PeoPle

THE ADVOCATE

Advocate staff photo by PAM BORDELON

Ron Richmond; Kristin Stewart, holding 3-month-old daughter Sage Kelli Devillier, who is named after her aunt, the late Kelli Richmond; and Patsy Richmond . Kelli, whose portrait hangs above them, lost her very public battle with ovarian cancer one year ago today at age 30 .

Family continues daughter’s mission after death
BY PAM BORDELON

Kelli’s legacy
eral sections of her intestines at Woman’s Hospital. It was the first of several surgeries and numerous rounds of chemotherapy that landed her as a patient at Woman’s, where she quickly became a favorite among the doctors, nurses and staff with her positive, nevergive-up attitude. Through it all, parents Patsy and Ron Richmond were by their daughter’s side. Now they are continuing her battle. “It’s been unbelievable grief and sadness,” said Patsy Richmond, tears filling her eyes. “I can’t imagine her not here. I get through it day-by-day … I used to question her becoming an advocate but now I know that was her mission.” As requested by Kelli, the Richmonds divvied up her life insurance to specific causes. A quarter of it went to the American Lung Association (Kelli had asthma) and was used to sponsor a walk in New Orleans where walkers at the front of the line carried a banner with her name. Another quarter went to her church, First United Methodist, which took the money and had an altar table specially made by member Bill Grimes in Kelli’s memory for its parish hall. “They invited us to services there and served communion from the table,” said Ron Richmond, emotion catching in his throat. A fourth also went to Sister Dulce’s Cypress Springs Mercedarian Prayer Center, where Kelli visited the nun said to be able to cure others. “We went out there one day and met with Sister Dulce,” said Patsy

One year ago, 30-yearold Kelli Richmond lost her battle with stage 3 ovarian cancer. It was a fight she bravely shared with The Advocate’s readers for more than a year as part of her mission to create an awareness about the disease, which typically strikes women 55 or older.
Kelli was only 28 when she was diagnosed and underwent a hysterectomy, resection of her colon and removal of sev-

Advocate staff writer

Richmond. “They wanted to do something special with the money. A few weeks later they sent us a letter that they were using it to create a nature trail for patients in honor of Kelli.” The final quarter went to Woman’s Hospital and was matched by Kelli’s parents. Shortly after the check was sent, Woman’s Development Director Lynn Weill called with an idea. “We originally were going to dedicate a room to Kelli on the fifth floor, the oncology ward,” said Patsy Richmond, “but then they decided to do a window. It’s the first thing you see when you get off the elevator and there’s these big letters that say ‘Kelli’s Window’ and a plaque that says, “She lived to help others äSee LEGACY, page 2D

2D n Wednesday, May 1, 2013 n theadvocate.com n The Advocate

LEGACY

Continued from page 1D

and touched many people in her lifetime. She looked at the world through her own window and she could do anything! Now she is helping God in heaven.” The Richmonds also got the name of a needy child with cancer from Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge and gave him a donation, as well as to an ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) patient. Kelli was working as the development director of the ALS Association Louisiana-Mississippi Chapter when she was first diagnosed. Just last week, Ron Richmond filed papers with the secretary of state forming the Kelli Leigh Richmond Ovarian Cancer Foundation. Its first projects will be to hold an ovarian cancer walk in the fall “to raise awareness and to raise money for ovarian cancer patients” and to get Kelli’s Kloset up and running. Kelli’s Kloset was a project Kelli herself wanted to tackle. It will be a clothing exchange for women whose weight fluctuates as they undergo treatment for cancer. “We’ve already had people volunteer to man the store and donate clothes, so what we need right now is a space,” said Richmond, who will soon set up a website and Facebook page for the foundation. As expected, the first round of holidays and special occasions were very difficult for the Richmond family. For Ron, it was Father’s Day. Always an early riser, he had to force himself out of bed that morning. “When I walked out the back door, I said a little prayer ask-

A plaque is mounted beside ‘Kelli’s Window’ on the oncology ward floor at Woman’s Hospital.
ing God to give me a sign,” Ron said. “About two seconds later I heard a cow moo, but I just blew it off.” Still feeling the hole in his heart, Ron decided instead of waiting for a sign — something for him, he’d do something for Kelli. So, he got busy washing and cleaning out her notoriously dirty car. “I was almost through when I heard this bird singing this beautiful song,” Ron recalled. “I looked up and on top of the garage was this beautiful cardinal just singing away. I said, ‘Thank you, God!’ ” For Patsy, who still texts her daughter good night every evening, the most difficult day was Kelli’s birthday in January. “That was a big hump,” she confessed, adding that she too has had signs from her daughter. What made it bearable, indeed what has helped Patsy, Ron and Kelli’s sister, Kristin Stewart, all deal with their grief, was the birth of Sage Kelli Deviller just two days after what would have been Kelli’s 31st birthday. “She’s saved us,” said Patsy, adding that the original due date was

Advocate staff photos by PAM BORDELON

‘Kelli’s Window,’ located on the fifth floor of the new Woman’s Hospital, is dedicated to the late Kelli Richmond, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer one year ago today, on May 1, 2012.
Kelli’s birthday. In fact, just a week before Kelli’s death she asked a mutual friend if Kristin was pregnant. When told no, Kelli objected. “She said, ‘Yes she is; I just know it. Kristin is pregnant,’ ” said Patsy, adding that Kristin had been told she would probably never be able to have children. “She found out she was pregnant with Sage in July. … This is God’s doing.” “I wouldn’t surprise me if she’d made a deal with God,” said Ron, laughing at the memory of Kelli’s headstrong temperament. “I’ll go but you have to give them someone else to love, so we got Sage.” As much comfort as Sage has brought into the Richmonds’ lives, so too have the continued comments, phone calls and Facebook postings from Kelli’s friends and oth-

Friends of the late Kelli Richmond sent this signed team banner they carried in an Austin, Texas, walk for ovarian cancer to Patsy and Ron Richmond.
ers, many complete strangers even to Kelli, whose lives she touched. One of the most touching is the wounded veteran who, contemplating suicide, stumbled across The Advocate’s series of stories online and decided to live after all. “She had such a sweet spirit,” said Patsy, wiping away tears. “I knew she was special but I never knew just how special. She did more in her 30 years than most of us do in a lifetime.”

A framed poster is one of several from the series of stories that ran in The Advocate detailing Kelli Richmond’s battle with ovarian cancer that line the walls of dad Ron Richmond’s office.

Kelli Richmond in her own words
Kelli Richmond, who lost her battle with stage 3 ovarian cancer on May 1, 2012, shared her fight with The Advocate’s readers for more than a year in a series of stories.
n “Cancer is a part of who I am, but it’s not who I am,” she said in the first of her five interviews, a story that ran in February 2010. n By the time the second installment of her story ran, she found herself inundated with calls, letters, prayers, emails and people coming up to her

to wish her luck. “I just got such outpouring of love from people I haven’t seen in like 20 years — friends from elementary school, from middle school, from high school, friends of friends. The number of my friends on Facebook jumped to more than 800,” she said in the third installment. “Strangers come up to me in bars and ask, ‘Are you the girl in that article? I’m rooting for you.’ “I found out I have a priest in the Vatican praying for me; people traveling to the Holy

Land praying for me. People send me messages on Facebook that they saw me out somewhere but didn’t want to bother me — I tell them, no please come and speak to me. I want to meet all these people rooting for me.” n In the last installment of the series, which ran in March 2011, Kelli had opted to take a break from treatment after getting a good report from her latest PET scan. A few months later, scans revealed what everyone had hoped was scar tissue was in fact cancer, and she resumed

chemotherapy. “Well this is a blog I wasn’t expecting to write anytime soon, but the good Lord seems to always have different plans than I do. I found out today that I never experienced remission, and the small amount of stubborn disease that was left slowly spread over the past two months,” she wrote in her blog, “What Comes After C?” “While I had the highest of hopes that I was done with the Big C for good, I have come to terms with the fact that I will likely live with cancer indefinitely.

“Before you start to cry or get all sappy on me, notice I said LIVE with cancer. If being cancer free isn’t in my stack of cards, I will happily take living with cancer over dying from cancer any day of the week. So let’s rejoice in the fact that God has blessed me with a manageable disease, and not curse the fact that the disease is present. I try to always look at the glass half full, and when it comes to my battle with this beast, it is full of blessings.” n In October 2011, things took another turn for the worse when exploratory surgery

revealed the cancer had metastasized to the lining of her abdomen and intestines. She then had to have her colon, large intestines and a portion of the small intestines removed. In February 2012, one month after celebrating her 30th birthday, a scan revealed more cancer. Her doctors gave her the news that the cancer was untreatable. Unwilling to admit defeat, Richmond sought holistic treatment at the Burzynski Clinic in Houston. It proved a futile effort.