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Family continues Tricia's fight

ricia Kachin, a 2008 OHS graduate, in St. Louis when she traveled there for a cancer treatment. (click for larger version)
September 11, 2013 - Tricia Kachin did not go gentle into that good night.

She raged against the dying of the light.

Unfortunately, the 2008 Oxford High School graduate lost her valiant struggle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma on July 12, 2013.

Kachin was just 23 years old.

"She was full of energy," said her mother Cheryl Ludeman. "She was just so determined that she was going to beat it."

"Tricia never wanted to give up," said her sister Jennifer Coryell. "She never wanted to accept that the cancer was as bad as it was. She constantly wanted to help other people (who had cancer) and reach out (to them). That's how she found comfort."

In the wake of this tragedy, her family is working hard to keep her memory alive and help others battling cancer with the new Kachin Strong Foundation, a partner with the University of Michigan's Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"It's been really hard on all of us losing her and we just wanted to do something for her," Ludeman said.

"When she passed away I was so upset and sad about everything that I wanted to channel my anger and sadness into something to keep (Tricia's legacy) going and do something good for others, so that out of Tricia's death came something positive," Coryell said.

Right now, the Kachin Strong Foundation's purpose is raise awareness about Hodgkin's Lymphoma and purchase wigs for cancer patients who are suffering from hair loss due to chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Coryell explained the goal is set up a salon where cancer patients can be fitted for wigs and have them styled in a comfortable atmosphere.

Eventually, Ludeman said the family would like to see the foundation offer scholarships to students studying oncology.

"The problem is it takes a $100,000 endowment fund to start it," Coryell said.

In everything it does and will do, the foundation is pledged to engaging in "relentless positive action to ensure that Tricia's passing will not be in vain."

It's basically a way for Kachin's family to continue the personal battle against cancer that she began waging in May 2010 when she was diagnosed following a car accident.

She had broken her clavicle and when she was X-rayed to assess the damage, white spots were observed on her lungs. It was determined she had Stage 4B Hodgkin's Lymphoma. She had just turned 20 the month before.

"(The cancer) was very far advanced," Ludeman said. "They said that if she had not been diagnosed, she probably would have passed away within a year."

For the next three years, Kachin fought the disease with every ounce of strength and sheer will she could muster.

She underwent numerous rounds of chemotherapy, countless lung biopsies, PET scans, stem cell extractions and experimental treatments.

"This was somebody who never liked needles or going for blood tests," Ludeman said. "She got over it so quickly because she was so determined to get better."

Kachin's battle to beat her disease and stay alive took her to medical centers in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Houston, St. Louis and New York City.

"She was really a fighter," Ludeman said. "She never gave up. She kept thinking, 'I'll go into remission.' And a lot of the time, she led a really normal life."

Once she got over the initial shock of the diagnosis, Ludeman noted her daughter always stayed positive about the future.

Kachin was engaged to a young man she knew from high school, Philip Venema, and planning a future with him.

"She was really excited about life," Ludeman said.

Sadly, all of the positivity, all of the courage and all of the perseverance that kept Kachin going for the three years following her diagnosis could not overcome the predator that was stalking her from within.

On June 25, Kachin was undergoing chemotherapy in Grand Rapids when she was told she had less than six months to live.

"She would get a little bit better, but she never went into remission," Ludeman said. "We were really positive and we tried to help her as much as we could, but the cancer was stronger than she was. We tried to get her as much help as we could, but it wasn't enough."

After a stay in the hospital, Kachin went into hospice care at home.

"We knew there wasn't anything else they could do and we wanted her to be comfortable," Ludeman said. "I miss her every single day. It's so hard to lose a child. It's just awful."

Ludeman was by her daughter's side when she passed away.

Some of the things Kachin described seeing and feeling toward the end of her life were a source of consolation to both her and her mother.

"She seemed very comforted (about) where she was going, even though she wasn't really ready to leave us yet," Ludeman said. "It helped me to feel even stronger about life after death. There really is something there in the end."

During her short life, Kachin excelled in writing and worked as intern for the Leader during the summer of 2008.

In high school, she loved performing on stage and as part of an improv group. Ludeman described her as an energetic mix of "dramatic" and "funny."

But what Ludeman will remember most about her daughter was her "big heart."

"She was just a very giving person," said Ludeman, who noted that Kachin never let her own troubles stop her from counseling and supporting other cancer patients she encountered during her fight. "She was very kind. She was loving. She really thought about people and their feelings."

Ludeman encouraged others to get checked out by a doctor if they develop any symptoms such as the persistent cough that Kachin had for about four months prior to her diagnosis.

"If you get (a diagnosis) early enough and fight it, you can win," she said. "Maybe if we had known sooner, Tricia would still be here."

For those interested in financially supporting the Kachin Strong Foundation, there will be a Trivia Night fund-raiser 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21 at Buck Shots Bar & Grill (7048 Gateway Park Drive) in Clarkston. The cost is $30 per person.

There will also be a wine tasting fund-raiser from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3 at the Oakhurst Golf & Country Club (7000 Oakhurst Lane) in Clarkston.

Tickets are $45 per person.

For more information, please visit www.kachinstrong.com

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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