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Woman facing death worries for daughters

Family friend holds garage sale to raise money for Castaic woman’s funeral and other expenses

Posted: October 8, 2009 9:18 p.m.
Updated: October 9, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Kathylane Hess, left, who said she stopped recieving treatment for Leukemia, shares a batch of homemade cookies with daughters Jenny, 17, center, and Sharleen Nigma, 31, in her Castaic kitchen Thursday.

Kathylane Hess said she’s not afraid to die.

But she’s not ready to leave her daughters.

“I want to be able to see Jenny graduate and go to college and get married and see her first baby,” Hess said Thursday, referring to her youngest daughter. “I see my girls, I see my grandchildren and I just — I’m not ready to go yet.”

Hess, 51, said she recently stopped chemotherapy for leukemia because the treatments left her tired, sluggish and lifeless. The Castaic woman said her doctors told her she could die as early as November.

On Saturday, a family friend will host a yard sale to raise funds for Hess’ funeral arrangements and Jenny’s future.

“You would just never know these women have the hardships they have in life,” said Sandy Meyer, who is hosting the sale at her home in Newhall. “They’re just beautiful, godly women.”

Hess, a single mother, has two daughters, one stepdaughter and four grandchildren.

“(Her daughters) are her life. They always have been,” said Simi Valley resident Theresa McKelvey, one of Hess’ closest friends.

“She is my best friend,” said Jenny Hess, 17, who lives with her mom. “If she goes, the only one I have left is my big sis.”

The prospect of losing her mom has frightened Jenny.

“I wake up at 3:33 a.m. every morning in the sweats,” Jenny said.

Jenny has often found herself running to her mother’s room to make sure she is OK.

“I rub her back and sing to her so she can fall asleep,” Jenny said.

But it has yet to hit Sharleen Nigma, Hess’ older daughter who lives up the street. Her stepdaughter, Liz Hess, 22, also lives in the same neighborhood.

“It’s hard for me to believe this is going to take my mom, because my mom is a survivor,” said Nigma, 31. “How is some sickness going to take my mom’s life?”

Circumstances turned in Hess’ favor when she beat breast cancer a year-and-a-half ago, she said. But after twice-a-week chemotherapy treatments for her leukemia, Hess said she began to feel the treatment was “killing her body.”

“I was tired of being sick and tired,” Hess said. “It was like the treatment was worse than the disease.”

She made the conscious decision to stop treatments in order “to enjoy what life I have with my children, grandchildren, parents and friends,” she said.  

Two years after she said she received her diagnosis, her daughters are now faced with the fact their mom is not expected to live much longer.

“I got used to the doctors saying she had until December,” Jenny said. “But November is in a month. November is both of our birthdays.”

Meyer said the Hess family is not one to ask for anything. But when it comes to Jenny, Kathylane worries about the expenses of her future.

“I need to make sure (Jenny) is taken care of,” Kathylane Hess said. “I have no life insurance.”

The money raised at the garage sale would also help to pay for her casket and transportation to her burial plot in Salt Lake City, she said. Hess’ adoptive parents have burial plots in Salt Lake City.

Jenny said she took on three part-time jobs last year while she was a student at West Ranch High School because her mom could not work. Jenny left West Ranch and began attending an independent program through Opportunities for Learning on a limited schedule in order to care for her mother.

“I’m a senior in high school so I’m worried about where I’m going to go to college, and how I’m going to pay for expenses,” she said.

Jenny said she plans to return to West Ranch to graduate with her high school friends in June.

“I haven’t been able to be a kid,” she said. “I worry about bills and where we’re going to eat our next meal.”

Hess said she hopes she can make it past Christmas.

Hess said she read an article about a man who beat his cancer after six months of eating cooked asparagus. She said she’s hopeful healthy properties of asparagus, along with some prayer, could somehow banish the cancer.

But should the leukemia claim her life in the near future, she said she’s not afraid.

“It means I’m done here with what I needed to do; God has called me home because he has something else for me,” she said. “I’m not afraid to die. I would (only) be sad because I would be leaving my children.”

Those closest to Hess say they can’t imagine what it would actually be like to lose her.

“I’ll tell you when she walks into a room, the whole room lights up,” McKelvey said. “I can’t imagine that being gone.”

The yard sale will take place from 6:30 a.m. to about 1 p.m. Saturday at 24143 Cross St. in Newhall. Those interested in donating any yard sale items can contact Meyer at (661) 305-1700. Household items, clothing, toys and more are being accepted, except for exceptionally heavy items.


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