By Chris Buckley
Published: Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 2:06 a.m.Updated 3 hours ago
Watching newborn children in the pods at a neonatal intensive care unit, Kate Crawford was touched by their innocence amidst a struggle to survive.
“We felt they looked like little peas in a pod,” Crawford said.
One of those sweet peas was her daughter, Shannon, who was born Jan. 16, 2007, with heart and diaphragm defects that took her life three days later.
Moved by grief and a desire to help other mothers facing similar situations, the Rostraver Township mother co-founded Project Sweet Peas.
The national organization helps parents with children in neonatal intensive care units.
The organization provides wellness items for the parents as well as baby blankets, hats, booties and specialized care packages like little Halloween costumes, bracelets for Mother's Day and stockings for Christmas.
The organization works with hospitals that operate neonatal intensive care units.
In 2009, Crawford gave birth to twins, Gracie and Lillie – who arrived six weeks early.
Her son, Stephen Jr., was born eight weeks premature. Now 3, he has faced a host of developmental issues. He receives speech therapy five times a week and physical therapy twice a week.
Stephen has the expressiveness of an 18-month-old child, which is a great improvement.
But Crawford has voluntarily “stepped back” from the organization and taken a “medical leave while I'm going through everything.”
The board of directors of the nationwide organization will take over her duties, for now.
Crawford was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer on Jan. 25, her husband Stephen's birthday. Two weeks later – just two days shy of her 29th birthday – she learned the cancer had advanced to stage IV.
Crawford found a mass in her breast in August, but her son soon was admitted to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and ended up undergoing six weeks of physical therapy.
“There was no way for me to get to a doctor, and that's why it advanced,” Crawford said of her cancer.
Crawford's cancer is aggressive and has spread – to both breasts, right shoulder, right ribs, thoracic spine, pelvis and liver.
Doctors have given her a less than a 30 percent chance of living five years.
In the wake of that, Crawford has created a “bucket list” – group of things to experience – although she admits it's as much for her children as for herself.
“There's so much more I wanted to do with them, and I wanted to keep track,” Crawford said. “Say that list never gets completed; they will know the things I wanted to do with them and have a scrapbook of those memories.”
The bucket list contained 63 items – everything from camping trips and visits to Washington, D.C., and Salem, Mass., in October to simpler things like a swing set in the back yard, a pet dog, or watching the sun rise with her husband.
“We're such a young family,” Crawford said. “We have so much left that we have to do in a short span.”
LIVING ON FAITH
“Faith – that's all I have,” Crawford said. “God is working miracles through me. Even if he does not heal me, His grace is working through me.
“People say, ‘How are you smiling now?' They don't realize it's because people are blessing us every day.”
Holmes said there has been an outpouring of support for Crawford.
“People are coming forward, because they remember Kate from when she helped them, and they now want to help her,” Holmes said. “I hope that when I make an impact, I hope I make as much of an impact as she has.”
Holmes is seeking donations and volunteers to help make Crawford's dreams a reality.
A “Crawford's Rocking Cancer” benefit dinner and dance will take place 6 p.m. to midnight Saturday at the Rostraver Central Fire Department social hall.
Crawford has tried to put it all into perspective.
“The best-case scenario is that it all gets done,” Crawford said. “My main goal for it was for the kids.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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