Celebrating the Power of Mothers: Being a Mom Through Cancer

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Celebrating the Power of Mothers: Being a Mom Through Cancer

In honor of Mother’s Day on May 9th, Isabella Santos Foundation celebrates remarkable cancer moms in our community

Written by Rachel Wood, Director of Marketing

You are never too old to snuggle with mom.  Never too old to need her.  When Lily was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at 18 years old, although she was treated at Levine Children’s she was technically an adult.  But Lily’s mom did her best to do what her daughter needed most…to just be there.  Today we celebrate Lily’s mom, Betsy Knecht.  And all the moms out there who are thrown into the messy world of cancer and forced to figure it out.

After what was thought to be a knee injury while vacationing in Florida, Lily went for a MRI after the pain continued to get worse.  A 14cm high-grade tumor in the tibia of her right leg was discovered. The week after Thanksgiving in 2019 Lily was diagnosed with osteosarcoma during her Senior year at Northwestern High School. Fortunately, the disease was localized and had not spread.

In 2020 Lily was declared cancer-free and through all the treatments, side effects, learning to walk again… Lily completed her schoolwork to graduate with her class.  All with her mom by her side.  She recently had her routine scans and checkups in February, and everything looked great! 

Betsy on Being a Mom Through Her Daughter’s Cancer…

“In November of 2019, I was very busy doing what most mothers do; carpooling, taking care of my grandson after school, doing some contract work for a previous employer, and all the things necessary to keep a household running as smoothly as possible. Most days were stress-free while my youngest daughter, Lily was enjoying her senior year in high school. But on November 22nd, our family routine was about to experience a devastating blow! My sweet Lily was diagnosed with a rare form of pediatric cancer called Osteosarcoma. Suddenly my multitasking skills seemed to come to a halt and all my concentration was on Lily and beating this cancer!

I learned that cancer is no respecter for persons. It’s a word that I thought I would never hear in my immediate family, especially concerning one of my children!  I have 3 daughters, 2 who are more like second moms.  Lindsey who is 22, and Lauren who is 31, and my 18-year-old who was not ready to finish high school and find her purpose in the world! But cancer became a household word that year and we were destined to write a story that we prayed had a happy ending. 

Lily’s advanced classes kept her extremely busy during her high school experience. She worked very hard and pushed herself to excel in all her classes. She was dedicated to her studies, her extracurricular activities, and her youth group at church. I was very proud of the young lady she was becoming. All of these emerging character traits were very visible during her extremely difficult chemo treatments. She had very hard day’s but she rallied and was known throughout the floor as always having a smile on her face. She taught me and our family to take it one day at a time and do the best you can with what God has given you. 

My incredible extended family and friends all pulled together to offer uplifting prayers, endless encouragement, and meals and supplies at the hospital and the few times we were home. Most of the time I couldn’t put two thoughts together so I was able to enjoy my time with Lily and the family knowing that we had our tribe taking such good care of us as well as Lily’s amazing team at Levine Children’s Hospital.

There is still so much unknown with pediatric cancer. When Lily was diagnosed I immediately googled everything I could on osteosarcoma. I was already terrified and now I was dispairing! I quickly learned that I needed a steady diet of the truth if I was going to emotionally and spiritually survive this new normal that was being created by cancer.  Thankfully Lily’s oncologist, Dr. Pope, and her surgeon, Dr. Kneisl, kept me grounded by answering all my questions and reassuring me when I felt like a nuisance. My tribe was also ready to keep me encouraged through scriptures and prayers that daily strengthened me to continue taking it one day at a time just as Lily taught me. May all mothers who find themselves writing this story receive encouragement and hope and know you are not alone.

Because Lily was 18, she was treated like an adult while in clinic or the hospital. When the Doctor or nurses asked questions I had to bite my tongue to keep from answering. It took me quite a while to get used to it since my mom instincts were in overdrive. But thankfully Lily still needed me!  We enjoyed snuggling in her bed reading a book from her literature assignment, playing cards, watching a Disney movie, and watching Hamilton on YouTube while singing all the songs! Good memories from this journey will remind me how precious time is with my children and how grateful I am to be their mom.”   -Betsy, Lily’s Mom


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