Author, advocate, and influencer Kimberly Irvine is a two-time breast cancer survivor who shares her story to encourage others.
In her memoir, STRONG[ER+], Irvine reflects on the challenges cancer brings to patients and their families. In the excerpt below, the mom of two gives readers a glimpse into a trying moment she and her daughter endured as Irvine recovered from a chemotherapy treatment.
The months of chemotherapy were some of the most difficult times during my journey with cancer that I can recall. It ravages the body, killing both the bad cells and the good cells. I was sick all the time, nauseous and weak. I spent most of my time on the couch because I simply didn’t have the strength to make it up the stairs.
I’ll never forget this profound lesson that came during one of my weakest moments as a mom: I was lying in the living room, so sick and frail from the chemotherapy treatment. Kalli, then six, came up to me and asked if I would tuck her into bed. “Honey,” I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m just so sick and tired. I don’t think I can do it.”
In her sassy way, Kalli put her hands on her hips and fixed her pretty blue eyes on mine.
“Mommy, you’re always sick and tired,” she said. “And you never tuck me into bed anymore.”
I sat in silence for a moment. She is right, I thought. I saw myself through Kalli’s eyes: I was frail, had lost a ton of weight, didn’t have any hair, and wasn’t able to spend time playing with her like I used to. All I could think about was how exhausted I was. In that moment, I kept recounting in my head how I wasn’t really taking care of her through my treatment. She’d been bouncing around from playdate to playdate, as I was lost in fighting cancer. In her own way, that’s what Kalli was telling me—that she needed me. That she missed me.
I have to find the strength to get up these damn stairs, I thought.
“Go on upstairs, sweetheart,” I told her, determined. “Mommy is going to come tuck you into bed.”
She turned around and jogged up to her room, her footsteps happy.
I turned to my then-husband Mike, and I grabbed his arm. “You’re going to have to do all you can do to get me up those stairs,” I told him. And I meant it.
We followed Kalli, slowly and painfully. I had to pause and catch my breath at the top of the stairs. As I leaned against the wall, still sick and tired, I looked into Kalli’s room.
I’ll never forget what I saw…