Mower made all the difference

Woman battling breast cancer finds support in friendship, local garden center

  • Kelley Loveland tries out her new lawnmower outside her Jaffrey apartment.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Kelley Loveland tries out her new lawnmower outside her Jaffrey apartment.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Kelley Loveland tries out her new lawnmower outside her Jaffrey apartment.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Kelley Loveland tries out her new lawnmower outside her Jaffrey apartment.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

Kelley Loveland of Jaffrey, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, never imagined that the gift of a used lawnmower could lift her spirits in a time of hardship and uncertainty. That was before a close childhood friend, who today lives nearly 3,000 miles away in Sacramento, Calif., and Coll’s Garden Center and Florist cooked up the surprise.

“We can’t make her cancer go away, but we can bless her with the little things,” said Christie Castro of Sacramento by phone Wednesday about her decision to search for a lawnmower for Loveland, after Loveland told friends on Facebook she was in search of one..

Loveland, a mother of four, recently separated from her husband of many years and, in the midst of her divorce, is preparing herself for a seventh cancer-related surgery — a partial mastectomy and breast reconstruction at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon on Thursday.

“I really hope that it’s the last time,” Loveland said of her upcoming surgery. “My kids have been really supportive and I know they’re worried.”

Unable to work because of her health, Loveland said just affording the basic essentials is difficult. Moving into a small Jaffrey apartment with her two youngest daughters, Madison, 15, and Shayla, 11, on May 1 was a big step forward, she said.

When Loveland was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, she thought chemotherapy and radiation treatments would afford her a clean bill of health in the years ahead. But in May 2012, Loveland said she was diagnosed with a different form of breast cancer in the same breast, which has since meant more aggressive treatments.

Just this April, Loveland chose to have a preventive hysterectomy to stop the cancer from spreading to her ovaries — a possibility for women who have inherited mutations in either one of two breast cancer susceptibility genes. She said her grandmother is one of 10 girls, and all but two of them had breast cancer. The disease and gene mutation skipped her mother’s generation and Loveland said she hopes it will bypass her daughters, too.

“I’m trying to do everything I can,” said Loveland, who tuned 40 years old in May, of her battle with cancer. “It’s been a rough road. I’m lucky to have great friends and my family to help me out.”

When Loveland posted on Facebook this spring that she was in search of a lawnmower, she said she never imagined that help would come from a childhood friend whom she recently reconnected with after 25 years. Loveland and Castro grew up together in Kodiak, Alaska, but when they were sophomores in high school Castro moved to California.

“Kelley always wrote me and took good care of our friendship,” Castro said, adding that she wished she had written back more regularly. “As we got older, I started to realize how much she really meant to me. We reconnected through Facebook, and now we talk all the time.”

When Loveland was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, Castro said she was in shock. Since then, Castro said she’s tried to help Loveland however she could from afar.

“When she posted that she needed a lawnmower, I started to think, ‘What happened?’” Castro said, referring to her disbelief about Loveland’s divorce. “She’s so brave. I said, ‘I’m going to get her that lawnmower.’”

Castro called lawn care businesses in and around Jaffrey with the purpose of purchasing a mower for Loveland. Many were out of mowers at the time and referred her to Coll’s Garden Center on North Street, she said. That’s when she first spoke with Tom Trempe, the manager of Coll’s sales and services division.

“And as if he was fully prepared for my call, he quickly answered, ‘You know, I have been working on a mower for a couple of days that came in broken. I would be more than happy to fix it up for free and deliver it in a couple of days to Kelley. Can you give me her address and phone number, so she knows I’m coming?’” Castro recalled.

She said she was speechless and in disbelief that someone would do that for a person he had never met.

“When [Tom] arrived at Kelley’s house with the mower, she called me in tears,” Castro said. “No one had ever been so generous, having never seen her or talked to her before that day.”

By phone last week, Trempe said he understands that Loveland is going through a difficult time and needs the community’s support. Besides, he said, all the broken mower required was a simple tune-up and it was as good as new.

“It wasn’t anything that I did for recognition,” Trempe said. “It was just the right thing to do.”

Loveland said the mower, which arrived about three weeks ago, was such a wonderful and unexpected blessing, adding, “It made my month.”

Now, whenever Loveland mows her lawn she said she will think of Castro and Trempe. “It’s like a part of her is here with me,” Loveland said of Castro. “I feel like I won a million bucks.”

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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