Tyrone Senior Forever Changed By Breast Cancer

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Pink-Out Game, Eagle Eye will be highlighting students, parents, and alumni affected

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Tyrone senior Brooke Welsh has always loved sports, having played soccer, volleyball, basketball and track and field over the years.  Competing is still fun for Welsh, but there is one big thing missing at her games these days: seeing her mom sitting in the crowd.

Brooke lost her mom to breast cancer on December 15th, 2015, ten days before Christmas.

She was so strong and it tore me to pieces to watch my mother struggle and not be able to do anything about it other than pray.”

— Brooke Welsh

Born on April 25, 1976, Korey McClemmens Welsh would never have expected the journey ahead of her. She didn’t just suffer through breast cancer once, but twice.

Korey was first diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2011 after a routine mammogram. She underwent chemotherapy for almost six months. Thankfully, the chemotherapy was successful in removing the cancer, and no surgery was done. 

“I felt so happy for her [that she was cancer free] and I was so glad that we didn’t have to worry about it anymore,” said Brooke.

However, along with breast cancer, it was discovered that Korey also had polycystic kidney disease. PKD causes numerous fluid-filled cysts to grow in the kidneys. If the cysts grow or enlargen, then this can result in kidney problems or kidney failure.

With no cure for PKD, medication may be used to control blood pressure, pain relief, and cyst removal. In rare cases, such as Welsh’s, a kidney transplant may be necessary.

“She was cancer free for about two years and we started to get very hopeful because she had [PKD] and had to be cancer-free for five years to get a transplant,” said her daughter.

Korey had a routine check-up in August of 2014 in hopes of getting on the transplant list.

Unfortunately, her check-up came back with heartbreaking news: her breast cancer had returned and spread to new organs.

She gave her all during her fight against breast cancer and I couldn’t be any prouder to be her daughter.”

— Brooke Welsh

“Everything started to go downhill quickly from there,” said Brooke, “The cancer had spread to her bones, stomach, and liver. Doctors told her that they couldn’t do anything to stop it and that they [had] caught it too late.”

In five months time, Korey was no longer herself. She couldn’t eat, drink or walk without the assistance of others.

“She was so strong and it tore me to pieces to watch my mother struggle and not be able to do anything about it other than pray. I know she wanted to be strong for me, but at some point enough is enough and it was too much for her body,” said Brooke.

One afternoon during her eighth period art class her freshman year, Brooke was told someone was at the office to pick her up. Filled with confusion, she found her half brother’s stepmother waiting to pick her up.

After a brief explanation on the drive to Tyrone Hospital, Brooke never imagined that she wouldn’t see her mom again.

“I just thought she was having complications or something. I never really found out and put everything together until a nurse came out and prepared me for the goodbyes. I was honestly too in shock though to think anything of it,” said Brooke.

Korey lost her battle with breast cancer that Tuesday afternoon.

Obviously, I was sad, but I was mostly in shock and just flat out angry. I lost faith in God for a while because I was that angry at Him.”

— Brooke Welsh

“She gave her all during her fight against breast cancer and I couldn’t be any prouder to be her daughter,” said Brooke.

Brooke couldn’t handle the immediate stress and sadness at the loss of her mom. The nurse tried to console her, but there was nothing she could do to help. In the hospital, her emotion just shut down.

“I was in shock because it all happened so fast and my emotions didn’t have enough time to catch up. Obviously, I was sad, but I was mostly in shock and just flat out angry. I lost faith in God for a while because I was that angry at Him. I honestly didn’t know how to react when [the nurse] was talking to me. I seriously blanked out and can’t even remember what she said to me because I knew she had no idea how I felt. Nobody knows how it feels until it happens and until then they can’t say they do know because they have no idea,” said Brooke.

One of Brooke’s favorite memories of her mom is how she and her would watch the movie Elf by the Christmas tree every Christmas Eve, while baking cookies.

“It was really hard for me not to be able to do it the year she passed away,” said Brooke. “I wish people would understand that you can’t take your parents for granted, even when you’re a kid and you think they’ll be around forever.”

One of the things Brooke would most like her friends and classmates to learn from her story is not to take their parents for granted.

“I understand that you may butt heads with them from time to time, but there is no need to be rude to them. They only want the best in you and if I could go back I would stop myself from being a complete jerk to my mom and I wouldn’t have argued with her so much. They are doing their best to shape you into young adults and just want the best in you. You may think they are trying to ruin your life, but they’re not; they are just trying to stop you from doing dumb things that they did. Never ever take them for granted because something can happen to them in the blink of an eye and there is nothing you can do,” said Brooke.

It’s affected me in more ways than I ever would have imagined; I always feel like something is missing in my life, but no one or thing will be able to fill that empty space.”

— Brooke Welsh

In honor of her mom, Brooke has a tattoo on the inside of her left wrist with an image of a butterfly, which her mom’s favorite animal, and the last words her mom ever wrote to her in a birthday card: “Love, Mom.”

Brooke’s tattoo and the pictures in her room and on her phone make her feel closer to her mom whenever she feels upset or thinks of her.

Brooke explained how losing her mom has affected her and what she wishes people knew about losing a parent.

“It has affected my life in more ways than you’d think. For the first couple of months, it was extremely rough. My friends would talk about their moms but then see that I was listening and they’d all give each other the look to stop talking just because I was there. I felt super left out at times like that. My classmates would look at me differently just because I lost a parent and they would treat me differently like I wasn’t normal,” said Brooke.“Teachers acted like I needed special treatment and would offer to push deadlines back for me. During that rough patch, I just wanted to be treated normal but I wasn’t and I felt almost…segregated I guess in a way.”

In the nearly three years since the passing of her mom, Brooke still struggles with ordinary and everyday moments.

“It affects me when I go play out on the basketball court and I don’t see her in the spot that she sat in for every single game. Sometimes it hits me late at night when I’m just thinking of things or sometimes it hits me when it’s two in the afternoon and I’m sitting in class. It affects me when I have to fill a paper out that asks me who my mom is and it affects me when I overhear people talking bad about their mothers just because they didn’t get their way, but I can’t say anything to them. It affects me when it’s a holiday and she’s not at the dinner table or when it’s her birthday and she’s not here for me to give her the biggest birthday hug. It’s affected me in more ways than I ever would have imagined; I always feel like something is missing in my life, but no one or thing will be able to fill that empty space.”

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