When Linda Brunelle was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994, one of her goals was to live long enough to see her then-12-year-old daughter graduate from high school.
Having been given just six months to two years to live, the odds seemed long, if not impossible, to overcome.
“My mother started chemo, radiation and every treatment possible,” Andrea Kirby, of Amesbury, said.
“She tried experimental treatments, participating in research studies, anything that would keep her alive. She went through hell — never going into remission, never growing her hair back.”
And she did this for seven years.
“I believe she had metastatic breast cancer as it spread throughout her body,” Kirby said. “I was so young at the time I don’t remember. I wish I knew.”
With her immutable will to survive and her love of her family, Brunelle beat the odds and got to see her daughter finish high school. Soon after, the lifelong Methuen resident passed away, in 2000, at the age of 52.
“Now that I am a mother myself, I understand that she did this for me,” Kirby, who has two children, ages 9 and 11, said of her mother’s determination to survive for as long as she could.
In addition to the unwavering support of her family, Kirby said her mother’s valiant efforts to ward off cancer were aided by a support group at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen.
“In the ‘90s, there wasn’t as much support and treatment options as there is now,” Kirby said. “She found comfort in regularly going to the Holy Family (Hospital) breast cancer support group.”
Asked what advice she’d give someone going through what her family has experienced, Kirby, who has undergone extensive genetic testing and does not carry the breast cancer gene, said it’s important to take on one day at a time.
“Every day is a blessing and treat each day with love,” she said. “You have to move forward, despite obstacles.”
Kirby said while she is typically a private person, she wanted to share her mother’s story as a way to honor her.
“She truly was a silent warrior,” Kirby said of Brunelle. “I am the mother I am today because of my mother.”