While many McHenry County families spent the past few weeks getting ready for Christmas, Nancy Smith was preparing herself for the end.
Her mother, Marion Kane, 75, was dying of brain cancer. In three months, the former McHenry resident went from being an active senior to a bedridden, blind and paralyzed shell of her former self.
A month after her September diagnosis of glioblastoma multiforme, Kane and three others joined a chain of lawsuits blaming illnesses, mostly brain cancers, on pollution from Ringwood manufacturers Rohm and Haas, subsidiary Morton International, and Modine Manufacturing Co. But Kane will not see her case reach a courtroom.
Kane’s hospice caregivers told Smith at the start of December that her mother had two weeks to live. Kane faded so fast that she ran out of strength just to get her affairs in order, Smith said.
“She tried really hard while she did have the strength to, as anyone would do, go through her things … ” Smith said.
Smith’s voice cracked. She paused. “And here it comes.” The crying.
Kristin Mass can sympathize. The 27-year-old nurse quit her job in Missouri and moved back in with her mother, Julianna Mass, shortly after Julianna, 68, was diagnosed in November 2006 with the same deadly cancer.
Kristin, the youngest of Julianna’s seven children, now is her full-time caregiver, along with her older brother, Andrew, who moved from Los Angeles back to the McCullom Lake house that the family has called home for more than 40 years.
Julianna spends much of her time sleeping, but she is alive. Doctors had given her six months to live after her November 2006 surgery, and a month to live last May after discovering that the cancer was returning.
Julianna has outlived her doctors’ expectations. Unfortunately, Kane’s caregivers were right.
Last Saturday morning, the day before the Northwest Herald’s six-part investigative series on the McCullom Lake cancer cases began, Kane died of glioblastoma multiforme. Her funeral is scheduled for today in Harvard.
Kristin Mass shares something else with Nancy Smith, a thought that she does not like to discuss – the realization that her mother might not be alive to see the end of the court cases, either.
Glioblastoma multiforme affects 3 people per 100,000, according to national statistics. As of today, there are three plaintiffs with the disease living in McCullom Lake, population 1,074 as of last year.