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Shaye
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Shaye

Shaye

Shaye

Shaye Marie Sauers Kilby has a butterfly tattooed on her hip. 

"I had it done after my scoliosis surgery," she says, "And my mom was like, 'You want a tattoo after all you've been through? That's weird.'” 

"It's a good memory," smiles Shaye Marie. 

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Shaye

She's looking at a photo of herself as a toddler, cropped from a larger picture showing her being held by former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski. 

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Shaye

The butterfly on the flyer, which was the model for the one on her hip, is the logo of the Brain Tumor Foundation for Children, founded by Shaye's parents, Sheila and Rick Sauers, in 1983.

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Shaye

Their daughter had been diagnosed at Egleston with medullablastoma, a malignant brain tumor on the cerebellum, in 1980 when she was just five months old.

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Shaye

The prognosis was grim: Shaye was given just a 2% chance of living another six months. The Sauerses dug into medical books and sought out advice and support, but there wasn't a lot of it at that time--so the BTFC was born. It was a place where parents going through the same thing with their children could find support, information, and advice. The BTFC grew into a source that provided financial assistance for those families in the southeast. Bartkowski spent time as a spokesperson for the foundation.

In the meantime, Shaye was surviving. Photos show her blonde-eyed and smiling, whether posing in a studio or beaming from a hospital bed. She doesn't have much memory at all of her cancer fight, seemingly having purposely blocked it out, and is learning a lot of her own story now, as a 39-year-old adult. 

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Shaye

"I wanted to find out how it feels to be about to hit the big four-oh, knowing that as a baby, your parents were told, 'This little girl is not going to make it,'" asks WSB's Veronica Waters. 

"I would say pretty freaking awesome," Shaye Marie says. 

Shaye says her sense of humor helps define her, and says her father taught her to laugh, even as a baby. As a child, she idolized comedienne and actress Gilda Radner, who fought cancer herself, and rehearsed Radner's routines to amuse herself and emulate Gilda's positivity. 

She's a two-time cancer survivor. 

"The cancer came back again when I was [9] as bone cancer, from the radiation," she says. "The radiation that I was given at the time they don't even give a child today. It was cobalt radiation, which was the highest dose they could ever give a child."

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Shaye

She says she's actually just now learning her history--having blocked most of it out as a child, not wanting to hear her mom talk about it as a teen, not wanting to feel different than the other kids her age, wanting to fit in with everybody else. In the past year, she's started combing through two big binders that document her medical history. 

She remembers only snippets which she says are like scenes from a silent movie: “terrifying” spinal taps; a stay in the ICU; nicknaming the staffers who sometimes drew her blood as "vampires;" the MRIs that she said "sounded like a bad rock & roll concert," in which her mom Sheila would sometimes get fussed at for grabbing Shaye's hand and tracing the phrase, "Love you more" with her fingertip in her daughter's hand, wiggling her in the machine. 

That's Shaye Marie's second tattoo, inked inside a bracelet on her left wrist. She loves that one, and says it shows "pure determination. It shows somebody that can beat the odds of anything. I consider this not part of a bracelet, but like a lifeline." She doesn't cover that one up any longer, the way she did at her 2015 wedding. 

Shaye Marie says she's learning who she is now, and is no longer blocking it out; she's proud of what she came through. 

She tells WSB that the idea for the BTFC was broached in the very same room at Emory where she would meet her future husband, Darren Kilby, decades later in a brain injury group meeting. 

"Did you know when you met Darren that he was the one, right then?" Veronica asks. 

"Pretty much when I asked him out, yes!" Shaye Marie laughs.

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Shaye

She estimates they dated perhaps six months before getting engaged, both all too aware of the importance of seizing the moment. Darren had suffered a brain injury from a head-on collision, but Shaye says they were seeing a lot of people pass on. 

"We just knew that time goes by so fast, and we were losing every survivor that was around my time zone, especially...with the Brain Tumor Foundation there were a lot of my friends that were dying. He and I were both like, we need to do something," says Shaye. 

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Shaye

The night they were carting cupcakes in to celebrate the news of their engagement with their support group, Shaye Marie's sense of humor was on full display. She giggles as she recalls saying, "I don't remember if I told our brain injury group we're engaged or not. Well, it doesn't really matter because we're all brain-injured and none of us are going to remember if we say it again!" 

Shaye had several surgeries and hospitalizations, including two bouts of spinal meningitis. One snippet of memory involves her parents saying that one of her shunts had infiltrated her heart. She says a doctor doing an exploratory surgery used a hanger to get it out. 

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Shaye

"My mom and dad both remember the doctor coming out with the coat hanger with my shunt on it," she demonstrates, holding up her arm. "It was like a fishing rod. He was so excited." 

She had a scoliosis surgery at 15, in which she had two rods implanted in her back. 

"I'm a lot of fun to take through the metal detector," she jokes. 

She also deals with the autoimmune disease lupus and has endured some balance and coordination problems as a result of what she calls her harsh, but lifesaving medical treatment as a child. Her adult life includes regular doctor's visits and check-ins for one thing or another. But she doesn't let any of it faze her. In fact, she makes clear that hope is in her blood. 

"I actually have the blood type of B positive," she smiles. 

Shaye Marie now volunteers multiple days a week at the hospital which helped save her life, saying it was God's calling that brought her to donate her time at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. 

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Shaye

"Hope gives you the strength to move on. Hope gives you the ability to go through everyday life. You always hope things will get better. You always hope that if you you're ill, you'll get better. It's a very powerful word, and without it, you'd be lost," says Shaye Marie. 

"Children's Healthcare of Atlanta is a wonderful place to be. They saved my life almost 40 years ago. Parents, I know are scared; I've seen parents that are unbelievably scared when they come through the emergency room when they walk as fast as they can I know that they are wondering what's wrong with their child. I think kids are in the best place they can be. This place is absolutely wonderful. I've had the best number of doctors and people that have helped me along the way. I just think it's a wonderful place to give people hope that there is hope.”

>>More from WSB Radio 2019 Care-a-Thon

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News

  • The remains of six victims of a deadly volcano eruption in New Zealand have been recovered. Sixteen people were killed on White Island when a volcano there unexpectedly erupted Monday, The Associated Press reported. Eight military specialists recovered six of the eight victims believed to be on the island, and the bodies will be taken to Auckland for identification, CNN reported. Due to toxic gases still being released from the volcano, the team had to wear protective suits and breathing gear to be on the island, the AP reported. The search had to end as air supplies ran low, the New York Times reported. An additional recovery mission is planned to find a tour guide and boat captain who had taken tourists to the island. At least one of them is expected to be in the water, but the other person’s location is unknown, the AP reported. Forty-seven tourists, many from a Royal Caribbean cruise, and guides were on the island when the volcano exploded. Many of the people who survived were burned. Fifteen tourists not from Australia are in burn units across the country with 11 listed as very critical. Thirteen Australians who were part of the tour have all returned to their home country, the AP reported. Skin banks are sending tissues to hospitals to help treat the burns, as medical teams from Australia, Britain and the U.S. travel to New Zealand to help treat patients, the AP reported.
  • A Minnesota man was sentenced Wednesday to more than 24 years in prison in the death of his 13-day-old son. Michael Herkal, 33, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, nearly 16 months to the day after Apple Valley police responded to an Aug. 12, 2018, medical call for an infant not breathing, WCCO reported. The child died two days later, after doctors determined he had suffered a skull fracture and bleeding in his brain. Herkal was charged initially with felony assault and malicious punishment of a child, but three additional charges of murder were filed after authorities received the autopsy report, KARE11 reported. According to WCCO, Herkal initially told authorities his toddler pulled the newborn off the couch twice but later claimed the baby slipped from his hands and fell onto a coffee table during a diaper change. During his plea hearing, however, Herkal admitted he also shook the infant violently and slapped him, the TV station reported.
  • Major League Baseball announced substantial changes Thursday to its drug use and testing policy, multiple news outlets reported. In addition to removing marijuana from its “drugs of abuse” category – making it the first major US sports league to do so – the organization announced mandatory testing for the presence of opioids, cocaine, synthetic THC, LSD and fentanyl, ABC News reported. Per the policy revisions, players will still be tested for “natural cannabinoids” such as THC, CBD, and marijuana, but punishment for violations will now be treated similarly to those of the alcohol and violence policies, ABC News reported. 'Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct under the Parties’ Joint Treatment Program for Alcohol-Related and Off-Field Violent Conduct, which provides mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment and the possibility of discipline by a Player’s Club or the Commissioner’s Office in response to certain conduct involving Natural Cannabinoids,” the league, in association with its players union, stated. According to NPR, the policy changes will take effect during 2020 spring training.  “The opioid epidemic in our country is an issue of significant concern to Major League Baseball,” MLB Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem said in a prepared statement, adding, “It is our hope that this agreement - which is based on principles of prevention, treatment, awareness and education - will help protect the health and safety of our Players.” Read more here and here.
  • Seeking emergency mental health assistance could soon be as simple as dialing 988, federal regulators announced Thursday. The Federal Communications Commission formally began the process Thursday to designate 988 as a nationwide suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. “The three-digit number is really going to be a breakthrough in terms of reaching people in a crisis,” Dwight Holton, CEO of suicide prevention nonprofit Lines for Life, told USA Today. “No one is embarrassed to call 911 for a fire or an emergency. No one should be embarrassed to call 988 for a mental health emergency.' According to The Wall Street Journal, the new hotline is intended to simplify access to services available currently by dialing 1-800-273-TALK, the existing National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Once operational, dialing 988 would connect callers to the existing hotline and then route them to nearby crisis centers equipped to provide assistance. “We believe this historical and critical effort will turn the tide on reducing suicides and promote mental wellness in the United States,” said a statement from Kimberly Williams, chief executive of Vibrant Emotional Health, the nonprofit that administers the lifeline, The Journal reported. Read more here and here.
  • An emergency landing by a single-engine plane snarled traffic Thursday night on Interstate 5 in San Diego, multiple news outlets reported. Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, told KNSD the Cessna 182 made a hard landing on the southbound lanes around 7:15 p.m. Within 30 minutes authorities had re-opened two southbound lanes, KFMB reported. Carlsbad Fire Division Chief Mike Lopez told KNSD a man and a woman were on board traveling from the San Gabriel Airport in Los Angeles to McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad. According to KFMB, no injuries were reported, and the plane did not strike any motorists. “They did a pretty good job landing this thing,” Lopez told KNSD, adding, “The skill of that pilot, he did a stellar job.”
  • A Fort Gibson man recently showed off his blacksmith skills by taking first place in a competition television show. Nic Overton, 23, earned the top spot on the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire,” which is centered around blacksmith work. Along with bragging rights, Overton won a $10,000 prize. Overton told KOKI he’s been fascinated with blacksmithing since he was a child and crafted his first knife out of a railroad spike. He managed to turn his hobby into a career. He owns his own business called Nix Knives.