A young mother with cancer on living and rejoicing in the present

Kendra McKernan
Daniel and Maura love to join Kendra on her scooter. COURTESY OF MCKERNAN FAMILY

Kendra McKernan 1989 –

Kendra, a nurse and mother of two who lives at Bellvale, was twenty-eight when she was diagnosed with a rare sarcoma.

That night I looked at my beautiful four-month-old baby, Maura, and my sleeping three-year-old, Daniel. I could not fathom the complete change taking place in all our lives, or control the thoughts whirling through my head. My husband Murray and I wept buckets, and I hugged Maura every time she woke for her bottle.

One thing was clear from the outset: we were going to fight that tumor with every tool at our disposal. Medically, that fight has involved a team of world-class specialists. Just as important, it has involved prayer – from friends and family as far away as Canada and Australia.

At two years post-diagnosis, Kendra is grateful to be tumor-free, though the surgery required cost her part of her foot and left her with chronic pain. Balancing requires concentration. She cannot walk long distances, so she gets around on a scooter. But the family still knows how to have fun together. “We have discovered many activities that don’t require a lot of walking – camping in the back yard, cooking together, putting on music so the kids (and dad) can dance in the living room, and reading children’s classics to our son.”

At the clinic, Kendra takes a baby’s vitals and gets an update from her mom.

Meanwhile, she knows that her cancer could return at any time.

I find fear and anxiety rearing their heads every time I go in for surveillance imaging. But whenever I go down that path of dark thoughts, my husband and I find relief in turning to prayer. We remind each other to live in the present and rejoice in the life we have.

Death has touched my family: My paternal grandfather, grandmother, and aunt all died agonizing premature deaths from cancer, and my father feared the same fate for himself. Then he died suddenly from a heart attack when I was fifteen years old. He was vibrantly here one moment and gone the next. I am not a stranger to the grief of children who have lost a parent, but God has weighed the cross he has chosen for Murray and me and he will see us through whatever life holds. In the meantime, here I am, with the gift of ongoing life.

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