Andrea Koster-Crain and Amanda Crain — Survivor and Co-Survivor of the Year
Amanda Crain and her mother Andrea Koster-Crain.
Sixteen years ago, when Andrea Koster-Crain was 40 and her daughter Amanda was 10, Andrea was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. A cancer diagnosis is difficult enough for a parent but is shocking for a child. But thanks to her treatment – which included surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy – Andrea went into remission after a year. Her hair grew back and life for her and her daughter went back to normal.
For nine years, Andrea lived life without illness. Her daughter grew up and left for college. But in 2006, at the age of 50, Andrea began to experience back pain and spams so severe that she couldn’t get out of bed. Trips to the emergency room, a chiropractor, and physical therapy couldn’t pinpoint the source of her suffering. Then, one day, an alert breast doctor reviewed earlier scans and discovered that the tumor in Andrea’s breast had been growing. The news was worse. The cancer had metastasized.
Tumors were in Andrea’s spine, hips, pelvis and shoulders. Doctors looked at the patient and her family with concern, sorrow, even pity. Everyone assumed the worst. But they were wrong. The oncologist ran some tests on the breast tumors and determined Andrea was a good candidate for Herceptin – a breast cancer therapy designed to treat aggressive HER2 positive metastatic and adjuvant breast cancer. It had not been on the market when she was first diagnosed and worked in only 10 to 20 percent of patients. A cocktail of Herceptin, chemotherapy and pain management saved Andrea’s life, and she began the road to recovery.
Amanda – a college junior at the time of the second diagnosis – stayed in bed with her mother morning, noon and night, helping her through the nausea, fatigue, uncertainty and pain.
My fight against cancer has defined so many moments in our mother-daughter relationship. Amanda took on the role of bedside nurse and made it seem natural. There was no asking, no telling, she was just there. I wouldn’t have made it through the hardest times without her. – Andrea
Within six months, Andrea was back at work and her old self. She enjoyed good health for almost a year. Then, the chemotherapy stopped working. She began a new chemo regimen, but it did not interact well with the Herceptin so the drug was dropped from her treatment regimen. Once again, the future looked foreboding.Amanda graduated college a year-and-a-half after the return of her mother’s cancer. She moved back in with her parents and attended graduate school while interning at Komen Greater NYC. During that time, she spent a lot of time with her mother.
I always knew my mom was an incredible woman. But during her remarkable recovery, my perception of her went to the next level. Every day, she validated the fact that she is a hero, role model, fighter, Survivor. – Amanda
Andrea Koster-Crain and her daughter Amanda.
One Sunday, Andrea had a seizure in front of her daughter. Amanda won’t forget that day for the rest of her life.
Tests confirmed the unthinkable – the cancer had spread to Andrea’s brain. She had to undergo gamma knife surgery and radiation therapy to her head. The radiation had terrible side effects. She couldn’t eat and lost so much weight she was unrecognizable. Her extreme fatigue resulted in physical pain. Again, she fought and got back to something resembling normal life.
After cancer, there is no normal. Still, I couldn’t have done it without Amanda. I couldn't picture life without my daughter. – Andrea
This has been the pattern ever since the 2006 diagnosis. Andrea does well for a while and then the chemotherapy stops working. The cancer spreads somewhere new, and more radiation is required. Yet even though the future is unsure, she makes it look “easy.”
Saying my mom is amazing does not do her justice. She is an incredible example of how not to treat a serious cancer diagnosis as a death sentence. She goes about her normal life – shopping, preparing meals, working in the garden, watching old movies, going to work – all of the things that make her feel normal. In her mind, there is NO other way to treat cancer. I've only seen her cry twice about her illness; twice in 16 years! – Amanda
To honor her mother’s bravery and raise money for cures that could prolong her life and those of others battling the disease, Amanda founded Team Momma! and has walked in the Race for the Cure in San Francisco, where she now lives. This year, the team will be walking in New York City.
My mother has been sick my entire adult life and the experience has completely shaped me. Watching her battle through all of this with such ease and poise has given me the ultimate role model for how I want to handle my own life. For years, I was letting cancer really get the best of me. I was sitting back and taking it…letting it be a death sentence for me. Now, I’ve decided I wanted to be part of the fight as well. That’s the inspiration for Team Momma! I want to show people that cancer doesn’t get to run your life, that if we work together we can have a world without breast cancer. – Amanda
On Sunday morning, September 9th, Andrea Koster-Crain will be honored for her bravery, receiving the Komen Greater NYC Survivor of the Year Award. Amanda Crain will be honored for her love and support, receiving the Co-Survivor of the Year Award.
Help Amanda and Team Momma! Consider making a gift so they can achieve their fundraising goal.