Kim and Phil Vaillancourt know firsthand how quickly life can change. Just two days after the Tonawanda, N.Y. couple and their two children joyously celebrated the ceremony that finalized the adoption of three sisters they had fostered for three years, Kim was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer.
The Vaillancourt’s nightmare began Christmas day, when Kim, who was 20 weeks pregnant with a boy, experienced nausea and a headache that would not go away.
“I would have just thought I had a headache and the flu and I would have laid in bed,” the 36-year-old mother told Associated Press (AP). But Kim, worried that being unable to keep food down was keeping the baby from getting the nourishment he needed, decided to go to the hospital to be checked out. That decision saved her life.
MRI scans revealed the young mother had two tumors in her brain: one on the frontal lobe and one dangerously close to her brain stem. Kim underwent eight hours of surgery to remove the tumors and then got the news that she had Grade 4 glioblastoma, a fast-growing, deadly brain cancer.
With treatment, the life expectancy of a person with Kim’s diagnosis is roughly 14 months. Without treatment, life expectancy drops to six to eight months. With a due date of April 25, Kim chose to postpone chemotherapy and radiation until after the baby – named Wyatt Eli – was born.
“She is going to do what she can to save the baby’s life and give it the healthiest life possible,” Phil Vaillancourt told AP.
For now, the plan is to have Kim undergo MRIs every two weeks. Recent scans show she cancer-free, but glioblastoma tumors can reappear in eight to 12 weeks.
“As long as the scans come back ‘clean,’ we are blessed with another day that baby boy Wyatt can grow,” Kim told US Weekly. “Wyatt gave me a chance, and I am going to give him a chance.”
As they approach Wyatt’s birth, the Vaillancourts and their children – Ryan 12, Hailey 11, and newest family members Kamila 10, Josie, 7 and Charlie 6 – are getting support from their family, friends and faith.
“They’re amazingly strong, their faith has never been stronger,” family friend Jenna Koch told ABC News. “They’re blessed each morning and have a beautiful family.”
And it is her faith that keeps Kim going. “We live by our faith. We trust in God completely,” Kim told US Weekly. “I am protected either way. I will go home with Jesus or I will be here with my husband and kids.”
Friends have set up a GoFundMe account to help the family with the Kim’s medical bills and other expenses.