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Bothell family faces hardship as mother battles brain tumor

Krystal and Tom Warwick with their three children.  - Carrie Rodriguez, Bothell Reporter
Krystal and Tom Warwick with their three children.
— image credit: Carrie Rodriguez, Bothell Reporter

Krystal Warwick was pissed at God.

And if battling a brain tumor for the past two-and-a-half years wasn’t enough, doctors recently told the 29-year-old she probably has less than a year to live. That’s less time to spend with her 2-year-old daughter, and her sons, ages 3 and 5. And less time to spend with her husband, Tom Warwick.

Doctors gave her a 10 percent chance of beating cancer.

But now the mother-of-three rejoices in knowing that she will “spend eternity” with God.

“It has been a journey,” said Krystal Warwick on a recent evening as she sat in a recliner in her Bothell home surrounded by her husband, family members and a close friend.

As she speaks, her right arm slides off a red pillow that she uses to prop it up. Her husband rushes across the room and gently places her arm back on the pillow.

Her family said she has lost all right side function and now requires a wheelchair for her day-to-day living. She has also lost all her peripheral vision on her right side.

As the stay-at-home mom’s condition has progressed, she is unable to care for her family, and more recently, herself.

Now her “care team” is trying to secure full-time care for her.

Family and friends have set up a website and are asking the community for help as her family faces extreme financial hardship with medical expenses, home healthcare for Krystal Warwick and daycare costs for her children as her husband works fulltime outside the home.

“It’s very difficult, very stressful,” said Tom Warwick. “The hardest thing is not worrying how everyone is doing when I’m not there and that Krystal is being cared for. I can’t do it all by myself and I can’t be OK having everyone else do it.”

He said the financial aspect is also a huge challenge.

However, he said “we have complete and total faith that the Lord is going to provide and in the end we will still be OK.”

He met his wife of seven years at Washington State University, where Krystal Warwick – a Bothell High School graduate – attended for two years before graduating from the University of Washington, Bothell. His fraternity and her sorority were next to each other.

In their former Bothell home, she gave natural birth to her three children. It was just 10 days after her daughter’s birth in February 2011 when they knew something was wrong.

In Krystal Warwick’s blog that her family asked to keep private, she wrote on March 3, 2011: “Last Thursday life was normal. We had a baby girl and I was healing as we were incorporating her into a household of five. Friday morning Tommy got up with the boys at 5 a.m. and I continued to sleep with [our daughter] in our bed.”

“… At 9 a.m. I got up and went to the kitchen. I think I was enjoying Cheerios with the boys, we were hysterically laughing, Tommy just kept looking at me alarmed. I was, according to him, slurring my words and not answering simple questions like ‘What’s your middle name Krystal?’

She had collapsed in front of the oven and had a seizure.

An MRI revealed a quarter-size tumor on the left frontal lobe of her brain. She was diagnosed with oligoastrocytoma, a rare and debilitating type of brain tumor.

She has since gone through numerous rounds of radiation, surgeries and ongoing chemotherapy.

But her husband said doctors are running out of options.

“It’s been a lot of heartache,” said Krystal Warwick as her children, who were playing in a different room, squealed in the background.

On her living room wall, a banner made out of colorful construction paper with polkadot lettering and homemade flowers reads: “We Love Our Mommy!”

The couple recently moved into another home in Bothell, where it’s more convenient for family and friends to help care for her and her family.

When asked what the most difficult part of her journey has been, Krystal Warwick struggled to find the words as she suffers from language deficits and memory loss.

But her blog posts show clearly and poignantly her most difficult challenge - losing time with her children.

On March 12, 2011, she posted a photo of herself breastfeeding her daughter.

“This photo is a big deal in my world, because this was the first time she nursed since the seizure. I could not contain my tears,” she wrote. “Oh the bond I yearn for with [my daughter], it has been so severed by this whole health issue, I look at her and feel like each day or night I miss she changes … I mourn this loss so extensively and I can’t have it back.”

Her blog also illustrates her emotional journey with battling cancer.

In a March 31, 2011 post, she said doctors told her the majority of people with her type of cancer lived eight years on average.

“Regardless, life for me is less, and I need to love what I have left. Every hour is different since we were told only days ago. I am depressed, and am high with hope. I am completely consumed by joy to spend forever in heaven. I cry all the time, all the time.

“The thing that breaks me the most is my kids, wow, I don’t want to leave them while they are still children. They need me, they need me!”

Later in 2011 she expressed outrage with her illness and said she was “pissed at God”: “Why me? Hello, Lord, I have a hubby and kids to care for, they can’t survive without me! I’m pissed. You can heal me, do it. People tell me you’re sad about my suffering? Sure you are. You’re the one who is allowing this to happen. I don’t understand you, I thought you loved me?”

Her family describes her as a strong woman of faith, and an inspiration to many.

“She was inspirational and spoke about how having a tumor strengthened her life,” said her friend Bryn Kruse, who attends Mars Hill Church in Shoreline with Krystal Warwick. She noted her friend spoke at a woman’s group at EvergreenHealth Medical Center.

On July 2, an MRI revealed another new tumor on Krystal Warwick’s brain stem. She enjoyed the Bothell Fourth of July parade with her family and was still mobile. But she was wheelchair-bound by July 8.

Tom Warwick says their children understand that “mommy isn’t doing well.” He said their oldest son knows that “mommy’s not getting any better. He knows that people do die and we’ll miss them when they go to heaven.”

Her parents, Rich and Bev Woodward, said it is hard for them to stay focused on daily life. Her dad said he “thinks in tunnel vision.”

“To sit and think in terms of loss is very hard,” said Bev Woodward.

Her aunt, Cindy Sheff, said losing a loved one is the most painful thing that can happen.

“It’s a loss that I can’t even imagine,” said Sheff, crying. “It just rips your heart out and it just sucks.”

But the family is thankful that Krystal Warwick’s church community has “swept in” to help with cooking meals, watching the children and offering support.

Her family also thanks the women from her sorority at Washington State University, Alpha Chi Omega, for offering support, as well as the Bothell Fire Department, who responded to their home on Aug. 8 twice after Krystal Warwick fell.

So far, the Warwick family has reached nearly $5,800 of their $20,000 goal. They are asking for the community’s help through donations, meal preparation, support – and prayers.

How you can help

To donate go here.

Sign up to bring a meal.

Sign up to mow a lawn, play with the kids, or spend time with Krystal Warwick: Contact warwickfamilycare@live.com to be added to their care calendar.

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