Diabetes: Self-care For A New Year

Barb Mathauer has had diabetes for more than 20 years. She first tried to control it with diet and now she’s on medication. She’d like to get back to focusing more on her diet.

So on a recent Tuesday night she sat around a table and joined an informal discussion about setting goals in the New Year. Nurse Angela Madden a certified diabetes educator led the discussion.

“The hardest thing for me is eating three meals a day and trying to get enough sleep,” said Mathauer, who recently lost her husband. “I feel better when I eat right and take care of myself, I just need a little encouragement.”

On the second Tuesday of every month, Mathauer and others diagnosed with diabetes can find that encouragement at a support group. The group meets at various locations – including local libraries. Topics include: “Diabetes and stroke;” “Monitoring diabetes and what to do with your results;” and “Foot and Heart Care.”

Participants recently shared recipes and resources including information about a mobile app – “IU Health My Diabetes Tracker.” The app was created by Indiana University Health to help patients and their families manage their diabetes. The app helps track insulin dosage and blood sugar, set up medication reminders and log nutrition and activity. Patients can also receive messages from their healthcare providers.

“Diabetes isn’t just about food, but food is a big part of our culture,” said Madden. She encouraged participants to plan ahead when eating out (even review the menus online) and reviewed the “seven self-care behaviors” provided by the American Association of Diabetes Educators:

  • Health Eating
  • Being Active
  • Monitoring
  • Taking Medication
  • Problem Solving
  • Healthy Coping
  • Reducing Risks

The next Diabetes Support Group meets February 13 at Irvington Library. All meetings are from 6-7 p.m. Learn more about upcoming meetings, topics, and how to subscribe to the monthly diabetes newsletter here.

– T.J. Banes

Nurse: “I Love To Hold Their Hands”

As a child, Grace Walke remembers playing “nurse” with one of her favorite toys. The Hedda Bedda Doll popular in the 1960s was known for its three faces. With the turn of a knob the doll changed from a sad face, to a sleeping face and then to a face covered in spots – like chicken pox or measles.

“The doll came with a hospital bed and I can remember taking care of her like a real patient,” said Walke, whose mother is also a nurse.  She grew up on the west side, graduated from Our Lady of Grace High School, and went straight to nursing school. Her first job was as a student nurse at the former Robert Long Hospital where she worked on the Med/Surg unit. She’s been with IU Health ever since.  She has worked in anesthesia since 2001.

“I’ve known Grace for a long time. She’s our go-to person with anesthesia,” said her supervisor Linda Allanson. “She’s the first person I go to with an emergency.”

Starting her shift at 6:30 a.m. Walke reviews the schedule for the day and begins making assignments for the team of nurses working in anesthesia.

“We are there when the patient gets in the room. We turn monitors on, set up lines, and talk to the patient,” said Walke. “There’s a lot of activity in OR and I want the patient to know there is someone there focusing on them. I can size them up pretty quickly and tell if they want to cry, joke or just be quiet. A lot of people are nervous. One of my favorite things is holding their hand and when I’m not holding their hand, I’m still right there, checking their pulse.”

Walke has been recognized for her commitment to her profession and positive attitude with an IU Health Values Leadership Award. In addition to her bedside nursing she serves as an instructor for Anesthesia Boot Camp, a preceptor for new Anesthesia nurses, and an instructor of an OR Fellowship program section. She is also a Past Presidents Circle of Honor Recipient from the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN).

Here are a few more things about Walke:

  • Her grandmother is from Slovakia and lived with Walke’s family for a time. Walke learned to speak Slovak before she spoke English.
  • Her self-appointed title is “The Answer Queen” because when people come to her with questions, she’ll search to find the answers.
  • She loves to read fiction. Author recommendation: Canadian mystery writer Louise Penny.
  • She enjoys attending theater productions. Recommendations: “The Book of Mormon,” “Kinky Boots,” “Wicked” and “Hamilton.”
  • It might surprise people to know . . . she hiked the Grand Canyon; has gone whitewater rafting (multiple times); ridden in a hot air balloon, participated in a medical mission trip to Vietnam, and stuck her toes in the Arctic Ocean in Barrow, Alaska.

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Heart Attack: When Minutes Matter

Seconds. That’s all it takes to react to symptoms. Those seconds could mean the difference between life and death.

Cardiologist Ali Farooq Iqtidar recently spoke at a Fishers YMCA luncheon series, providing information about identifying and reacting to symptoms of heart attack.

“The goal is to recognize the symptoms, react to the symptoms, seek the best care and return to a normal life,” said Iqtidar, assistant professor of medicine, IU School of Medicine and an interventional cardiologist serving patients at IU Health Saxony. The Advanced Heart Care Program at IU Health provides a multidisciplinary approach to evaluation, treatment, and follow-up of cardiovascular diagnosis.

Following are other facts about heart attacks and heart health:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report about 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year – one in every four deaths.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
  • Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 525,000 are first heart attack and 210,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.
  • The Heart Foundation includes the following risk factors for heart disease: Age (As you get older, risk factors increase); Gender (Men are at a higher risk than women); Family history of heart disease, stroke, or diabetes. Other factors include: Smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
  • Symptoms of heart attack vary among individuals but may include: Pressure in the chest area; pain or discomfort in the back, arms, jaw or neck area; and shortness of breath, nausea or lightheadedness
  •  Iqtidar listed the following reasons people often fail to react to symptoms of a heart attack: Denial, inability to recognize the symptoms or and mistaking the symptoms as something else such as indigestion, and fear of drawing attention to themselves.

“The important thing is that the quicker you seek medical attention, the quicker we can lessen the damage to the heart. Time is of essence,” said Iqtidar.

— T.J. Banes

Cancer: A New Approach To Her Guests

Her hair is growing back. It is one of the first things Elizabeth Sutherlin tells people who ask about her. It’s just one way she relates to guests at IU Health Saxony who have shared her experiences with cancer.

She was on the drive back from Iowa 10 years ago after caring for her ailing mother when Sutherlin had a thought. “If I could be a caregiver for my mom, maybe I’d be a good fit for a hospital.”

Her interests were in customer relations and she landed a job on the front line greeting patients as they arrive at the hospital. “People come in frightened and confused, I just like helping them whether it’s giving them directions or helping to calm their nerves,” said Sutherlin.

The day before Thanksgiving of 2016, Sutherlin learned she had cancer. Under the care of IU Health oncology Drs. Hillary Wu and Jeanne Schilder a treatment plan was started to address Sutherlin’s diagnosis. The Squamous cell carcinomas also known as epidermoid carcinoma started in the lymph nodes of her groin. She was treated with chemotherapy and then surgery.

She was away from her job for seven months during treatment. During that time, her co-workers organized meals and encouraged her to keep up her strength, she said.

“I can’t say enough about my team of caregivers. People were so compassionate and my doctors explained things so I could understand,” said Sutherlin, who is affectionately called “Buff” by friends and co-workers. “This experience has taught me that cancer touches everyone in some way. Everyone has a story to tell and I just want to give them hope that we have the best doctors, this is the best hospital and they will get through it.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Methodist’s Dr. DeNardo: Motorcyclist, Woodworker And Brain Plumber

A Gin Blossoms song is playing inside Andrew DeNardo’s office, where he sits next to a computer with a screensaver of a bright red Ducati motorcycle.

There is a woodworking magazine on his desk – next to a piece of paper where he’s sketched an amazingly easy-to-understand drawing of the complex world he works in.  

Interventional neuroradiology. Aneurysms. Strokes. The brain and the spine. Life threatening conditions.

But that’s Andrew DeNardo, M.D. He’s anything but pretentious. He describes himself as a “brain plumber.”

“It’s all plumbing. Or, sometimes, I tell people I’m a cardiologist for the brain,” says Dr. DeNardo. “I deal with the blood vessels in the head and in the spine. But most of it’s in the head. And so if it’s leaking, we plug it up. If it’s plugged up, we open it.”

Dr. DeNardo does it all with a kind word and a compassionate heart. And with a bit of flair.

He loves to ride motorcycles – he owns two red Italian models, the Ducati and a Moto Guzzi. When the weather is good, he rides to work on those bikes and saves lives.

He also relishes the time in his woodshop, crafting salt and pepper shakers, cutting boards and all sorts of other knick knacks. He’s down to earth in a way that’s contagious.

Perhaps, that has to do with his upbringing. After all, he spent his summers as a young man in the world of construction.

***

Dr. DeNardo grew up in Pennsylvania. His father is a civil engineer and owned a construction company. In the summers, every year up until his second year of medical school, Dr. DeNardo worked road construction, highways.

Yes, this doctor who cures the delicate brains of his patients used be a mean jackhammer user. He looks back on those days fondly.

Dr. DeNardo didn’t know as a young boy that he would be a medical doctor. But he knew he liked the sciences and went to the University of Virginia for his undergraduate degree.

He was thinking of a major in chemistry until he saw what the university PhD folks did in chemistry.

“I was a little less enthused. I wanted to do something a little more with people, so I decided I wanted to go into medicine,” he says. “But going into medicine without anybody in my family in medicine was kind of just a big mystery.”

He went to medical school at Temple University in Philadelphia and decided on radiology. From there, he returned to University of Virginia to do radiology training — and then neuroradiology and interventional neuroradiology training. 

“It’s stroke patients, aneurysm patients, patients with blood vessel problems in the head,” Dr. DeNardo says. “There are different blood vessel malformations where you have the arteries abnormally connected to the brain. That can cause bleeding and or stroke. We try to cut off those abnormal connections.”

Dr. DeNardo came to IU Health in 1994 and has quietly done amazing work with his team at IU Health Methodist Hospital. That team includes John A. Scott, M.D., Richard Paulsen, M.D., and Daniel Sahlein, M.D.

***

The stroke intervention volume at Methodist doubled –- both from 2015 to 2016 and from 2016 to 2017.

It’s not that more people are having strokes. It’s that the endovascular approach to stroke has become scientifically proven – and used more frequently.  

In 2005, the team was treating, at most, 10 strokes a year, Dr. DeNardo says. In 2017, it treated 150.

When it comes to aneurysms, the interventional neuroradiology program is the top five in the country for using the Pipeline stent, a procedure that uses a micro catheter to navigate past the aneurysm without having to enter the aneurysm.

Almost immediately, blood flow to the aneurysm is reduced. And by six weeks to six months, complete closure of the aneurysm typically occurs.

“It allows blood to go through to small blood vessels slowly over time grows,” Dr. DeNardo says. “As a former concrete guy, I think rebar.”

The work Dr. DeNardo’s team has done in advancing their field at Methodist is tremendous, says Judi Jacobi-Mowry, critical care pharmacy specialist at Methodist.

“They take call from home with new technology. They can look at a scan from anywhere, and that provides a rapid response for patients,”  she says. “They are second to none — low key, but fantastic at what they do.” 

More With Dr. DeNardo

Personal: He is married to Diane, his high school sweetheart, and has two grown sons. The family has two Irish wolfhounds, Sona and Jenna, and two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Louie and Buddy.

Hobbies: Running, motorcycle riding and woodworking.

Bonus: Dr. DeNardo invented a device for closing the hole in the groin after procedures.

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email dbenbow@iuhealth.org or on Twitter @danabenbow.

Sonographer Sees Patients Through Eyes Of Experience

On any given day, Angie Shah can be seen working in various areas of IU Health University Hospital. But the areas of the hospital aren’t her focus. It’s the patient in her care. Intensive care, outpatient, oncology, transplant – Shah sees patients who come to University Hospital seeking the best care possible. These patients require complex care that can only be provided in an academic hospital with the latest technology and advances in medicine, said Shah.

“Radiology intrigued me – knowing that I am assessing the patient and I’m an integral part of the healthcare team in diagnosis and care,” said Shah, 43. She came to IU Health 23 years ago working in radiology film loan while in x-ray school. She then worked as an x-ray tech while going through the Bachelors program to become an ultrasound tech. For the past nine years she’s served as team leader for University Ultrasound. In May she graduated with her Masters of Science as a Radiologist Assistant – an advanced practice of patient care that heightens her role assisting the radiologists with patient assessment, patient management and radiological procedures.

In a typical day Shah is performing ultrasounds for such purposes as assessing organs, and reviewing blood flow and pathology – all in the name of patient care. It’s a science that fascinates her and a career that keeps her close to the spirit of her upbringing.

A graduate of Connersville High School, Shah is the second oldest of four. Her mother is a nurse and both parents worked hard on the family farm.

“Cows, pigs, sheep, goats, grain – we did it all. When I was growing up it was required to help.  My parents taught me the value of hard work and dedication. Those values instilled in me at a very young age, have helped me achieve success in my career,” said Shah.

Four years ago, at the age of 67, Shah’s father died as a result of a heart attack.  Over the years, Shah has been an advocate for organ donation – knowing the difference it makes in the lives of the transplant patients she sees daily. She didn’t know until his passing what an impact she had on her father’s final decisions. She learned then that he had made that lasting gift.

“He was a simple man,” said Shah. “Very humble, friendly, quiet, with a gentle, caring spirit.”

Working with transplant patients is one of Shah’s greatest passions. Another passion is teaching others about ultrasound as a means to improving healthcare. She has traveled to Kenya five times through a consortium of North American academic health centers, led by Indiana University. The program, based at Moi University, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital works in partnership with the Kenyan government emphasizing training, research, and care to address the challenges of global health. Shah will return to Kenya in January. Each time, she spends two to four weeks working with a team of healthcare providers.

“The best advice I was given by my friend and colleague Dr. Marc Kohli when I went the first time was to go with no expectations. It was very humbling,” said Shah, who married Himanshu Shah, department chair of radiology in 1997. Over the years, the couple has hosted radiologists from Kenya who are part of the program.

“They have become friends. I know their families and one of the most rewarding aspects is being able to educate them and help them work toward becoming self-sustaining,” said Shah. She and her husband are parents to two daughters Mackenzie, a freshman at IU, and Jasmine, a sophomore at Zionsville H.S.

Shah loves to travel with her family and has traveled to at least half of the states in the U.S.

“I don’t think you truly realize what you have to offer in your career until you are older,” said Shah. “It’s when you start to see things and become more involved that you come into your own and realize how you are going to interact with people to obtain a common goal.

“One of the things I love the most about my job is working with wonderful coworkers and colleagues and getting to know and help new patients. It’s a joy to watch them progress – especially the transplant patients who come in so sick and then you watch them go through their journey to getting better.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

His Gift? A Smile And A Laugh Inside Methodist Cath Lab

He’s sitting there in his light blue polo with that smile — that huge, contagious smile. The smile that more often than not erupts into laughter.

Jim Rednour sees no use in being dismal – ever. Life’s too short. And so each day as he checks patients in at IU Health Methodist Hospital’s catheterization lab, he smiles and cracks jokes.

On this day, an elderly man walks up to the window. Rednour, the chief cath lab welcomer (officially a system patient access associate), asks for his name — and for a signature.

“I just need an autograph,” he says, as the man signs the paperwork. “We’re going to try to sell it on eBay.”

The man looks up almost in shock. He had seemed a little nervous. Now, he’s chuckling down to his core. Rednour laughs with him, then offers the man reading material, tells him to relax and sit down with his family.

In other offices, patients sit in front of the person typing on a computer while they are registered.

“My philosophy is, ‘Do they want to sit here staring at me working on a computer when they could be with their family?’” Rednour says. “No, they don’t.”

Rednour registers them, and then walks out to the waiting room to put on their wristbands.

“I try to think if this was my family here,” he says, “how I would want them to be treated.”

***

After a nearly two-decade career in the phone industry, Rednour went to work for a temp agency 18 years ago.

He was given a choice of three jobs. The first: Sit in a corner and do numbers, no contact with people, but great pay. The second: A mid-level income job. Or the third: Transport patients in wheelchairs at a hospital. It was the lowest paying job.

“I said, ‘That’s my thing. It’s people. I love that,’” he says.

So, 18 years ago, Rednour came to Methodist and he did love it. He loved connecting with patients, being a bright spot in their day. And learning the landscape.

“I know all the little nooks and crannies all over the hospital thank you very much,” says Rednour, an openly gay male in a long-term relationship, who serves on IU Health’s diversity panel.

Rednour did his job so well at Methodist, he quickly landed a full-time job. He has worked as a transporter, a unit secretary, in pre-admission and, for the past eight years, checking patients in at the cath lab.

“The thing that makes it perfect is I’ve had three catheterizations on my heart,” he says. “I’m the guy who has been there done that. I can’t tell you about the medical jargon, but I can tell you how it feels, how it’s going to impact you emotionally.”

Rednour is attuned to his patients’ feelings. He truly cares, says Jim Porter, patient flow coordinator at the cath lab. And he cares about anyone who walks into the lab, even if they’re not his patients.

“Jim doesn’t let them go any further than this door without them knowing exactly where they need to be next,” Porter says. “Jim will make phone calls and find out where they are supposed to be.”

Rednour will even personally escort patients across the hospital to make sure they get to the right spot.

“Patients love that,” Porter says. “That’s really the standard of care that he gives. And he shows that same consideration to the patients here.”

For the regulars at the cath lab, Rednour has become a comforting sight. They know they need not worry when he is around.

Rednour says he thinks people appreciate that he is an open book.

“I do make myself known. I talk about my partner. People do like the idea that I’m open about being gay at my age when I had to struggle so much to get here,” he says. “That’s really all it’s about with anything – just truly being yourself.”

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email dbenbow@iuhealth.org or on Twitter @danabenbow

LifeLine Pilot – From Wartime to Nick of Time

Sebastien Cosyns was near the end of his 12-hour shift when the call came. He was summoned north to transport a little girl to Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. For a moment he hesitated – knowing that he could not exceed the maximum duty of hours. Would he make it there and back before the end of his shift?

After using the flight planning systems available to him, he decided the flight could be completed safely and within all regulations. The medical crew worked quickly to prepare the little girl for transport and they made it to Riley where Cosyns ended his shift with five minutes to spare.

The next day Cosyns was assured he made the right call. The little girl was stable. A delay may have come at a price.

Thinking fast and acting fast are traits Cosyns has learned over the years.

Born in Montreal, Cosyns migrated with his family to New Jersey when he was a teen. After high school, he studied aviation at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and eventually enlisted in the Army.

“I’ve wanted to be a pilot pretty much since I was a little kid,” said Cosyns, 46, who works for Metro Aviation. “I loved going to the airports and watching the planes taxi off and land. Then we’d go to the river where there was a sea plane base and I’d sit for hours just watching the planes.”

He remembers the thrill of his first passenger flight when the flight attendants let him visit the cockpit of a former Sabena Airlines craft.

But the real adrenaline rush came in the military when Cosyns was trained as a helicopter pilot. Over the course of more than two decades he completed tours of duty in South Korea, and the Middle East – including a Persian Gulf overwater mission and flights that had him navigating 11,000-foot mountains.   

“On each deployment I’d sit in the cockpit of the chartered plane and ask questions. I was curious and I wanted to learn more,” said Cosyns. “You never knew what you were getting into. One of the scariest times was flying from Kuwait to Iraq. No one taught you what it was like to be shot at or what to do if bullets are coming at you. You learned on the job. You learned to adjust air speeds and altitudes and to keep moving because if you stopped you could get shot. We learned to adjust to the situation like flying just above the treetops or landing on ships over the Persian Gulf at 2 a.m.”

Working as an air attack pilot meant different duties on different days for Cosyns who was part of a 24-craft unit. Some days he provided watch for ground troops keeping a look out for any surprise attacks and other days he escorted ground convoys transporting everything including food, fuel, mail and supplies. Other days they were escorting VIPs – some who were there to perform for the troops – such as country music icon Toby Keith; others were there with political agendas – such as former US Secretary of State John Kerry and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

How did his military experience prepare Cosyns as a LifeLine pilot?

“It’s about being ready to react and respond to the call,” said Cosyns. “My job is to fly the medical crew safely from point A to point B. Whether it’s a baby, or a 70-year-old man, I can’t let anything influence me to rush and make a decision that could cause a mishap.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Dreaming For Life Beyond Cancer

How do you date with an ostomy bag? How do tell a potential spouse that you may not be able to have children? How do you explain multiple surgical scars?

Two high school friends – Shanea Brodhacker and Gwen Brack – know how life changes after a diagnosis. They know how illness can limit and even prohibit some activities typical to most young adults. They also know how to make the most of life as they know it – living with a serious illness such as cancer.

Broadhacker’s brother, Dax was 21 when he was diagnosed with Gastrointestinal Stromal Tumors (GIST), a rare form of cancer.  He spent his 20’s living with the disease while trying to navigate a “normal” young adult life.  Six years older than Shanea, Dax graduated from Indiana University with a double major, pursued his career and continued to live life to the fullest while fighting cancer. He passed three days before his 31st birthday.

Shanea met Brack – both 30 – when they were students at Martinsville High School.  Back too was 21, and a junior at DePauw University when she was diagnosed with stage IV rectal cancer. Now in remission, Brack remembers Dax’s struggle and his will to fight for 10 years.

So when Broadhacker approached her friend with an idea to honor her brother’s memory, Brack was on board. Out of that friendship was born – Dax’s Dream Fund, an effort to cultivate big and small joys for young adults living with cancer.

“We have experienced both the best and worst times of our lives together, and that isn’t something you can say about many people,” said Brack.  “I held Shanea at her brother’s funeral, and Shanea held me when I found out I had cancer. And we’ve held each other on the edge of a sailboat, on the Mediterranean Sea, with the most incredible sunshine in the background, as we laughed and smiled endlessly, counting our blessings – each other.”

The two friends recently kicked off Dax’s Dream Fund by meeting with social workers and delivering goodie bags to IU Health Simon Cancer Center along with surveys for patients ages 18-35.

Two fundraisers –“Dax-a-paloozas” – have created a start up fund for the effort, supporting specific patient requests.

“We’re trying to hit a patient demographic that is often overlooked,” said Brack, who has been through chemotherapy, radiation and multiple surgeries.

 “This group of people are going in to such a transitional point in their lives and then they have the disease and the hospital thing put on them. So, if concert tickets bring small joys then, we want to get them concert tickets. For others, that joy may be going to a Colts game, or having someone sit with them through infusion, or bringing them a bowl of soup or talking to them to them about anything but their health.”

The women know the importance of family support but they say they also recognize the importance of continuing a life that is just beginning as an adult – marked by independence.

“The illness adds a new dimension to that stage of life,” said Broadhacker. “It’s difficult to talk about the illness and symptoms related to the illness with just anyone. Our hope is to create socials where people can foster friendships with others who understand, relate and laugh over dinner or coffee.

To generate interest, the two have created a Facebook page “Dax’s Dream Fund.” A bumble bee is their symbol for making dreams come true, accompanied by a quote from A.S. Waldrop: “According to the laws of aerodynamics, the bumble bee cannot fly; its body is too heavy for its wings, and that is the simple reason why. But the bumblebee doesn’t know this fact, and so it flies anyway for all to see. Remember this when you’re losing faith or hope . . . God’s proof that the impossible can be.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at 
T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Woman Married Beside Dying Mom In Hospital Is Expecting Baby

The baby’s name, if she is a girl, will be Elliott Ann.

Elliott – her grandma’s maiden name. Ann – her grandma’s middle name.

The baby will be born at IU Health West Hospital. The hospital where, one year ago, her grandma died. The hospital where, one year ago, her mom and dad were married.

This baby on the way for Kristin and Brian Powers is a remarkable, insistent sign that life is most certainly a cycle. That life is a battle, full of defeats and of victories.

That life is happy and life is devastating.

Kristin (Owens) Powers has lived all of that in one year. And today, as she and her husband celebrate one year of marriage, she feels a bittersweet wave of emotions.

Her mom, Cheryl Owens (formerly Cheryl Ann Elliott), would have loved to be here, a bright ray of sunshine and cheer to celebrate with them on their one-year anniversary.

She would have reveled in her daughter being pregnant, with a baby on the way.

A baby that would be her namesake.

***

When Kristin Powers was married Jan. 3 inside a hospital room as her mom battled Stage 4 cancer, she suspected the honeymoon would be a funeral.

They didn’t talk about it. Her mom hated talking about dying. She despised it. The road to her death had come so rapidly. 

Cheryl Owens started coughing in June of 2016. The doctors, at first, thought it was allergies, then an upper respiratory infection, then pneumonia, then a fungal infection. The coughing got worse and it persisted.

In early October, doctors found a 5-inch tumor on Cheryl’s kidney. It had spread to her lungs. On Nov. 1, Cheryl had surgery to have her left kidney removed. By mid-December, she had started chemotherapy.

And then, on Jan. 3 of 2017, Kristin Powers got the early morning text from her mom as she lay in a hospital bed. It was filled with emojis of crying faces. There was nothing else doctors could do. Her mom didn’t have much time left.

Kristin Powers’ wedding was set for February. That date dissipated. Her mom had to be there. She made the decision to ask the hospital to get married there – right in her mom’s room.

Together, they concocted a whirlwind wedding. And it was beautiful.

It’s still hard to believe that Powers describes her wedding as the “perfect wedding ceremony” — given that her mom lay there with days to live. And yet, it was the perfect ceremony.

And it was the perfect way for her mom to spend her final days on this earth, celebrating her daughter’s marriage.

***

Cheryl Owens died at age 55 on Jan. 8 of 2017  – just five days after the wedding. 

“I’m thankful it happened that way,” Kristin Powers says. “It gave everybody something really to look forward to.”

Her mom did not want to discuss her fate. So, as dozens of friends and family members came to her room, Cheryl Owens could talk about the wedding.

The day after the wedding, when the photographer dropped off the photos, she could talk about those. 

“She was able to just enjoy people talking about that,” Kristin Powers says, “instead of the big elephant in the room.”

It’s a good way to remember her mom, smiling and with tears of joy. And it’s a wonderful thing to think about how she would feel with the latest turn of events for her daughter.

Kristin and Brian Powers found out they were expecting a baby in November. It gave the couple something to feel happy about as they approached the first holiday season without Cheryl Owens.

The baby is due Aug. 3.

Kristin Powers believes that is no coincidence. Both she and her brother were born in August.

“I am pregnant the exact same time frame mom was pregnant,” she says. “I am going through the exact same cycle.”

And she is sure her mom is somewhere smiling.

Read more about Kristin Powers’ hospital wedding here.

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email dbenbow@iuhealth.org or on Twitter @danabenbow.