Wednesday Aug 31 2011
A mother’s last wishes
By: Carol Feineman News Messenger Editor
Crystal Shawnee, 40, hopes the community provides for her children
Forty-year-old Crystal Shawnee’s last thoughts are about the welfare of her family, specifically her two children. The Lincoln resident has just days left to live. She has Stage 4 cancer of the appendix, a very rare form of cancer. And ever since Shawnee learned four months ago that the chemotherapy was not working and that her cancer was terminal, she has been extremely worried about how her children will have enough food and other basic essentials every day. “The doctors told us there was nothing more they could do for me,” Shawnee wrote Monday. “So with the help of Hospice; my husband, Markus; sister, Melissa; and our very dear family friend, Pat Lay; I’m home to live the rest of my days surrounded by my family and friends.” Shawnee can barely speak above a whisper because her lungs are filled with fluid. “Due to my illness, I’m unable to work and we are struggling just to put food on the table. My children are going to start school without any new clothes or school supplies,” Shawnee wrote. “It hurts my heart to see my children go without. At this point, we are barely able to pay rent and our bills on just my husband’s income.” Her children are Kaytlyn, 13; and Jayden, 10. While Shawnee doesn’t have the strength to stand for more than a few minutes at a time and while she is in constant pain, the mother of two is primarily focused on her children’s future. “It’s so hard to know that I’m not going to be here for my children as they grow up, graduate and get married and start their own families,” Shawnee wrote. “My husband and I would like to take care of our family needs, but unfortunately, we are reaching out to our community to help in any way possible. My family humbly thanks you for any and all help that you can give.” Shawnee’s sister, Lincoln resident Melissa Usher, is at her sister’s house every day the last four months. “What is so hard about this is my sister is such a sweet girl. She has always been very positive in her life and a help to this day,” Usher said. “She never has a bad thing to say about anybody. It’s just awful that it happened to her.” Shawnee has lived in Lincoln since she was in Glen Edwards Middle School. Before suffering a neck injury a year ago at Great Clips near Safeway, she was a hairstylist there. “Crystal was really bubbly and fun here,” said hair stylist and co-worker Anita Crabb. “She was always helping someone. If you cried, she cried. She was very sweet and lovable. She worked really well; she had a great customer base. Crystal has had some hard times with health issues. We really miss her.” The neurosurgeon who operated on Shawnee 's neck injury “a little over a year ago discovered suspicious growths in her appendix,” according to Shawnee 's sister. “When she went to the ob-gyn, they did Cat Scans and they thought it was just fibroids,” Usher said. “She went in for a routine hysterectomy. The surgery was supposed to be an hour but it became a 9 ½-hour surgery in Roseville and they called in the oncologist and other specialists.” After removing part of Shawnee’s large intestine and three to four large tumors, according to Usher, doctors were hopeful that Shawnee would recover. Unfortunately, those hopes never materialized. “Within a few days later, she was supposed to get better after the surgery but she was going downhill,” Usher said. “Where they had reattached the colon, it had perverated and she almost died there. At that point, the doctors found out that it was Stage Four metabolized everywhere. We did chemo for six months but there is no targeted cancer treatment for this cancer; there is not a lot of information out there. We knew when we bought her home last August, it was terminal." And yet Shawnee tries to remain cheerful. “Crystal has good days and bad days. No one wants to die and it’s terrible to know you are, especially when you have small children,” Usher said. “Jaden knows momma’s sick – I don’t think he has grasped the whole thing. We’re working with crisis counselors from Hospice for the children. Katylyn seems to be OK; we’ve included her more because Crystal’s time is up.” And now Shawnee’s family needs help from the public. “Anything and everything the community can do is helpful. They’re struggling for food. The kids are starting school and we’re trying to figure how to get their school supplies,” Usher said. “I’m financially strapped. I'm not working as I’m here with the family. They live in an apartment and need rent money. Anything would help.” Shawnee’s husband is a maintenance/custodial worker for the school district. “We’re holding each other up at this point. My sister’s family needs food, toilet paper; she needs paper towels for her ostomy bag. Any help they can give us would be greatly, greatly appreciated,” Usher said. “She worries so bad about her babies and them not having things and going without food.” This tragedy is still a shock to the family. “I never imagined this would happen to my 40-year-old sister,” Usher said. “Cancer and illness are bad enough but when it strikes someone so young with children and they're struggling financially ...” To donate cash, mention Crystal Shawnee and family at any US Bank branch. To donate gift certificates for school supplies and clothes for the Shawnee children, call their aunt, Melissa Usher, at 801-8186.