Betsy Mills sat in the stands watching her daughter Kendall Mills playing in the Kenmore East/Kenmore West Kills for a Cure volleyball game to raise money for Roswell Park and its fight against breast cancer.
Just two days earlier, Betsy couldn’t help but get a bit emotional over the fact that it was Kendall’s Senior Night game.
Emotional for two reasons. One, because the youngest of her three girls was in her final season of scholastic sports. Two, because she was so very thankful to still be around for these milestone moments.
Just three years ago the Mills’ world went dark when Betsy got the news that you think you will never hear. She had breast cancer.
“Shock. You hear of it happening, but you don’t think it’s going to happen to you,” Betsy Mills said.
“I was healthy. It was a shock. The girls took it really hard.”
Betsy was lucky. She caught it early. Diagnosed in April of 2013, Betsy followed her doctor’s advice and after two successful surgeries, one in May, the other in June, she was pronounced cancer free. Though the Mills family knows how blessed they are to have won the battle they can’t help but reflect on how life can turn on a dime.
Betsy, and her husband of 29 years George Mills, had a good life. Lots of friends, family. A nice home with three healthy, happy daughters in Kendall and her two older sisters Kacie and Emily. Life was going as it was supposed to. There was no history of breast cancer in Betsy’s family so when they first got the news shock, disbelief and fear were the only words that could describe everyone’s feelings.
But after the Mills had time to process the news and the battle they were facing an even more powerful emotion took over: Love.
Betsy, who turns 54 next week, loves her family with all her heart. She simply wasn’t ready to go. She had more living left to do. She had too many life events with her daughters. Grateful to everyone who was part of her support network, Betsy said the best medicine was the love of her family.
“It was actually the support of my girls,” said Betsy. “They were very good, and George, too. He was very good.”
Knowing that positive energy at home would be a big part of Betsy’s recovery, Kendall said that her mom’s battle against cancer became the family’s fight, too. It united them like never before. Sure, they loved each other unconditionally before. But going through this experience made Betsy, George, Kacie, Emily and Kendall truly realize how much they all meant to each other. And nothing was going to pull them a part.
Never losing sight of how fortunate she is to still have her mom, a night like the breast cancer awareness game reminds Kendall of what her mom went through.
“Definitely it means a lot more. You want to fight more because of what she had to go through,” Kendall Mills said, as she wiped the tears from her eyes.
Pausing to compose herself, the emotion that flowed from Kendall was a mixture of being thankful that her mom was still alive, but also a reminder of how uncertain that time was for their whole family.
“It kinda hits home when you have different events like these,” Betsy added. “I mean you’re thankful that you’re a survivor, but you think about what could have happened. And think of the people that didn’t have a good outcome, it really touches you.”
Betsy also hopes that all of the girls take in the full message of this night. That it’s not just about wearing pink. It’s about getting tested. Early detection, in her case, was the key to a happy result. And if you do find yourself facing this battle-know that you can win.
Betsy’s battle unfolded as Kendall was wrapping up eighth grade and heading into the summer prior to her entering Kenmore East.
In the fall of 2013, during East’s turn to host the East/West breast cancer game, Kendall gave an emotional pregame speech talking about her mom’s courage during her fight. How it inspired her. How her mom was her hero. A speech that culminated with them hugging. Knowing that she can still hug her mom after every game means more to Kendall Mills than mere words could ever fully express
“It means a lot,” Kendall said. “I don’t know what I’d do without her if she wasn’t here.”
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