It's obvious by the look in her eyes that Karen Davidson Koch has been through a lot lately.
The 34-year-old occasionally wipes tears from her cheeks as she sits on her mother's couch in Walnutport and tells her story. But through it all, she remains determined that the focus be on her mother, Kathy Davidson, who lies on a hospital bed in the next room with cancer throughout her body.
"She wants to be at home and be comfortable," Karen said.
Karen, who has three young children with her husband, Chris, and graduated this month from Lehigh Carbon Community College, has spent an exorbitant amount of time over the past two years helping her parents, Kathy and Rich Davidson, in any way she can. But it's her mom who she says is the real fighter.
"She's been fighting for two years," Karen said. "She doesn't give up."
Karen says her mother has been through many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation and was in remission until last July. Even while receiving chemo, it wasn't until Jan. 22 that Kathy quit working up to 50 hours a week at her job with Rite-Aid in Bangor.
However, it is now evident the degree to which the disease has progressed, with Karen saying that she and her father found four more tumors within the past four days.
The cancer was originally suspected when Kathy stopped by the doctor to get checked for pneumonia while taking her son, Richard, to the doctor for knee pain two years ago.
Because Richard was diagnosed with a rare type of blood cancer that day and admitted and transferred to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, she put off returning to the doctor herself.
But after losing 50 pounds within the next four months, her condition could no longer be ignored.
"(That's when) we were first diagnosed with cancer," her daughter said.
Asked to elaborate on her use of the word "we," Karen said cancer doesn't just affect one person. "When it happens, it's the whole family. We're in this together. No one fights alone."
When asked why the family needs money for medical bills, Karen said that even though Kathy was what some folks might consider well-insured, there are caps on her coverage. Her insurance limits her number of home hospice care visits, primarily geared toward keeping her pain level tolerable.
Having to choose which days her mother will or will not receive help is a difficult process, Karen said. "We have to rely on them when most needed."
In addition, her insurance will soon run out, requiring her to begin paying more than $450 per month for COBRA to remain covered. She doesn't yet qualify for disability.
Karen said her parents are not used to asking for, or receiving, help but that one of her mother's greatest concerns is that she doesn't want her family stuck with mountains of medical bills, "which just keep building," Karen said.
Karen's workplace, the Bowmanstown Rod and Gun Club in Palmerton, spearheaded by Karin Bristow and Mark Martini, surprised her recently with plans to hold an event to help defray those medical costs.
The event, at 5 p.m. June 28 at the club, is open to the public and will feature live music, a DJ, beer, food and more.
In addition, a bake sale is being held today from 3 to 6 p.m. at Karen's children's day care center, Park Avenue Kids Korner, 3880 Park Ave., in Neffs.
To learn more about Kathy's battle, visit the Facebook page in her honor, called "Team Davidson: Kathy's Battle 'We're in this Together!'"
Additional donations can be sent directly to the gun club in care of Team Davidson.
About cancer in general, Karen said, "Early detection saves your life. The slightest little bump that you think is just nothing, just a bump, could in fact be cancerous, and people need to check their whole body."