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URMC / Wilmot Cancer Institute / News & Events / Dialogue Blog / January 2020 / Stargazing Connects Mother-Daughter during Scary Stint with Cancer

Stargazing Connects Mother-Daughter during Scary Stint with Cancer

Tori Holmes was only six years old the day her mom, Kim, was diagnosed with an aggressive blood cancer in 2013.

For three stressful months during that time, Kim and her young children were separated by many miles. Kim had to leave home in Corning, N.Y., to receive intensive inpatient treatment at the Wilmot Cancer Institute in Rochester, and the children went to live with an aunt in Vermont.

Stargazing helped to ease the longing.

On a particularly sleepless night, Tori’s aunt took her to a window and said, “Tori, do you see those stars and the moon? Those are the same stars and the same moon that your mom is looking at right now.”

The Holmes FamilyTori, now 13, wants to bring the same type of comfort to other patients at Wilmot, so she started a volunteer operation and developed a catch-phrase: “Even though you are separated by highways, you're connected through star ways."

Tori has been making fleece blankets embellished with a star pattern that she brings to hospitalized adults and children. Each package contains two blankets — one for the patient and one for a family member who needs to be wrapped in love — along with a personal note that briefly describes Tori’s story.

“It makes me feel really good,” Tori said, “because I feel like I’m making a difference.”

She and her family started the New Year by dropping off more colorful fleece blankets at Wilmot.

Kim Holmes was successfully treated and is six years into a healthy remission from acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Kim’s full story was featured as the cover article in a 2015 edition of Wilmot’s Dialogue magazine. She had been eight months pregnant with her third child when doctors diagnosed her with AML, and her case included many difficult twists and turns.

After an emergency admission to Strong Memorial Hospital, she prematurely delivered a healthy baby boy, Liam. He spent some time recovering in the NICU while a large, multidisciplinary team, led by Jason Mendler, M.D., Ph.D., cared for Kim. They immediately started her on weeks of chemotherapy and additional precision treatments based on a molecular profile of her cancer. Kim also enrolled in a national clinical study only available in upstate New York through Wilmot.

“It really feels like things have come full circle for me,” she says.

The baby, Liam, is now 6, a high-energy first-grader. Another child, Caitlin, 10, is in fourth grade. Kim enjoys her career as a teacher, and her husband, Brendan, who was by her side throughout the ordeal, has just started a new job to embark on a new chapter in 2020.

Tori and some of her friends at the Alternative School for Math & Science in Corning have made about 40 blankets so far, with no plans to stop. She’s donated her hair twice to the non-profit wig-maker, Locks of Love, done fundraising for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation — and continues to cherish her aunt’s kind words and pay it forward.

Global Administrator | 1/2/2020

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