She's a beautiful 23-year-old woman. She recently got engaged to the love of her life. She just bought a new house.
Kerri McEachern should be enjoying life, not worrying about how much longer she will live. She should be looking forward to her birthday Wednesday, not to her next doctor visit.
Kerri should not be afflicted with life-threatening cancer. No one should. It's just not fair.
Kerri McEachern, seen here with her fiance, Jason Dambach, has a rare form of cancer.
McEachern, a Curve employee the past two years and fiance of former team broadcaster Jason Dambach, was diagnosed with a mysterious, aggressive form of cancer two months ago. She has stage IV of the disease, the most severe kind, and doctors aren't sure what type of treatment to try next.
McEachern, her parents, Mike and Eileen, and Dambach visited Blair County Ballpark for Saturday's Curve game. The franchise has a donation stand with pictures of the tall brunette located near the VIP entrance that reads, "We love you Kerri."
"It means a lot to us," Mike McEachern said of the support for his daughter. "It tells you what kind of person she is, how friendly and how she can go anywhere and make friends.
"Things like coming out here and all the people that are coming out to see her, it's really special to her."
Dambach left the Curve in January to become general manager of the State College Spikes. He and Kerri got engaged Jan. 17 and began house hunting, finally settling on a home in Bellefonte.
Kerri also left the Curve in January, and shortly thereafter she started getting annoyed by fluid buildup in her right ear. She underwent surgery to place a tube in the ear Feb. 4 but felt intense pain on the right side of her face two days later.
Kerri, a Gilbertsville native, and Dambach were scheduled to check out wedding halls in Pottstown on Feb. 7, but she was in too much pain. She was admitted to Altoona Hospital three days later, and a CT scan found a tumor on her parotid gland.
The cancer has spread, and her case has baffled doctors. Kerri has what's called cancer of an unknown primary, which affects only 2 to 4 percent of people and means the origin cannot be determined. Doctors believe hers may have originated in a breast, ovary or lung.
A young woman who used to be very athletic and ran six or seven miles a day, she now has trouble walking and maintaining her balance.
Kerri, who also is battling paralysis on the right side of her face, has undergone chemotherapy and endured weight and hair loss, fatigue and dehydration. She has been living with her parents in Gilbertsville -- she never even got to establish residence in her new Bellefonte home -- and Dambach makes the three-hour drive to see her every weekend.
"I would drive 15 hours every day if I had to to see her because it means that much to me," Dambach said.
"He's been very loving and supportive," Eileen McEachern said of Dambach. "On the days that she's really doing poorly, he walks into the room and she's 80 percent better.
"Her spirits are better, and she tries to do more for herself when he's around. I think half of the time she's doing it for him, to make him happy cause I know it's such an effort for her."
"We are blessed that they met each other," Mike McEachern said.
Curve staffers feel blessed that they got to spend a couple of years working with Kerri.
"She is just amazing," said Elsie Zengel, director of community relations. "Everybody loves her."
"She's a pleasant and gentle soul, always has a kind word to say about everybody," said former Curve general manager Todd Parnell, who also attended Saturday's game. "She was a great, great teammate for everybody and somebody that we love.
"We always talk about how we're a family business, and though we all have different last names, we all think of her as part of our families."
Kerri has an identical twin sister and three other siblings, along with a large extended family that has provided tremendous support.
"Hopefully we can make her days happy," her mother said as she fought back tears.
Kerri's doctors are in communication with cancer specialists in Tennessee about a potential next stage of her treatment.
"We're hopeful, but that's all we can say," her father said. "They're not giving us any guarantees on anything. It's something to try that may work, but they're not optimistic."
"They assured us that they don't seem to be so hopeful with this, but we're going to give it a chance and try it," her mother said.
Whatever happens, Kerri knows her fiance will always be by her side.
"We know we're together in this," Dambach said. "We're together forever and will get through this together."
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and firstname.lastname@example.org.