Battle against cancer turns into family affair for WNY mother and daughter

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A Western New York woman has spent more than two decades battling bladder cancer.

And now, it’s become a family affair to care and inform families battling the same thing.

Her story comes full circle at one of the country’s top cancer centers, Roswell Park.

The bond between a mother and daughter runs deep, and it couldn’t be more true for Beth and Therese Kurtz.

Beth has spent nearly 22 years battling bladder cancer.

It started in June of 1999 when she noticed bleeding and some pain.

“I went to my primary a couple of times and they just thought it was normal UTIs,” said Beth.

Her diagnosis knocked the wind out of her.

“Kind of that shocking ya know, what’s going to happen kind of thing?” explained Beth.

Her daughter Therese felt the same.

“It was a little bit of a gut punch. However, when we were younger, not that my mom took it lightly but she was kind of like -– it was her fake cancer. She didn’t let it disrupt her, she didn’t let it disrupt us,” explained Beth’s daughter Therese.

Her mother’s cancer helped to guide her career path as a nurse.

“As I got deeper and deeper in the medical field, as I learned, you definitely learn something new, you read something, you see a statistic, it would make me a little bit more nervous,” said Therese.

She learned the cancer was serious.

Beth received treatment, she went into remission, then the cancer returned.

It’s come back now three times.

After her second recurrence, Therese convinced her mother to make the switch to receive treatment where she worked, at Roswell Park.

That’s where Beth put her trust in the doctors.

“I remember saying to him at the time, ‘what would you tell your mother or sister to do?’ and he was like, ‘well they would do this!’ and there was no question about it,” said Beth.

The next step for Beth was aggressive.

She had a radical cystectomy — the removal of her bladder, ovaries, fallopian tubes, 18 centimeters of her small bowel and other parts of her body.

She now has an ostomy.

Doctor Kurshid Guru is Beth’s doctor.

He’s been at Roswell Park for 16 years.

“It’s an incredibly daunting and heavy load to carry because these patients are not the ones who get an operation and go. They have to be taken care of for a long time,” explained Dr. Guru, a Urological Oncologist.

This case is a family affair.

Shortly after Beth’s surgery, her daughter Therese felt a calling to help people like her mother, battling a disease that frequently returns.

Today, she’s the oncology nurse coordinator in the urology clinic, where her mom received life changing surgery.

“I don’t like to off the bat be like ‘my mom went through this,’ because everyone has their own journey. I don’t want to put my feelings on my patients, but I do at one point want them to know I get it,” said Therese.

Therese calls herself the captain of her patient’s ship.

She guides them through their treatment plan.

“Therese brings in a very personal perspective and that’s a very important thing,” explained Dr. Guru.

She pulls her positivity from her mother, who has some strong thoughts about her daughter’s journey and her experience with a deadly disease.

“I think everything that’s happened to me has I believe in divine intervention and for our family it’s kind of the gel for me, it’s my faith and where we are now,” said Beth.

Beth frequently shares her story with other patients at Roswell through the hospital’s mentoring program.

She’s about to mark 5 years in remission, but the date comes with some fear.

“I really have to believe, whatever the outcome it’ll be ok. There’s a little bit of worry but I know I did the right things and got the best care I could’ve gotten,” said Beth.

A mother and daughter, finding positivity in the struggle… while helping others along the way.

If you would like to donate to Beth’s Ride for Roswell page, you can do so, here.

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