My Beautiful Sister - Kathryn Orlowski

In May of 1998 my whole life changed in a single moment when my sister Kathi found two lumps in her breast while showering one Saturday morning. A day that had been planned as a time with her children turned into a nightmare for our whole family.

Her doctor immediately came to her home at the request of her husband and he knew right away that things were not good and he advised her to have a radical mastectomy. She was sent for a biopsy which took weeks to come back. Finally the bad news came and she was told that her diagnosis was STAGE FOUR MALIGNANT METAPLASTIC CARCINOMA which at the time was considered a very rare and aggressive form of breast cancer.

After her lumpectomy, which was recommended by her oncologist, she began an extremely rigorous course of chemotherapy. She would go into the Pasqua Hospital in Regina for a whole week and the chemo drugs were changed every 15 minutes to two hours depending on the size of the bag being hooked up. She fared through many of these treatments which took her immune system to ZERO over and over again, and then round after round of radiation. After a year, she thought she would start getting better...

In the second year I quit my job so I could spend more time with her. She had a young family of three precious sons, and her husband had a very busy law practice. I decided that I had to do everything for her that I possibly could because I loved her since the day she was born and also because I knew if I did not, I could not live with the regrets of not being with her and doing what I knew I had to do, so I nursed her at home, at the cancer lodge and in every hospital she was sent to.


GrassRoots Natural Health and Wellness is dedicated to her memory.

One day as Kathi was going in for an MRI because of extremely severe headaches, she was holding the back of her neck which was causing so much pain that she could hardly see. The MRI tech noticed this and told her he would include images of her neck. What they found was devastating. She had a tumor growing at the base of her brain stem. The question then arose as to which tumor was the primary one because she had suffered with blinding headaches for many years and to this day they do not know for sure.

She had images of her MRI sent to Scripps Hospital in La Jolla California where they determined that she needed Gamma Knife Radio Surgery to destroy the tumor at the brain stem. They wanted her to come immediately as the tumor was within range for successful treatment but she was discouraged to go "out of country" for help. Gamma Knife Radio Surgery was not available in Canada at that time and our whole community came together and raised over $35,000.00 for her to go to the US but after being sent for a stereotactic biopsy in Toronto at Sunnybrook Hospital, she was no longer able to be treated at Scripps. We were heartbroken...

Things did not improve. The chemotherapy treatments and the radiation continued more aggressively but she was steadily declining. During some of the good days we would spend many hours talking about our life together as sisters and moms and wives. She would cry when she thought of not being there to see her children finish growing up, graduating and getting married, of never seeing or holding her grandbabies and of not growing old with her husband. I cried too. One day as she was lying on her bed in so much pain, I lay down beside her and held her and we both wept. I was feeling helpless and angry at not being able to "fix" her and she was crying because she knew she had a very hard road ahead. We both prayed for strength.

During the third year, I spent every day with her whether she was at home, in the cancer lodge or in the hospital and soon, my dear sweet sister began spending longer and longer periods of time in hospitals. We were away from home for weeks at a time which made things hard for the whole family. I stayed with her as her advocate and slept sitting up in a chair beside her bed night after night. Other family members were constantly travelling to or from the hospital which is a two hour drive from home. By this time, Kathi was in unrelenting pain, which was being treated with huge amounts of morphine and other drugs but nothing was working. She was not only suffering from the terrible pain but also the excruciating side effects of all the drugs.

One day her oncologist announced he was going to be away and he assigned Kathi to another doctor. When the new doctor saw the pain she was in, she called in a pain specialist from the palliative care wing to consult with her. Thank goodness that Dorothy, another of my sisters was there that day...

On the evening of May 22nd 2001 after he reviewed Kathi's case and saw that there were plans to sever her spinal cord as a method of pain control, the pain specialist came and spoke with her. He knelt beside her bed and with one hand on the side of her face and his other hand clutching her hand to his chest, his words so gently spoken were: "Oh my dear girl, if you were mine I would not take you into surgery. You will not survive the anesthetic. If you agree, you may come under my care in the palliative unit and I will get your pain controlled so you can go home and be with your family until you die". "Am I going to die?" she said, very surprised. "Yes" said the doctor. Her oncologist had never told her she was dying but, rather, that she was getting better...

After the pain doctor left that night, we three sisters cried together, Kathi, Dorothy and me. The poor lady in the next bed had overheard all of this and she was sobbing too! When I asked Kathi how she was feeling about all of this, she just said, "I am so relieved". She finally knew she did not have to fight anymore...

The next day she was moved into the palliative care unit at the Pasqua Hospital in Regina and under the care of Dr. Cline, her pain was treated with Methadone and she was pain free from then on. On June 6th 2001 we were able to move her home to St. Joseph's Hospital where her children and her husband could come and be with her every day.

Kathi slipped into a sleep state for most of the following days in that last month. She would wake briefly but was never able to "focus" although she knew we were there. We spent time at her side singing to her, whispering into her ear. Holding her hand and trying to comfort her spirit. Two days before she went to heaven, she "woke up" and asked for a lot of things to eat and drink. We ran around the hospital trying to find everything she asked for. The nurses were wonderful and they helped us bring things to her. She wanted hot coffee, cold coke, soup, jello, a roast beef sandwich, and a lot of other things. Most of it was just "tasted" and then after that brief time, exhausted, she fell asleep again.

On Friday July 6th she opened her eyes twice and really focused on something in the room, we knew she was seeing an angel, her lips were moving though she was not making a sound. She whispered to our sister Marion "Tell him to come back!" Then she told us a train was coming for her and she fell asleep for the last time. That afternoon, as a family, we stood around her bed and prayed a prayer of release for her. We spoke to her and told her if her angel came again and she wanted to go with him, then it was ok with us for her to go. Of course there were a lot of tears and heartache but the feeling of peace in that room was incredible.

On Saturday afternoon she was still asleep but she began whispering in French. She was not fluent in French but words were pouring out of her. Dad had just left the room for a little rest so I ran and got him to come and translate what she was saying. She was telling us she was going to get a new hairdo! She had no hair at all so we knew what she meant.... Then everything stopped. Her breathing changed and we knew she was on her way to heaven. At 5:10 Saturday July 7th, 2001 she was finally free as she broke the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God! Our world would never be the same...

During the many months I spent with my sister, it was her greatest wish that somehow others would benefit from her suffering. So many times she would say to me that she wanted me to learn all I could from what we were going through together and that with everything we learned we must find a way to help others. In the last few days when she could still speak she would open her eyes from time to time and say things to me like... "I want you to live for a long, long time and help people like me"... "I want you to help people... I want you to find a way to give people hope"... Little did either of us know that those words would inspire me to find something to fulfill the hopes she had. To make a long story short, after a long process of searching and researching I knew that Thermography which was still very new in Canada could play a role in making those things happen. I worked very, very hard to accomplish the goal and opened the clinic on Sept. 1 2008. At that time we just had Thermography available but the clinic has grown and we have been able to add many more things to help people find answers, alleviate pain, feel better, look better and all in non invasive ways.

I feel my sister around me every day and I know she would love what we are doing to help people as she had hoped we could. I pray that the work we do in the clinic will be a blessing to those who enter our doors and that they will benefit from all that we have learned!