It’s been a year since Kerry Huffaker and her son, Dylan, received national attention for being prom dates at Dylan’s senior prom at Canyon Ridge High School in Twin Falls.
And while the national spotlight may have moved on, the family’s story hasn’t ended. Not by a long shot.
When Huffaker was diagnosed in early 2016 with an aggressive form of brain cancer, she learned she would likely have nine to 20 months left to live. Today, she is blowing by all the estimates.
“I believe in miracles,” she said. “This is certainly a miracle to me and my family. I have surpassed the odds.”
And 15 months after her initial diagnosis, Huffaker said, she feels great and has “no additional side effects.
“My hair has grown back,” she said. “I’ve had three MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging) since finishing chemotherapy, and the tests have shown that I do not have regrowth of any kind.”
Last year, Huffaker did not realize how much her life was about to change.
“It’s beyond anything I could even comprehend at the time,” she said. “When I was first diagnosed and I was told my options and I was thinking, ‘How can I squeeze as much as I want to squeeze into this short period of time? Is this my last Thanksgiving? My last Christmas?’”
Huffaker’s treatment began in March 2016 with an initial six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation.
She then received an additional six months of chemotherapy and went through a clinical trial using chemotherapy drugs, which ended in December.
“Each time I would see the doctor, they asked me certain questions to see where my memory was and they would be amazed,” Huffaker said. “I was walking well and looking well and my memory was sharp.
“Each appointment, I haven’t gotten any worse,” she continued. “I am not getting any better, so I am at a standstill. I will never get any better, but as long as they can stop it and make it so it won’t grow, it gives me that much more time.”
That word “time” has meant everything to Huffaker.
“Time is what I live for,” Huffaker said. “I try not to plan ahead and think of what the future could hold. It’s planning for today, because who knows how many todays and tomorrows I will have.
“I am getting to live the moments that I didn’t think I was going to be alive for.”
Since her diagnosis, she has attended her son’s graduation from high school, shared his excitement to start college at the College of Southern Idaho (CSI) and enjoyed a milestone of her own: turning 60.
“I don't know if she will be able to see me graduate from CSI, but I'm grateful she was able to see me graduate from high school,” Dylan said.
Dylan’s words of wisdom? “Take advantage of every moment that you can spend with those you love, because you don't know how much longer they will have.”
In October 2016, Huffaker’s husband suffered a massive heart attack. His arrival at the hospital was timely, and he is doing well now. For his wife, it’s another example of “life’s unexpected turns.”She hopes her story will help others that may be diagnosed with cancer to realize that there is hope.
Michelle Bartlome is the public relations manager at St. Luke's Magic Valley.