Student recounts mother’s cancer battle, celebrates Relay for Life

Megan Swindell

“All of us girls and my parents were sitting in the car in the parking lot right before church, and that’s when they told us.”

Krista McCarty, senior in food science, was only 8 years old when her mother, Beverly, was diagnosed with Endometrial Cancer, which forms in the tissue lining the uterus.

“At that point I’m pretty sure I hadn’t really even heard of cancer,” Krista said of the day that her parents broke the news to her and her three sisters. “And I really didn’t understand how awful it was until my mom’s first treatment. She went in for just a normal check up after my youngest sister, Katrina, was born, and that’s when they found it.”

For a couple of years Beverly, a stay-at-home mom who loved to garden and cook, underwent intense chemotherapy and radiation to treat the cancer. Krista remembered trying to distract her two younger sisters throughout those vigorous years.

“My older sister Sarah and I would read books to Katrina all the time, and we’d make puzzles too,” Krista said.

The girls would help their mother in any way they could from “putting lotion on her feet” to days such as the one when “a lady came in with options for wigs.”

From their farm in the small town of Hartley, Iowa, Krista’s parents drove back and forth four hours to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for Beverly’s cancer treatment throughout the years.

“We took turns. Two of us girls would go [with to the Mayo Clinic], and two of us would stay with my aunt and uncle,” Krista said.

After a little over two years of treatment, Bev went into remission.

“I think that she was back in the garden and basically back to normal,” Krista said.

The McCartys were able to live normal lives with healthy Mom for only a short time. The six months of remission brought irreversible news.

The four youngsters were gathered together at the kitchen table only to be told that the cancer that would soon take the life of their mother had spread to her lungs and brain.

“We all just started bawling; Katrina didn’t understand, but she was sad that we were sad,” Krista said.

Pneumonia brought Beverly’s frail, cancer-stricken body back to the hospital.

“I remember her being so sick that she couldn’t even walk,” Krista said. “Dad had to help her out of the house. I remember thinking every night ‘God, please let her live one more day.’”

Her eyes filled with tears as she recalled the last time she spoke with her mother.

“My aunts came to pick us up on my last day of sixth grade, and we knew that day. She told us to remember her by a rose in a garden.”

Beverly died in the afternoon on the girls’ first day of summer.

“All of us girls had to grow up pretty fast,” Krista said. “Grandma came every Thursday for years to do laundry.”

Krista took after her mother’s passion in the kitchen.

“Making supper every night was a role I took on since I was nine,” she added. “Dad raised us well.”

Although the McCarty’s had participated for years in the Spencer Relay for Life as the “McCarty Party” team while their mother fought her battle against cancer, the family’s involvement subsided for a bit after Beverly’s passing.

Today, Krista is the co-president of Colleges against Cancer at Iowa State. Her involvement began in the Entertainment Committee as a sophomore then education chair as a junior.

As co-president, Krista has helped organize Iowa State’s seventh annual Relay for Life, which kicks of Friday at 7 p.m. and ends Saturday at 7 a.m.

Krista encouraged everyone to attend the Relay, so that “no other children have to hear that their parent has cancer or live through that experience.”