Fighting the Battle

As winner of Cancer Support Community Redondo Beach’s essay contest, Torrance 11th-grader Kristina McKibbin reflects on her mother’s struggle with cancer.

In her mid-20s my mom was told that she had developed an extremely cancerous brain tumor. This gave her a 5% chance to live. FIVE PERCENT. This overwhelming news turned her entire world upside down and would forever impact her.

She began her treatment—slowly getting weaker, losing her hair, but never giving up. Due to all the radiation from her treatment, she was told that she would no longer be able to have kids, which broke her heart. Her surgeon planned to remove the tumor along with a small portion of her brain and replace it with a plastic filler.

With the scarce 5% chance, she managed to fight through it all. The tumor was successfully removed, and after going through remission she was said to be cancer-free. Not long after that, my mother and father got married, living happily for around 10 years before they received unexpected news.

My mother was now pregnant with her first child: me … followed by my brother not long after. This completely unanticipated news, once again, turned their lives upside down. Giving birth to my brother drained my mother’s energy and strength entirely.

Not long after, the doctors realized that the plastic filler put in place of the tumor years before had caved in and become infected. She had to undergo numerous surgeries, staying in and out of hospitals, all overlapping my childhood.

“Her experience has shaped me into the person I am today. While she may not have been the typical mother figure seen on TV, she has taught me things I will never forget.”

As far back as I can remember my mom was always sick and somewhat limited. I vividly remember a time in second grade. We were driving back from dinner when she began to experience double vision—a symptom she would often get at random times [and we had a car accident.]

I had been sitting in the front seat, where the air bag exploded and could have potentially killed me. While I did experience a bit of pain in my chest and occasionally a heartache here and there, I am incredibly lucky to have not been seriously injured along with my mother.

With her car being totaled and having my life along with my mother’s at risk, my dad knew that she could no longer drive. Times like these made me wonder what was going on with my mom. Was this normal? Are all moms like this?

It wasn’t until I began middle school that I began to understand what cancer was and all that my mom had been going through. My father, brother and I had became personal caregivers: helping her use the restroom, making her food, helping her to bed. Things that mothers typically do for their toddlers, I was now doing for her.

She no longer has strength, so we help her open water bottles and ketchup packages. She no longer looks as she did before, now with numerous scars covering her scalp and face, a tiny amount of thick black and gray hair on the bottom half of her head and weighing 60 pounds. She has become a completely different person, and so have I.

Her experience has shaped me into the person I am today. While she may not have been the typical mother figure seen on TV, she has taught me things I will never forget. She has taught me to never give up. That things may not always go as planned, but you need to make the most of the card you have been given. That you need to cherish every moment with your loved ones, because at any moment they could disappear.

Cancer Support Community will host Girls Night Out October 2–4. For more information, visit