PUNXSUTAWNEY — One of the hardest parts of being a mother is
learning your child is ill and not being able to do anything about it.
For Darla DeHaven, that nightmare became a reality when she learned that her 27-year-old daughter Keara Dove has Stage 3 breast cancer.
A couple of months ago, Keara, who has been living in Tustin, Calif., with her husband and 5-year-old son, returned to Punxsutawney to attend a funeral.
While here, she discovered a lump on one of her breasts. The doctors ran tests, which came back with benign results.
However, by December 2012, the lump had grown, and Dove, who had returned to California, was faced with a frightening ordeal.
In 2011, she had been diagnosed with Lupus and immediately lost her health insurance. Her husband, who had been working and providing insurance coverage for the both of them, had lost his job and insurance.
With no health insurance, Dove was left with very few options.
Her friends immediately stepped in and found a clinic in Newport, Calif., that offers services to those without insurance.
On Jan. 16, an emergency mammogram was performed, and on Jan. 23, a biopsy was taken of the lumps.
It was on Jan. 25 that she found out the results — Stage 3 breast cancer, and even worse, it had already spread to her lymph nodes.
Before she could receive her first chemo treatment, she had to go through a series of tests.
"I had to have a brain scan, MRI, bone scan and echocardiogram done," said Dove.
She received the results of the MRI, PET and CT scans, and they revealed that although the cancer hadn't spread, an abnormality had been detected on the right side of her skull.
With all the tests completed she was finally able to start chemo at the end of February. On top of it, she will need to undergo genetic testing that will test her for the BRCA genes.
If the genes are present, Dove runs the risk of developing cancer in her other breast, and she may be at risk for ovarian cancer.
If the tests come back positive, she will need to undergo a double mastectomy.
Due to the aggressive nature of the cancer, Dove will need to undergo six cycles (treatments) for three weeks. While Dove is trying to remain positive and calm, it is much harder for her mother, who resides here in Punxsutawney.
"When you know your child doesn't have insurance, you go into panic mode," said DeHaven, adding that the cancer is moving so rapidly.
Dove will turn 28 years old on Friday, which also happens to be the day before the Spaghetti Dinner Benefit that her mother has worked effortlessly to put together on her daughter's behalf.
DeHaven knew that she had to do something to help raise the money for her daughter's treatments.
DeHaven, who works as a school bus driver, started talking with co-workers, who suggested a few ideas on how to raise the money.
Her co-workers have been helping out the best they can by seeking donations as well as spreading the word about the benefit.
"Everyone has really stepped up to the plate," said DeHaven.
She has been blown away by the kindness of strangers, who have offered support by donating baskets for the benefit.
"A lot of businesses have donated baskets, and my other daughter will donate her horse for the silent auction," said DeHaven.
Her other daughter, Anna Gould, is a student at PAHS and has been doing everything she can to support her big sister.
She has sold more than 100 T-shirts to her fellow students and teachers.
Now, she is doing something even more selfless by donating her pet horse, which she trained herself.
The horse will be auctioned off during the silent auction.
DeHaven will also have her head shaved during the event as a means of showing her support for her daughter.
"There are six people who want to shave their heads, and I am one of them" said DeHaven.
The outpouring support of not only friends but also members of the community has given DeHaven a reason to smile.
"When everyone keeps coming through like this, it's great," she said.
Though Dove may be many states away, she still remains connected through family and friends.
"It's hard for me, because I'm not there" said Dove, adding that she thinks it’s incredible how the whole thing has brought her mother out of her shell.
"I can only hear what's going on, but its simply amazing," said Dove.
After learning her diagnosis, Dove started her own blog at MyLifeLine.org Cancer Foundation.
Through the site, she keeps friends and family updated on doctor appointments and her treatments. It also helps her connect with other cancer patients.
"It's more therapeutic for me, because I get to write about what's happening," said Dove.
Though the path ahead is a rocky one, Dove said she is determined to walk it with determination and nothing but positive thoughts.
The Spaghetti Dinner Benefit will be held on Saturday at the Grace United Methodist Church, which is located near the hospital.
Cost is $8 per person, with children seven and under eating free.
Takeout dinners will be available from 3 to 4 p.m., and eat-in dinners from 4 to 7 p.m.
Raffle tickets will be sold prior to entering church grounds, and 50/50 tickets are currently on sale at Stahlman's Country Store in Ringgold.
A silent auction will be held at 6 p.m., and Save a Life, Shave a Head will be held at 7 p.m. for donations.
Those with a sweet tooth will be sure to love the bake sale, which promises to have a lot of tasty sweets.
All proceeds from the event will go to cover the medical costs for Dove's cancer treatments.