TOWN OF TONAWANDA, NY- Despite facing unimaginable challenges, a town of Tonawanda mother of 6 battling brain cancer is counting her blessings this Thanksgiving.
2 On Your Side's Melissa Holmes recently spent an evening with the Vaillancourt family, in which they were all gathered together to eat dinner and read on the couch. Mom Kim, finally found the strength to join her family.
"I feel pretty good," she said.
We first met Kim nearly 2 years ago after she was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive and incurable brain cancer called Glioblastoma. That diagnosis camejust days after she and her husband Phil, who had two children of their own, adopted three little girls. Kim was also pregnant, and after an emergency surgery to remove the brain tumors, she made the brave decision to put off further treatment, to protect her unborn son. So after the baby was born, Kim underwent radiation and chemotherapy and more surgery.
Now she goes for CT and MRI scans every few months, and they've all showed while the tumors are still there, they're not growing.
"It's just relieving when we get good results. We can just live at ease for a little bit," said Phil.
Roswell Park Cancer Institute Neuro-Oncologist Dr. Ajay Abad says his priority now is helping to deal with Kim's dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. Her quality of life is a struggle but Dr. Abad calls Kim a beacon of positivity.
"She's clearly tough as nails no doubt," said Dr. Abad. "That's probably the thing I enjoy the most- Kim and her demeanor and her roll with the punches kind of attitude which is pretty amazing."
Kim was given 13 months to live. Now 23 months later, they just wait and pray.
"I can't do it on my own. This is all God giving me the strength. I'm still alive," said Kim.
"While we're really encouraged that things have gone as well as they've gone so far we can't turn a blind eye by any means. We have to be very diligent about watching and continuing to watch because the natural history of this disease is that in most cases it does come back at some point. And then all we can do is hope," said Dr. Abad.
In the meantime, Phil, who works full time for the Town of Tonawanda, holds the family together.
"He is so helpful. He takes care of everybody. He's unbelievable," said Kim.
And they get a lot of help from friends and neighbors. The outpouring of support, prayers, and well-wishes has been overwhelming for the Vaillancourts. Just this week an Idaho woman, Jacki Corta, flew across the country to meet the Vaillancourts in person after hearing their story almost two years ago. Corta lost her husband to Glioblastoma, and she said meeting with Kim and Phil brought comfort to her soul.
"As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday I would want others to know that out of our hardships, if we keep an open heart good can come to us," said Corta. "Cancer is a very scary thing, but I am so grateful it entered my life. Although it may have taken my husband it brought us a closeness we never had. It taught my family a strength we could have never imagined. It gave to me... something I thought cancer would never do. It gave me a friendship I will forever cherish in Tonawanda, New York."
Thanks to the support of family and friends, Kim is able to rest and savor each and every moment she has with her children.
"Wyatt's getting huge fast. Ryan is going on a missions trip with the church. Haley is Wyatt's little mom. Kamila has tried out for the school play Josie is becoming very independent. Chalie is growing up and becoming more helpful," said Kim.
As the Vaillancourts sit around the table this Thanksgiving, they'll be joining hands to pray, and amidst this unimaginable challenge, they find it in their hearts to appreciate their blessings.
"I'm thankful for my family, my siblings, and my mom and dad," said Josie.
"I'm thankful for music," said Kamila.
"I'm thankful for Wyatt and how much he brings happiness," said Haley.
"I'm thankful for my family," said Chalie.
"I'm thankful for God watching over us," said Ryan.
"I'm so thankful that I've been blessed for almost two years now to have her with me," said Phil.
"I'm thankful to be here," said Kim. "And to share it with them and share God's love with them."
Kim goes for her next scans in early December. 2 On Your Side will keep you updated on the results. When asked if the family wants or needs anything for the holidays, Kim said yes- just more prayers.
Words of encouragement and cards of well wishes can be sent to family spokesperson Jenna Koch at Jennahrkoch@gmail.com or to Jenna Koch, 431 Adam St. Tonawanda, NY 14150.
To donate to the Vaillancourt Family's Go Fund Me page, click here.