Cancer victim's legacy is research center

July 28, 1997


Staff Writer

In a room dedicated to her late husband, Brenda Kidwell said she feels joy rather than loss as she introduces cancer patients and their families to the Kidwell Patient Education Room.

"When I'm in here with patients, I feel as though Gary's journey had a purpose," she said.

The well-stocked library is in the John Marsh Cancer Center, just inside the green entrance of the Robinwood Medical Campus.

There are free pamphlets, National Cancer Institute readings, books on coping with cancer treatment and even Internet access with a world of information on cancer.

Patients also have the opportunity to connect with others via the Internet who have the same type of cancer, Kidwell said.


In its first months of operation, the library has been self-sustaining, raising money from a number of fund-raisers and staffed with volunteers like Kidwell.

The hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"I usually volunteer about 20 hours a week," she said.

The specter of cancer loomed over the marriage of Brenda and Gary Kidwell from the beginning, but they didn't despair. Instead they rejoiced in their life together, albeit cut short by Gary's death in April 1996.

"We had known each other all our lives and were best friends. We married shortly after he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow," Kidwell said.

Chemotherapy was no help and the Kidwells were facing a bleak, and short, future together.

Ironically, a friend of the couple was on a cruise and happened to pour out his feelings and frustrations over Gary Kidwell's illness to a person he met on the boat.

"It turned out that person was a doctor in Tampa, Fla., who was doing a myeloma study," Kidwell said.

Gary Kidwell got into the study as a test subject, had a bone marrow transplant and was able to live in remission for the next four years, she said.

"Gary said he felt it was divine intervention that a resource was out there for us," Kidwell said.

The idea of the resource library was born out of that revelation, she said.

"There's got to be a way to tell people there is so much out there," she said.

Together, they researched and planned while he continued in remission.

"After he died, I felt compelled to follow through," she said.

Brenda Kidwell approached Robert Milanchus, director of corporate development, and a benefit was put together to get the library off the ground.

"That benefit raised $30,000," she said.

A golf tournament in the spring of 1997 by Hagerstown Life Underwriters raised an additional $3,000.

Despite the loss, Kidwell said the library gives her such a feeling of peace about her late husband that she wants to pass that feeling on.

For more information on the Kidwell Patient Education Room, call 301-665-4691.

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