A sister’s 7-year battle

Published 9:19 pm Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kim Eby Jarvis grew-up as the younger sister to Mona Eby Driver.

“She was always the outgoing sister,” Jarvis said. “She never met a stranger. I was the quieter one — always on her coattails growing up.”

The two banded together, though, and became best friends.

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For as long as she could, Driver remained the big sister. It was when she was diagnosed with cancer that little sister Kim stepped up to the plate.

After the diagnosis, Driver, a single parent, went to live with Jarvis.

“She was diagnosed with cancer when she was just 33 years old,” Jarvis said. “Back then it was a death sentence. The minute she felt the lump, she went to the doctor, and within three months they diagnosed her with stage IV cancer.”

For seven long years, Jarvis watched her sister battle the killer.

“Suffolk News Herald covered her story,” she said. “We had to raise $100,000 for her to go to Duke and get a bone marrow transplant, because back then it was considered a risky procedure.”

But the work paid off.

“I’m convinced the treatment handed her 3 years,” Jarvis said.

But the cancer returned and spread to her liver.

“She went back to Duke to have liver surgery,” she said. “It added a few years to her life, but after that the cancer spread everywhere. Her last six months weren’t good.”

Driver passed away in 1997, leaving her 9-year-old son in the care of Jarvis.

“She was so strong,” Jarvis said. “She never, ever stopped fighting.”

During Driver’s seven-year battle, Jarvis supported her by helping raise money for the Relay for Life to fund cancer research.

“She was always so optimistic about her battle — even up to the end,” she said. “She was a chairman on the Relay board while she was battling cancer. It was because of her I got involved.”

Eventually, her involvement in the Relay for Life, in memory of her sister, raised thousands of dollars for cancer research. Jarvis had a hand in starting Oakland Christian Church’s Easter Pie Sale, which has raised more than $130,000 for cancer research, and Suffolk’s annual Womanless Beauty Pageant.

“It was a way for me to honor my sister, and … it’s the least I could do to help,” she said. “No matter how much I ever raised, though, it would never be enough.”

But looking back on what cancer was in 1989, when her sister was diagnosed, and how it is treated now, she gets a little gratification knowing that her efforts were not in vain.

“Even since she passed in 1997, they’ve made great strides,” she said. “With the right attitude and early detection, it’s possible to beat it now.”

Through her sister’s efforts and the dreams of her son, John, who was just 9 years old when his mother died and is graduating from college this year, the memory and tale of strength of Mona Eby Driver will live on — and maybe help find a cure.

To order Easter Pies, $7 each, from Oakland Christian Church and to support the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life, contact church office at 255-4353 or by fax at 255-2196. Available flavors are chocolate chess, lemon chess, coconut and pecan.