Benefit to aid in woman’s cancer fight


JASPER — One of Rose Barkley’s dogs earned the nickname “Lifesaver” last September.

The 53-year-old Jasper woman was sitting outside with her two dogs — Peanut and Pixie — when Pixie jumped on Barkley’s lap and put her paw on the woman’s breast. Barkley removed the paw, but Pixie put it right back. The action hurt, so Barkley examined the pup’s paw for a thorn, but found nothing. Barkley then went inside to get a better look at Pixie’s paw. When the inspection again turned up nothing, Barkley checked herself. Sure enough, there was a lump.

A few weeks later, doctors diagnosed Barkley with Stage 2 breast cancer.

“[It was] pretty scary, because you don’t know what to expect or what’s going to happen or how long it’s going to take to heal or anything like that,” Barkley said.

Six months later, Barkley is still on short-term disability from her job at MasterBrand, and the medical bills are starting to come in.

To help Barkley out, some of her friends planned a benefit event for her from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Jasper Outdoor Recreation, 559 W. 500 N, Jasper. The event will include a chili supper, bake sale and raffle.

Right now, Barkley is hoping she’ll be able to attend. Earlier this week, her white blood cell counts were low, so she had to stay home.

“The white blood cells really knock you down when they get really low,” Barkley said.

By now, Barkley is familiar with the side effects of cancer treatment. After she was diagnosed, doctors at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center removed the tumor and a portion of her breast and put her on chemotherapy treatments. After that surgery, Barkley transferred her treatment to the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Chicago. Every three weeks, she flies to Chicago for treatment. Her travel and accommodations are covered by the center.

As soon as her white blood cell counts return to a good level, she’ll go to Chicago for her final chemo treatment. She’s hoping that after that treatment, her doctors will tell her she’s in remission.

“That would just be like top-notch,” she said. “I will be like, ‘Yeah, finally.’ That’ll probably be my happiest moment, besides having my son.”

Her son, Michael Kimmel, 31, lives in Paoli.

After she finishes chemo, Barkley will have a bilateral mastectomy to remove all her remaining breast tissue. The decision to have that surgery, Barkley said, was easy.

“To me, you need to do that in order to protect yourself to keep it from coming back,” Barkley said. “It doesn’t mean that it can’t ever come back, but at least you tried.”

Barkley expects to return to her job at MasterBrand once she recovers from her surgery. She’s looking forward to getting back to work. She likes to be active, she said, so not being able to work and take care of her dogs and home during chemo treatments has been the hardest part of dealing with the cancer. The second hardest part was telling her mom, Mary Barkley, the news. Mary has dementia and lives in Valparaiso with one of Rose’s sisters. When Rose broke the news to her mom, she wasn’t sure how much she’d understand.

“But she’s doing good with it,” Rose said. “She’s asking me how my chemo treatments are going. She calls and checks on me.”

Ahead of the benefit, Barkley wants to thank everyone who helped put it together and who has helped her along the way.

“From the bottom of my heart,” Rose said. “Without this help, I don’t know what would happen.”

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