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Tricia Kachin’s gift of healing

Tricia Kachin was the child of a typical modern day American family, complete with a mom, dad, siblings, a step-mom and a step-dad. At the time of her Hodgkin Lymphoma diagnosis in 2010, the blended family still felt the repercussions of divorce, remarriage and the passing of her father, Ray. All the “Kachins” pulled together during Tricia’s journey with cancer and emerged strong – Kachin Strong, as Tricia described her family.

“Trish and I rekindled our friendship during her treatment. We learned through her illness to redefine ‘family’ because we were united in making her well. Unification and healing were two of her many gifts to us,” step-mom Michele Mitchell remembers.

Initially hopeful for recovery, Tricia soon learned her recovery was in doubt. She refused to accept this prognosis and for nearly four years, she was tested, scanned and biopsied. She even had her stem cells extracted at the University of Michigan in hopes of a bone marrow transplant at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Tricia’s treatment was exhausting. She had treatment at Beaumont, St. Johns, Karmanos, and University of Michigan. She even participated in experimental treatments in which she traveled to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, MD Anderson in Houston and Sloan Kettering in New York. These extensive efforts represent Tricia’s determination to beat her cancer.

Tricia continued to embrace life as fully as possible and looked for ways to share her creativity and express her love and appreciation to the Kachin family. She dreamed of being cured and becoming a cosmetologist. She doted on her nieces and nephews and made plans to marry. Tricia, who was always a creative spirit, became known for her sassy wigs, hand-made gifts of art and the fabulous facials she gave friends and family.

In June 2013, Tricia was desperate for another clinical trial; however, the cancer had progressed significantly and her reserves were severely depleted. She decided to forgo the clinical trial and undergo one last chemotherapy regimen at St. Mary’s in Grand Rapids. She had had this particular treatment before, and thought this time it would work.

The treatment proved a bit too much for her frail body and resulted in acute heart failure. Therefore, Tricia was placed on a ventilator to allow her body to rest. Exhausted from fighting the disease, she asked to have the ventilator removed. In preparation for saying goodbye in the hospital, the Kachin women, Tricia included, had the word ‘love’ written in marker on their wrists. Tricia had always wanted get a tattoo of the word ‘love.’ Their photo of hands and wrists are intertwined with Tricia’s and has become a symbol of their collective love and strength.

After removal from the ventilator, to everyone’s joy, Tricia lived several more weeks. She told her family that she had seen God and her father, Ray. God was at the top of a slide she was climbing. In her vision, God told her it wasn’t her time yet. Tricia was too sick to return to her home in Oxford, MI and instead was moved to her fiancé’s parents’ home in Grand Rapids where she entered Hospice. During that time her attitude about dying became positive. Tricia lost her battle with Hodgkin Lymphoma on July 12, 2013.

The extended Kachin “family” is still strong – Kachin strong. Her mother Cheryl, sister Jennifer and stepmom Michele have established a foundation to honor Tricia’s memory. The Kachin Strong Foundation is partnering with the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center to raise money to fund a salon on-site at the Cancer Center in memory of Tricia, whose career as a cosmetologist was halted by Hodgkin Lymphoma.

How you can help

A fundraiser wine tasting and silent auction takes place on Sunday, October 26, 2014 at Boulder Pointe Golf Club & Banquet Center in Oxford, from 3 – 6 p.m. Tickets are $45 per person in advance or $50 per person at the door. A portion of each ticket is tax-deductible. Visit the foundation’s events page for more details including how to order advance tickets. Proceeds will benefit the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Take the next step:

  • Make a donation to the Kachin Strong Foundation to build a salon at the Cancer Center in Tricia Kachin’s memory. Simply select the “Donate Now” button on the Kachin Strong home page, which opens up a University of Michigan donation page.
  • Visit the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s lymphoma pages to learn about treatment and clinical trials.
  • Learn more about Hodgkin Lymphoma from the National Cancer Institute.

University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer CenterThe University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan according to U.S. News & World Report. Our multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.