TOWN OF TONAWANDA, NY- This is a week in which we all give thanks. Many are thankful for our family and our health, two things the Vaillancourt family will never take for granted.
2 On Your Side's Melissa Holmes first introduced WGRZ viewers to the town of Tonawanda family in February 2016 not long after Kim, who was pregnant at the time, was diagnosed with Grade 4 Glioblastoma, a rare and incurable brain cancer.
That devastating news came just days after Kim, 37, and her husband Phil, who had two children of their own, opened their hearts and adopted three little girls.
After a frightening emergency brain surgery, Kim chose to put off chemotherapy and radiation to protect her unborn baby.
Kim gave birth to a healthy little boy in April. They named him Wyatt Eli, which they say stands for "brave little warrior, sent by God."
Now, 7 months later, between housework and homework, diaper changes and doctors appointments, Phil still tries to find time to sit around the dinner table with his kids and give thanks.
Thirteen-year-old Ryan, 11-year-olds Hailey and Kamila, 8-year-old Josie, and 7-year-old Chalie all know many of the meals they eat are cooked with love by family, friends or even strangers, because their mom is still too sick to join them.
"I can't move around much and I'm super tired," Kim told Melissa Holmes in her most recent interview.
Emergency surgery, radiation, and 6 rounds of chemotherapy have taken a toll on Kim, but doctors say the treatment is working.
Roswell Park Cancer Institute Neuro-Oncologist Dr. Ajay Abad said Kim is responding well to the chemotherapy and he's optimistic that she will exceed the typical life expectancy. When doctors diagnosed Kim with Grade 4 Glioblastoma in December 2015, they said the average life expectancy was 13 months.
Kim's most recent brain scan, though, has left them with questions.
"In this last MRI, they found something new in the back, but it was so tiny they couldn't tell what it was," Kim said while referring to a spot on the back of her brain.
She's scheduled for another MRI at the end of November which will reveal more about that concerning spot. At that point, the Vaillancourts will consult with doctors to determine if Kim will continue on with chemotherapy, or perhaps undergo a stronger dose of radiation or even another surgery.
As they wait for more answers they try to focus on the joy in their lives, and 7-month-old Wyatt Eli is their healthy little bundle of joy.
"He's a miracle," said Kim. "The doctors didn't think he'd survive my first surgery."
The older kids love to sing to Wyatt, help with feedings, and everyone- including Phil- finds time to play.
"I try to even out as much as I can the attention I give to each of the kids so one doesn't feel like they're getting more attention than the others," he said.
Phil and Kim admit they wouldn't be able to hold it all together without the support of their parents and siblings and friends.
"They say you know who your friends are when you're struggling. Well, we found out we have a lot of them that we really can depend on," said Kim.
The Vaillancourts are blown away by the generosity they've seen, from a stranger donating a brand new van, to a huge benefit, and a Go Fund Me account that's raised $160,000 and is still growing. They've used some of that money for an extra set of hands.
"We have a nanny for the baby because I can't handle him for long," said Kim. "She's amazing, but it's definitely different."
Kim wants to establish a network of help for her husband and children now because she knows she is living on borrowed time.
"I wake up and thank God for this new day. It's not promised with this disease," she said.
So she's soaking in the little moments, the laughter and all the kisses.
Kim's writing her children letters with her final messages, but she is praying they won't need to read them.
"God does have a plan in all this and not to fear," said Phil. "I just truly believe that I have many more years with her still. And with continued prayers from around the world and family and friends, I believe she can beat this and she's a fighter."
And in the midst of this fight of her life, Kim finds it in her heart to be grateful.
"There is nothing for me to complain about. People are always asking, 'how are you doing today?' I'm good I cannot complain. I've had much worse days. I've had much better days. But you're not going to hear a bad thing from me," Kim said. "God has blessed us in so many ways."
This Thanksgiving and Christmas mean everything to Kim because she knows they could possibly be her last. All she's simply asking for is continued prayers.
Click here for a link to the Go Fund Me account.
A benefit account called "Vaillancourt Benefit" has also been established at all Northwest Savings Bank branches.
If you'd like to send a card, or thoughts or well-wishes, please send them to family friend and spokeswoman Jenna Koch at firstname.lastname@example.org or:
C/O Jenna Koch
431 Adam St.
Tonawanda, NY 14150
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