Family faces cancer diagnosis 8 times in 16 years

Family faces cancer diagnosis 8 times in 16 years »Play Video

EUGENE, Ore. - Cancer is not the same battle for everyone. For one Lane County family, cancer has haunted them for 16 years.

Eight times they have heard the diagnosis, and last year it hit in the most devastating way imaginable. But through it all, they remain strong, and they say cancer can take a lot of things. But it can't take their spirit.

Lindy Turpen loves to spend time in her backyard.

The last time Lindy stood in her yard and spoke with the media, she was with her sister, Lorelei Kyllonen.

This time, it's only Lindy. "I think about her, I talk to her every day," she said. "Yeah, I feel like she's always with me."

Lorelei, a fighter to the very end, lost her third battle with cancer last year on New Years Day.

Her family says she never lost her sense of humor, and through it all, Lorelei was very candid about her cancer.

The last time Lorelei spoke with us in April of 2011, she said she was at peace, even knowing she was fighting a battle that she would not win. "I think I'm too young to die, but this is just where I'm supposed to be," Lorelei said. "And maybe I'm supposed to teach somebody something about that, I don't know."

Lindy and Lorelei's mother was the first to be diagnosed with breast cancer 16 years ago. "My mom has had it three times, my sister had it three times, and now I've had it twice," Lindy said.

Lindy never expected cancer to find her a second time, but it did, and just 6 days after she lost her sister. "My brother gave me a long hard hug, a big hug, and I felt this sharp pain in my chest. I didn't say anything, but i knew it was something I hadn't felt before and it wasn't normal. I broke down and said, 'I can't do this.' It's too much all at once," Lindy said.

The first person Lindy wanted to lean on was Lorelei. "I wanted to be able to talk to her," she said. "We'd helped each other through it all the times before, and she wasn't there anymore."

But through her treatment, Lindy found small ways to connect with her little sister.

To every chemo appointment she wore Lorelei's necklace: a small gold pair of boxing gloves that had reminded Lorelei, and now Lindy, that she was a fighter.

Lindy also began to journal her fight. "I went through a year of treatment and wrote to her all the time, and so, that was like reaching out to talk to her, like I could pick up the phone or go to her house," Lindy said. "I felt like she was with me."

Lorelei used to blog about her own battle with the disease, the good, the bad and the ugly. "She had so much courage. She just laid it out there, and sometimes she would say, 'read this at your own risk.'"

"It was therapeutic for her, she needed to be able to say how she was feeling."

Lindy misses her sister every minute of every day. She misses her sense of humor, her contagious spirit for life. "The best way I can honor my sister is to live with as much joy as I can, and focus on today," she said.

Now, around her neck, Lindy wears a gift from Lorelei. It's a gift she gave to the women who meant so much to her. "She gave us each a package, and it was this heart necklace," Lindy said. "In mine there was a note that said, 'Sister, I will always be in your heart.'"

Experiencing the worst cancer can do to a family, Lindy continues to look for the beauty and the goodness in life. "We don't talk about cancer a lot," she said. "We don't give it any more time or our energy, unless we have to. Whatever happens in the future, we can deal with it together. All of us, that's how we get through it."