freelance editor so he can be home to take care of Kellee and Kate as much as possible. There is no life insurance. It’s a struggle to pay the bills each month. Staying in the house they live in will be impossible when Kellee has to stop working. This is a family who has worked hard their whole lives. Kellee has worked since she was 16 and for lots of those years, she worked 60-80 hours a week.

What Amy says
   I met Kellee on a plane en route to Dijon, France when we were 20 years old.  We had both been awarded the same study abroad scholarship from Stetson University, but we had never actually met.  We traveled all over Europe on planes, trains, automobiles, buses and boats, subsisting mostly on French cheese, baguettes and canned corn.  Despite the poor nutrition, that was the best year of my life so far, and it never would’ve been that way without Kellee.  When I had the worst time of my life the next year, Kellee was there for me then, too.
   When Kellee moved back to Corbin, Kentucky in her early 20s, she essentially became a co-parent to her two nephews, whom she adores. Kellee has always given to others without hesitation and has always put off treating herself.  She and I always talked about going back to France together one day.  It just never occurred to either of us that we might not have enough time.  However, in April 2017, we were able to make a toast to life, love, family and friendship at Epcot France (or as Kate called it, “Fake France”).  The Eiffel Tower wasn’t real, but being with Kellee made it OK. We laughed and we cried. Then we walked past China and Norway and on to Mexico, reflecting on how crazy life is, and how glad we were to have met on that plane.
   Thank you so much for helping us help Kellee. — Amy Olk

The needs
   They say it helps to be specific, so let us be clear.
1. The money would pay bills, medical and otherwise.
2. They need a newer, reliable, safe car. Currently, they drive a borrowed truck. Dylan has his own truck, and there is a broken-down 1999 Navigator in the driveway. They family needs reliable transportation to get to medical appointments, school and work.
3. When Kellee can no longer work, which is imminent, there is no way the family can stay in their home. It’s really that simple. Donations would be used to enable the family to continue to live in their house or to move.
   We are setting the goal high because we can't stand the thought of Kellee having to worry about these things while she's fighting for life. Plain and simple. No amount is too small.
   It’s our turn to take care of her.

What Lisa says

   I still remember the first words Kellee spoke to me back in 1993, in part because they were in French spoken with the most glorious Kentucky accent I had ever heard. “Bonjour. Je m’appelle Kellee, avec deux “e” à la fin,” this beautiful young woman said with a smile so bright the sun felt just a little bit threatened. We shook hands and I knew I wanted to be her friend. Luckily for me, she did too. We had so many wonderful adventures together during our time as students in France – bright days filled with classes, cafés, bus trips, boys, poets, philosophy, and so much laughter and love. Never one to let a moment of adventure and joy pass her by, Kellee and I sunbathed topless together for the first time in the south of France during one of our school breaks. One, two, three and off came the tops. I kept looking around thinking surely someone was going to come and yell at us. Of course, no one did (it was France). Kellee and I were young and fearless and exploring the world together. Joseph Campbell taught us to find our bliss and e.e. cummings taught us to be crazy enough to give daisies. We read Virginia Wolfe, The Tao of Pooh, The Velveteen Rabbit and Goodnight Moon. We became real together. Kellee didn’t become a brave new girl with cancer. She’s always been fearless (except on roller coasters; she’s a total wus on those). She has always been the brightest light you could imagine, with the biggest heart to match. Please help her if you can. Please share the post. Please hug your family and friends and tell them you love them. — Lisa Kozleski

What Lori says

   As I sit here typing, I’m wearing the socks that my sister Kellee gave me.  They say “it’s a shitting rainbows kind of day.” I’m sure the blurb is meant to be overly optimistic, but I can’t help recognize the juxtaposition between such a foul word like “shitting” and the lovely images conjured by the word “rainbows.” It is such a shitty, foul thing that my beautiful sister has cancer. It’s even shittier that she is unlikely to be a physical presence in her daughter’s life for much longer. WHY?  It makes me so angry, I’m shaking and nauseated. 
   Kellee and Kate bond over rainbows. They love color and brightness.  They are color and brightness.  Kellee is a light in all our lives. She radiates with hope of a brighter future for her daughter and nephews, love for John, family and friends, faith in knowing she has lived a good life. I won’t lie, I’m envious of this light.  While we share so many similarities in our views on life, Kellee is so much more.  She truly fights for those she loves.  She has no hesitation making known her thoughts on fairness and equality.  She is both fun and funny.  She is cultured, well read, smart, so smart. She is so may things I’m going to miss. 
   Even after the most catastrophic storm, the shittiest storm, there is a rainbow.  My rainbow is Kate — the best, most precious part of Kellee. — Lori Eidson

What Stephanie says

There are so many things I want to say, so many emotions I want to express, but I’ll just start at the beginning. Kellee and I met through work. I immediately was drawn to her and felt like I could tell her anything. So I did. I told her about my family, my mom’s crippling breast cancer, how I lost my father and that I had no plans during the holidays. She invited me to join her family for Thanksgiving with open arms. She has been my second mother here in Lexington. There have been so many times when I have felt lost in life and have turned to her for guidance. She has comforted and enlightened my spirit every time. She has made me a better person, and I pass on her light to those around me. She will always be my sunshine. — Stephanie Schlosser

Thank you.
   I guess what I want to say most is thank you. The kindness, love, support and prayers for me have been overwhelming. I love you all so very much. I know this is a lot to take in for my family and friends. I know cancer is uncomfortable for everyone. It’s so hard for everyone involved, friends and family. Nobody likes to believe that I might die, but I might, and I want my family to be OK, to be allowed to breathe and grieve, love and laugh and still keep the lights on.— Kellee

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Dear friends and family,

This is Kellee's friend Amy, and it is with great sadness that I am writing to let you know that Kellee died this evening at 6:10PM.

After her most recent hospitalization of several weeks, Kellee returned home last evening, but was unable to remain there. This morning she returned to the hospital, and passed away this evening, surrounded by her family and close friends.

John, Kate and the rest of the family are coping as well as can be expected, and are deeply grateful for the love and support from all of you.

While this news is not unexpected, it still happened faster than any of us wanted it to. Love is what matters most in life, and Kellee gave and received so much of it. I am so grateful for her friendship, and in awe of the creativity with which she infused the world around her.

Again, thank you all for being there for Kellee.


+ Read More
I know there has been a lot of concern and maybe a little misinformation about my condition in the past few days, so I thought I would update everyone in lieu of trying not to forget to call or text someone. Last week, I became increasingly sick and began spitting up blood. I have been in the hospital at UK since Thursday or Friday. I really can't remember. They have been rough days. I have blood clots in my lung and was dehydrated. I do not expect this to take me out. I expect to go home by tomorrow on blood thinners and to get somewhat better. This is cancer. This is how it goes. So I am not freaking out, and I don't want anyone else to either. I am grateful to be given more time with my family. Be grateful with me. Thanks for the prayers and well-wishes. It has all been much appreciated, and I love you all.
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Dear friends and supporters of Kellee,

This is Kellee’s friend Lisa sending this update. I am currently snuggled up next to her at her beautiful home in Lexington, having a wonderful visit where we are talking day and night, and I spend the rest of the time baking with the amazing Kate.

Kellee asked me to send this message to pass along her deepest thanks to all of you. She is overwhelmed at the generosity of every single one of you, and she and John are so grateful at the support that has come from near and far. It was hard for her to even start this campaign as she is usually the one who is providing the help – not asking for it. But the help is needed, welcome and so appreciated.

In some ways, life at the Edwards-Whitlock home feels much like I am sure it always does. There is nonstop love. There is lots of delight in all that Kate does, says, thinks and imagines, and the wonderful rhythms of the school year (first grade with a teacher she LOVES) and excitement building for her 7th birthday party next week. There are family and friends stopping by to visit and help out.

But things have definitely changed too. For me, the hardest thing is seeing the pain that overcomes Kellee from time to time. She is trying to find that sweet spot of pain medication, where it takes the edge off but still leaves her mind awake and alert and free of the haze and fog. Yesterday had some moments where the pain was visible on her face, where you could tell every step she took just hurt. That is hard to see. Thankfully today has been better so far.

She continues to go to her doctor appointments and is getting good care. And she continues to radiate joy.

Thank you all – every single wonderful one of you – for your help at this hard time. It has taken some of the weight off – and that is so needed and appreciated.

Sending all of you the love and thanks of Kellee, John and Kate,

+ Read More
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$25,100 of $100,000 goal

Raised by 207 people in 16 months
Created July 27, 2017
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