KENNEWICK — Kim Wildenborg's mother has been her rock through the years.
It was her mother, Marcy Stauffer, who took Wildenborg in as a single mother when her husband left her, who encouraged her to go to art school and who encouraged her to apply for a cake decorating job.
"That's when I learned I liked decorating cakes," Wildenborg said. "I'm a failed graphic designer but a rockin' cake decorator."
So when Stauffer was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer -- the most advanced stage -- Wildenborg decided it was time for the daughter to do something for the mother.
So she put her artistic talents to work making jewelry with recycled items -- bottle caps, pieces of old jewelry and cut-up magazine pictures -- and selling them online to raise enough cash to take Stauffer on a trip to the Oregon coast with her grandchildren in June.
"She's got all her bills coming in and insurance is only going to cover so much," Wildenborg said. "And she has helped us so much."
Stauffer's cancer was diagnosed last year on Aug. 11. She went to an emergency room that day with excruciating pain in her right side that she thought was appendicitis.
Doctors put her through test after test. Finally, one of them stepped into her room with an answer.
"She closed the curtain tight, closed the door and scooted up her chair," Stauffer said. "She said, 'We found some nodules in your liver.' "
The nodules were colon cancer that had spread to her liver and her lungs.
She injects herself with chemotherapy drugs that doctors hope will shrink the tumors enough that they can be operated on. So far, they haven't grown, but they also haven't shrunk.
"They cannot cure it," Stauffer said of her cancer. "According to the doctors, I will be under some sort of treatment for the rest of my life. There is a vague hope if we can cure what is in the chest, then they possibly can go in and do something about the mass in the colon. But we don't know."
Nonetheless, Stauffer remains optimistic.
"I have kind of a 'Pollyanna' attitude about the whole thing," she said. "All I have to do is look around and I can find people who are in way worse shape than I am. ... Plus I have Kim and the girls -- three little granddaughters that I would just lay in bed at night in the hospital and have tears because I want to be with ... I just want to be around for them to grow up."
Before Stauffer's diagnosis last year, the family started what they hoped would be an annual tradition of spending a week at the Oregon coast.
Stauffer now dreams of sitting on a balcony watching her granddaughters play in the ocean, and maybe drinking a glass of wine if she can tolerate it.
"I love the ocean -- just sitting there and listening to the ocean," she said.
Wildenborg said once word spread about her jewelry sale, friends and family "came out of the woodwork" to buy pieces. She has made about $500, but hopes to earn $500 more to have enough for gas and the hotel for their trip.
Sitting at a table in Stauffer's home in El Rancho Reata, Wildenborg squeezed her mother's hand.
"You got to let me do something for you, lady."
Go to Kim Wildenborg’s online shop at http://www.etsy.com/people/alilsomethingdifrent.
-- Michelle Dupler: 509-582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org