Her brother and I have been working on this memorial page for Kelly.
It is still "under construction" and probably will be for a long time.
Melanoma is a horrible disease.....Kelly had chronic bronchitis for 6
months before they did a chest x-ray.. upon x-ray they
discovered a mass in her lung...she had surgery to remove the
middle lobe of her right lung and 4 days later we were told the
horrible results from pathology..malignant melanoma.
Her sister was away at college and my first thought was that we
needed to get her home...it happened to be finals week..the Dr.
suggested we not tell her till after finals..."Kelly will do OK in
the short term...I'm not sure about the long term" is what he
said... I will never forget those words.
The next few days are a blur. We spoke to an Oncologist and he
gave me the hope I so desperately was looking for. He wanted
to start immunotherapy as soon as she healed from the
Three weeks later she began Interferon treatments. Five days a
week for about 5 hours. She tolerated that fairly well, some nausea,
and fatigue, but not enough to slow her down!
Two weeks into the treatment she discovered two lumps under her
skin. The Dr. sent her back to the surgeon to remove one of
them and had it sent to pathology. It was a day surgery and I
was in the waiting room downstairs. As soon as the surgery
was over the surgeon called down to me and told me it had gone
well but he thought it looked like melanoma. My heart just broke,
I thought how could this be happening?
I had always felt Kelly was a "lost soul," she had a lot of problems
growing up, but in the year before she started getting sick, we
saw a different Kelly. She was happy and was beginning to
study to take the exam for her GED. She was a real part of our
family again. When she was in the hospital for the lung surgery
she talked with one of the nurses about her wish to study
nursing. I was so happy for her. So when the Dr. said it looked
like melanoma I was devastated, I just felt it was so unfair...she
was just beginning to have a "life."
I think it was at that time her Oncologist changed her treatment plan
to include interluekin 2 and chemotherapy. She had a week
of that regimen and her liver function went down and treatment
had to be stopped. I was so scared when he stopped treatment.
I could just imagine all those cancer cells growing and
spreading without the treatment.
During all of this she still drove and visited with friends, she even went
to Busch Gardens on July 4th with some of her friends.
It was right around the 4th of July that she started having some vision
problems. The Oncologist sent her for an MRI of her head, he
was concerned that the MM had spread to her brain. The
appointment was first thing in the morning...she was so scared. I
kept reassuring her that everything would be OK. After the
scan I took her to the Oncologists office for chemo. I usually
stayed with her but that morning the nurse told me I couldn't stay
because they were too busy and they didn't have room for
me. I went home. As I was walking in the door the phone was
ringing. It was the Oncologist. He told me they had found
"multiple hemorrhagic tumors in her brain"...more words I will
never forget. He wanted her to start full brain radiation, not as a
cure but to give her more time. I agreed but I asked him to not
tell her the whole truth. I couldn't bear for her to know. I felt that
if she knew the truth, her life would be over. I wanted her to
have as much time as she could possibly have to have a
"normal" life. Her life couldn't possibly be normal if she knew she
was dying. She was 25 years old!! He agreed to only tell her
what she asked.
You should know that she NEVER asked questions, and when
someone asked her about her treatment she always said, "I don't
know, ask my mom, she's dealing with that." She didn't want to
know. He told her they saw something on the MRI and he
wanted her to start radiation treatments. She said she would do
whatever he thought best and didn't ask one question. She
started radiation the next day. Radiation was set for three
weeks, five days a week.
When radiation was over it was the first time since the middle of May
that she wasn't seeing a Dr. everyday. We decided it was time
to salvage some of the summer and do some fun things.
Mark, Kelly and I went to Cape Kennedy to watch the Endeavor
Launch. Kelly was so happy. The launch was only visible for a few
seconds because of heavy cloud cover, but her reaction
was so childlike. I realized then that she had become my child
again. I was taking care of her completely. Such an awesome
responsibility. It wasn't as simple as putting a bandage on
something. I started thinking back to the first lung surgery in
April. Had we done everything right? Could we have done
something different? Would anything have made a difference?
The rest of my summer was a nightmare. I didn't realize that in
protecting her, my burden would become so heavy. I woke up
every day crying.
A week later on Aug. 16th we went to Sea World. That was the first
day Kelly allowed us to push her in a wheelchair. She never
complained and never let anyone push her in a
wheelchair, even though she was in a lot of pain. We had a fun
day in spite of what was going on.
Kelly had two children, Tracey who was 9 at the time and Ryan who
was 5. On August 21 school started...Ryan was starting
kindergarten. We both took Ryan and Tracey to school. After
we dropped them off we went to pick up some things Tracey and
Ryan needed for school. She let me push her in a wheelchair in
The next day was the beginning of the end. She woke up very
disoriented. A few hours later she started throwing up. We
called the Dr. office and the nurse told me what meds. to give
her. They didn't help. We called the Dr. office again. Different
med. Didn't work. Called Dr. office again. They said they would
send a home health care nurse over to start an IV. By the time
she got there Kelly was extremely disoriented and seemed to
have "stroke like" symptoms. I called the Dr. one more time and told
him I thought she needed to be in the hospital...he agreed and
we called an ambulance. As her sister and I were driving away,
following the ambulance, I looked back at the house and saw
Tracey and Ryan sitting on the front steps watching. It broke my
heart to think that was what they would remember.
When we got to the hospital they took her in and admitted her right
away. Ashley and Mark had arrived and so had my husband
Jack. We were all standing in the hallway waiting for the Dr. to
come out of her room. We were all upset and crying. When he
came out I could tell it was bad. He said they would do some
tests, but it looked like the disease had spread very rapidly. We
all tried to calm down so that we could go in to her room to see
her. When I walked into her room Jason (Brooke's boyfriend)
was already there holding her hand. I was so grateful. When I
walked over he told me to hold her hand and she would squeeze
it....she did. A little while later she opened her eyes and said
she'd be OK...I told her I knew she was going to be OK.
The next day the Dr. came in and told me the scans they did showed
that the radiation to her brain had virtually no effect. The tumors
had grown larger and there were more. There was nothing they
could do. And then came the next words I will never forget...he
asked me to sign a "Do Not Resuscitate" order. I can't tell you
what was in my heart at that moment. Brooke, Jason and I
stayed in the hospital with her for four days, they tried to manage
her pain but were not doing very well. Her oncologist finally told
us to take her home and let hospice help us. Tuesday, Aug. 27
Kelly was brought home by ambulance...Brooke rode in the
ambulance with her. She was so happy to be home. They took
her out of the ambulance and she said "Thank God, I'm home."
Hospice provided round the clock nurses. I will always be so
grateful to them. She was on so many meds. I never could have
taken care of her myself. She died Sunday afternoon at 4:20
August 31, 1997, with myself, Ashley, Brooke, and my dear friend
Betsy all holding her and telling her we loved her.
There are so many people that I will always be grateful to. Dr.
Drapkin, her Oncologist, for never giving up, and having the
compassion to treat her like Kelly Coniam and not just another
patient. Jennifer, her oncology nurse. She was wonderful, full of
kindness and concern. She seemed more like a friend then a
"health care provider." Esther, who took Kelly's blood everyday
and always had a smile and kind words. We all got a huge laugh
out of the horrible wig Kelly gave to Esther! Dr. Tinsley, who
realized how serious her situation was and urged her into surgery
immediately. Dr. Goodgame, her surgeon, for his kindness. Dr.
Redwood, a radiation oncologist, who saw Kelly in the hospital.
He was honest enough to tell us that more radiation was not in
her best interest. He genuienly seemed to care about Kelly and
what was best for her. Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, I can't
possibly say enough about them. They treated her like she was
their own daughter. I don't know how they can do that job...they
cried right along with us at times. And of course my dear friends.
I leaned on all of them pretty hard at times. Linda, Jean,
Glendine, and Betsy. They were always there for me, I thank
them all and love them dearly.
Kelly we all love you so much and miss you everyday. If we could only turn back time........