MAUMELLE, Ark. – Over the last year, many people were focused on the signs and symptoms of COVID-19. For some, though, symptoms of other illnesses went unnoticed or misdiagnosed in the worry. May is “Go Gray for Brain Tumor Awareness Month”, and one Maumelle woman is using these weeks to remember her mom.
Kimberly Hunt’s mother, Cynthia Hester Kaelin, passed way from Glioblastoma Multiforme less than a month ago. It’s the same type of brain tumor that took the lives of Senators John McCain and Ted Kennedy, as well as President Biden’s son, Beau Biden. Hunt is trying to bring awareness to this deadly disease and continue the legacy of her wonderful mom in the process.
Hunt remembers her mom as a strong resilient woman, and a dedicated single mom who raised Kimberly on her own. “She was one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met,” Hunt recalls.
Prior to the pandemic, Hunt says she used to see her mom practically every day, but social distancing concerns made it so that their conversations had to be over the phone rather than in person. She says her 62-year-old mom first noticed something was off in November, but brushed it off as stress. “She just kind of continually complained of a headache, nausea, just not feeling very good but she just kept calling it COVID fatigue,” Hunt remembers.
When Hunt finally saw her mom in person following the February snow storms, the reunion came as a shock. “She did not look like herself,” said Hunt, describing how her usually pristine mother looked disheveled. The change prompted a doctor’s appointment, where Cynthia was told she had depression and to check back in a month.
A few days later, things escalated. Hunt had booked her mom a hair appointment to raise her spirits. But when she went to pick her up, her behavior had gotten worse. “Her shoes were on the wrong feet and her shirt was on inside out and backwards,” said Hunt. That was the final sign to bring Cynthia to the ER, where Hunt and family had to wait in the parking lot while tests and scans confirmed the worst – it was cancer.
“They had gotten the MRI results and they had found a large tumor,” remembers Hunt. Cynthia had her surgery shortly after to remove as much of the tumor as possibly, but doctors were able to learn more about the mass. The news was heartbreaking.
It was Glioblastoma Multiforme, a fast acting and difficult to treat brain tumor that had taken up nearly half of Cynthia’s brain. Doctors told Hunt that it would be difficult to treat, and it was a type of tumor that was able to heal and grow even following removal. With treatments unlikely to make an impact, Hunt brought her mom home and spent every day by her side until the end.
“The last thing I said to my mom was ‘I love you more than anything in this world’,” Hunt remembers in those final days, “and she said it back to me.” Cynthia lived from March 1st to April 26th following her diagnosis – just 57 days. Even with a shortened time together, Hunt says she’s grateful for that time to say goodbye.
Weeks later, she’s still processing her grief. “I had my first Mother’s Day without her.” Hunt said between tears. “So that was hard.” Now, she’s using her heartbreak to bring awareness to this deadly disease and share a message with others: “Don’t ignore signs and symptoms.”
Potential symptoms include new and constant headaches, nausea, blurred vision, and a change in mood or attitude. Hunt recommends watching yourself and loved ones, and seeking medical help in any sudden changes in health.