Softball: Kankakee Valley family battling with more tragedy
BY JOHN O’MALLEY Post-Tribune correspondent April 18, 2013 7:03PM
P-T Top 10
1. Chesterton; 2. Kankakee Valley; 3. Portage; 4. Lake Central; 5. Wheeler; 6. Munster; 7. Lowell; 8. Crown Point; 9. Bishop Noll; 10. Griffith
of the week
The freshman went 3 for 3 with a triple and three runs batted in during the Warriors’ GSSC victory over Lake Station last Friday.
For Timeout Softball local season stat leaders, see page 32.
Updated: April 18, 2013 9:56PM
The second Morgan Cavinder walked in the front door from her travel team softball practice, she realized something was very wrong.
Her parents, Diane and Dave Cavinder, were standing and looking at her in a different, strange and peculiar way.
“What’s wrong now, what’s happening?’’ asked Morgan, who plays catcher for Kankakee Valley High School’s softball team.
“They told me my mom was going to have to go to the hospital the next day for more tests to find out exactly what was wrong with her.’’
Diane, the attendance secretary at KV, had been sick for several weeks. At first, she thought she had a bad case of the flu. She’d feel terrible, then start feeling better, only to feel miserable again.
“I told my mom I don’t think you have the flu,’’ Morgan said. “I knew it wasn’t the flu.’’
After undergoing a battery of medical tests, Diane received a call from a nurse at The University of Chicago Medical Center on the night of Feb. 13, with the devastating news.
Diane had two forms of pancreatic cancer. One of the tumors was located at the tail of her pancreas, while the other (more aggressive cancer) was at the head of the gland.
This just couldn’t be, could it?
Considering everything the Cavinders endured in the span of less than three years, this seemed like an absolutely cruel twist of fate.
The Cavinders had their world turned upside down when their oldest daughter, Taylor, was killed in a drunk driving accident on a foggy country road in mid-May of 2010.
Eric Sims, another passenger and a friend of Taylor’s, was also killed in the horrific crash.
“I think about Taylor constantly,’’ Diane said. “It will be three years in May, but it seems like it just happened yesterday.’’
Now, the Cavinders were forced to deal with this earth-shattering news?
“It was like: ‘Why? How could this be,’ Dave said. “I know with the good Lord, you have to play with the hand your dealt, but I haven’t really liked the hands I’ve been dealt lately. I want a new deck of cards. I don’t even want to cut them or shuffle them. I’d like a new deck, please. I’d like to take the wrapper off and start over.
“It’s tough. You just have to roll with the punches and keep going forward. I can’t go back. I have to keep good thoughts and spirits going. There can’t be anything worse than losing Taylor, right? I definitely don’t want to lose that little lady, either. I can’t lose her. We made it through (losing Taylor) somehow, we’ll make it through this, too. That’s the plan I’m going with and sticking to.’’
Diane will have surgery Friday morning at the University of Chicago Medical Center. The operation could take anywhere from an hour (if the cancer has spread) to up to possibly eight hours, if Dr. Kevin Roggin is able to remove her gallbladder, spleen and pancreas.
Roggin has performed about 40 surgeries a year removing the tail end of the pancreas. He’s done approximately 50 removing the head of the gland. He’s only performed five operations like the one Diane will have.
Her pancreas must be removed in order for her to live. If the surgery is successful, Diane will be a diabetic and have to have an insulin pump for the rest of her life. She’ll have to take a pill when she eats, to help break her food down.
“When we first heard the news we cried and cried,’’ Diane said. “I look at Morgan a lot and think: ‘Oh my gosh, she lost a sister, she can’t loose a mother, too.’ ”
Diane has so much to live for, especially a loving husband, daughter, and two stepsons (David, 33, Justin, 31).
“I talk to Taylor about it all the time,’’ Diane said. “I say: ‘If you have any brownie points built up with God, please use them for mom. You really don’t want me up there chewing on your butt and nagging you already. Your dad and Morgan need me here.’ ’’
Morgan gave her mom a very touching gift Tuesday night — a heart-shaped, off-white, ivory plaque that was engraved with the phrase: “Miracles Happen Every Day. Keep Fighting. Keep Strong.”
“I have my boxing gloves on,’’ Diane said. “I’m not taking them off until the fight’s over. I’m going to be the winner. I have to be. There’s no other option.’’
While the family’s medical bills are already staggering, the Cavinders have received immense support from their generous Wheatfield community.
Diane said every day she receives cards, flowers, gifts — both monetary and others — as well as phone calls offering prayers and well wishes.
“Everyone has been so great,’’ Diane said. “Someone makes me cry every day. To see everyone come together like this for Dave, Morgan and myself has been really amazing.’’
The high school has raised thousands of dollars to help the family cope with the astronomical medical costs.
On May 10, a walk will be held on the track at the high school to raise more money.
“They have big hearts down here — both south and north of the (Kankakee) river,’’ Dave said. “It’s really amazing all the things people have done for us already.’’
Said Morgan: “It’s so nice to see people give you so much support — they pray for you and care so much. My mom is very involved in this community and well-known. Everyone has been so giving. We can’t thank them enough.’’
While Diane’s health is the family’s top priority, Morgan’s mom is extremely disappointed she won’t be able to watch her daughter’s games.
When you consider Morgan missed all of her sophomore year after tearing her left ACL, it’s easy to understand why Mom yearns to watch her play.
Morgan had to have reconstructive surgery and go through arduous rehabilitations twice on her left knee just to return to the game she loves.
“After everything I went through, I’m finally back,’’ Morgan said. “Everyone told me ‘you’re never going to catch again.’ I knew I would. I worked so hard to get back. It’s what I do. I love softball — it’s a connection between me and my sister. It makes the sport very special to me.’’
Being stubborn and tough, Diane asked her doctor if she could postpone the surgery until after the season and to be around for Morgan’s prom.
While her requests were respectfully denied, Morgan put everything in perspective while talking to mom about her health.
“Mom, do you want to watch me walk down the aisle some day, or do you want to watch me go to the prom?’’
While all the logistics aren’t worked out yet, Dave will bring recorded games to the hospital for Diane to watch.
“She’s very spirited, and I’m lucky to have her as my mom,’’ Morgan said.
“She’s always been there for me. It’s sad she won’t be able to come to my games, but we’re still going to record my games and bring them to the hospital for her to see.’’