Woman dies after highly publicized fight against cancer

September 25, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

Doug Nigh said he won't concede for a minute that his big sister Kelly Sue Whittington lost her 12-year battle with cancer when she died Monday.

"She didn't lose the fight, she won," he said Tuesday night. "She's just not with us now."

Whittington, 41, died at her home as a result of the cancer first diagnosed in her breast in 1990. The cancer was arrested temporarily by chemotherapy and a bone marrow operation but then spread to her brain.

She is survived by her husband, Michael, their two children Katie, 17, and Michael, 12, her mother, Nancy Nigh, grandmother, Elizabeth Nigh, and brothers Doug, Kurt and Brad Nigh.


"Kelly was small but mighty," Doug Nigh said.

Her highly-publicized battle with the disease and her insurance company brought her to the attention of the Washington County community, which took up her cause.

"She was still so vivacious in her living of life ... it gave her a special understanding of each precious moment," Doug Nigh said.

The family was together over the weekend as Whittington's life ebbed away.

"Kelly spoke her last words last week," Doug Nigh said. "On Sunday, there was just a hand motion."

In 1990, when Whittington's fight with cancer looked grim, her insurance company refused to pay for a $125,000 bone marrow operation, calling it experimental.

"When everything went bad, Kelly's faith in God sustained her,"said her brother Kurt Nigh.

The community took up the cause, holding bake sales, dances and other fund-raisers. Enough money was raised for the bone marrow transplant, which was performed later that year.

Four years later, Whittington was still cancer-free and living her life to the fullest. But the cancer returned.

In 1995, her father, Keller Nigh, died.

"Kelly was a very loving and giving person, so much like her dad," said Nancy Nigh.

After her father's death, Whittington became protective of her mother.

"She doted on me, not wanting me to be alone," Nancy Nigh said.

Husband Michael Whittington took care of his wife's every need during her struggles with disease and treatments over the years, according to Whittington's mother.

"Kelly and Mike set such a role model as a husband and wife," Doug Nigh said.

Michael Whittington said the past 13 years weren't easy but he and Kelly met so many good people along the way.

"She touched so many lives through her faith and her belief in God," Michael Whittington said. "She was a great wife and mother and she was my best friend."

Brother Brad Nigh said his sister was determined not to give up, even at the end of her life.

"She had such a desire to live," Brad Nigh said.

The family said their faith will see them through. And they will remember the lessons they learned from the daughter, the wife, the sister and mother now gone.

"Kelly taught me that there is nothing in life you can't take on," Doug Nigh said.

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