Kim O’Leary gets a flower from her son, Andrew, as they prepare to share lunch together at Crestline Elementary School on Friday. Kim was diagnosed with lymphoma in late January. | Brent Maze
Kim O’Leary gets a flower from her son, Andrew, as they prepare to share lunch together at Crestline Elementary School on Friday. Kim was diagnosed with lymphoma in late January. | Brent Maze

Archived Story

Battling cancer

Published 1:41pm Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hartselle mom gets support from Crestline during time of need

Kim O’Leary used to be one that students turned to during times of grief or hard times for students at Crestline Elementary.

Now, she’s getting the support of the students.

O’Leary, who has been part of Hospice of the Valley’s Community Bereavement Center, is now battling lymphoma, a type of blood cancer.

Since she received the diagnosis at the end of January, Tim O’Leary, her husband, said the support has been overwhelming.

“Our house literally looked like a Hallmark store,” he said. “It’s mind-boggling how many cards we’ve received. I finally gave Kim the last stack to read this week. There’s no way to tell people just how much that meant to us. Everyone has been very supportive during our struggle.”

Kim used to work with children at the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Oncology in Baltimore, Md. In some ways, she said that has made the diagnosis much more difficult.

“I know what cancer can do to you because I’ve seen it with other children,” Kim said.

The O’Learys 6-year-old son, Andrew, is a kindergartner at Crestline Elementary School. Before Kim was diagnosed with cancer, she was one of the grief counselors at the school.

She said the students and teachers are now giving her, Tim and Andrew much support during this time.

“They’ve been so good to all of us,” Kim said.

Tim said Andrew’s teacher, Amy Robinson, has been a big help. She’s even let Andrew spend the night with her family while Kim is at Vanderbilt University Hospital undergoing chemotherapy treatments.

“We give him several options of places to stay while we’re gone and he chooses to stay with Mrs. Robinson,” Tim said. “She opened up her home for our son to stay with her. She’s unbelievable.”

Kim also had the opportunity to participate in Crestline Elementary’s Recess Relay, which was a fundraiser for the school’s Relay for Life team. The team has raised $4,352.33 as of Tuesday.

She was able to walk some but had to sit down and rest shortly after her lap while Tim and Andrew continued on for the rest of the class’s 30-minute period. She also got to see her son throw a pie at Principal Robin Varwig because he raised at least $20 for the school Relay team.

Following the Relay event, she got to have her Mother’s Day lunch with her son under a breezeway in the school courtyard, since the chemotherapy treatments have made her sensitive to sunlight.

Kim said Andrew has been great through the whole process. One thing that they’ve been working on was not being afraid to say the word cancer.

“What we’ve been working on is saying the word ‘cancer’ without having the negativity attached to it like adults have,” Kim said. “He has his good days and bad days like we do, but he has been strong through this.”

Kim said she has already had four chemotherapy treatments and still has more to go, but the support of the her friends, family, church family and others has helped her continue to fight.

“We’re just taking it one day at a time,” Kim said.

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