Kathleen O’Malley’s wishes for a family came true on Jan. 19, her birthday, when her twins were born.
How to help
Susan G. Komen Chicago Race for the Cure
Mothers Day, Sunday, May 10. Race begins at 8 a.m.
Butler Field in Grant Park
Register at komenchicago.org or onsite the day of the race for a 10K Run, 5K Run, 5K Walk or 1 Mile Fun Walk
75 percent of funds raised go to serve women and men in need of breast cancer care and treatment throughout Chicagoland, the remaining 25 percent goes to global research to find the cures.
Team Kat is still collecting donations and will be even after the race.
“They were everything we had hoped, healthy, everything was going great,” says the Oak Park new mom about Sean and Shea.
Within 48 hours, though, life’s happiest moment would be overshadowed as doctors diagnosed her with stage 2 breast cancer.
Shortly after the twins’ birth, O’Malley, 38, felt a lump in her breast. Thinking it was just a cyst or milk duct, she asked her doctor to check it when he stopped by her hospital room the next day. He immediately ordered a mammogram. Then they did a biopsy. Doctors told the family to prepare themselves for bad news.
By Thursday, she got that bad news, a 3.5-centimeter tumor in her breast. It didn’t make sense to her; she had had mammograms faithfully since she was 30 since her mom died from breast cancer in 1989. Plus, her older sister had the BRCA genetic test four or five years before and tested negative for the gene. Doctors told her her sisters wouldn’t have it either.
They were wrong. O’Malley has the gene, one of the reasons she so badly wants to help get the message out to other women.
“So we went from the ultimate high of having these beautiful new babies to the worst possible scenario we could think of. It was a difficult week, to say the least,” she says.
First came anger and fear. “Am I going to die and am I going to see my children that I worked so hard to get and that we’ve wanted so badly?”
Then came worry. “Am I going to pass this to my daughter? That’s the scariest thing for me right now. I don’t know what this will mean for her or him, potentially,” O’Malley says.
She hopes there will be a cure for breast cancer before that ever becomes an issue for her children.
The new family was surrounded by friends and family who have helped them from diagnosis until now, from meals to night duty to simply holding the babies when O’Malley was too weak to get out of bed.
Originally, O’Malley hesitated to share her story. Then, surrounded by family and friends who wanted to do something as a group, O’Malley knew sharing it would help others. She and her sister, Kristen Carlson of Geneva, created a team—Team Kat—for the Susan G. Komen Chicago Race for the Cure in Grant Park on Mother’s Day to raise enough money to help at least one woman without insurance get genetic testing for breast cancer.
They’ve already surpassed their $10,000 goal four times over.
“People just have been so generous,” she says. “It’s been just awesome.”
Sixty people plan to walk with Team Kat.
O’Malley is nearly finished with chemotherapy and is preparing for a double mastectomy this summer. She says she’s feeling strong.
“I’m very motivated to do everything in my power to make sure I help get information out there and to get as many people tested, and hopefully where we’re working toward that cure sooner than later,” O’Malley says.
She has been thinking a lot about her own mom these days. “Now being a mother and knowing that I will do anything and everything to see my children grow up, I cannot imagine what she went through. It has brought me closer to her,” says O’Malley, who was 12 and one of four children when her mom died.
“Mother’s Day is going to be a very emotional day for me,” she says. “It’s definitely going to be a tough day and it’s also going to be a very happy day because I’ve made it. I’m going to survive.”