- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (AP) - It was last August when Meghan Korbecki looked at her husband and her parents and asked, “I’m going to die, aren’t I?”

After recalling this memory at a table in her Crystal Lake home last week, her neck folded and her gaze fell down to her hands as she allowed herself a moment to cry. Her left arm laid slack on her left leg, which also is losing mobility. A neon pink tuft of hair at the top of her head pointed toward the wall.

“I had never felt like that before,” Meghan said, her voice thick.

When the now-40-year-old asked about her own mortality, it wasn’t after the first time she was faced with a brain tumor in her head. It wasn’t even after the second. That was the third time since 2002 Meghan sat in a room and heard news as terrifying as “brain tumor.”

In 2002, Meghan, who’s family name at the time was Eiden, was getting ready to give an orientation presentation to about 100 people at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She worked for a restaurant company, training employees.

“Then I just dropped to the ground and had a seizure,” she said.

Soon after, doctors in Chicago found a growth about the size of a lime in her frontal lobe - a grade 2 astrocytoma.

She needed a craniotomy to remove as much of the tumor as possible. Meghan laughed as she remembered being especially concerned about the portion of hair that would need to be shaved for surgery.

No chemotherapy or radiation was necessary. Other than getting regular MRIs, life simply went on.

During the next few years, in an effort to make a difference for kids experiencing something similar to what she went through, Meghan began running 5K races to benefit children with brain tumors.

The short races spurred a desire to tackle more daunting challenges, and by then, she had met her husband, 42-year-old Bill Korbecki, who already was a fairly seasoned Ironman triathlete.

First they trained for the 2007 Chicago Marathon, and then Meghan decided that wasn’t enough.

“She was like, ‘I want to do an Ironman triathlon,’ ” Bill said, explaining the race entails a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a marathon run to finish off. “It’s like nine months of training, and during this process, I just completely fell in love with her.”

Bill recalled her “great run,” the one that forced him to push himself harder to make sure he got to the finish line first. When Meghan approached the end, she saw Bill holding a sign that read, “Go Meghan.” The other side, to which he flipped when she reached the race’s end, asked “Will you marry me?” Bill remembered in tears.

“We had planned to get married in the next year, year and a half,” he said.

But a couple months later, Meghan went for a routine MRI, the first Bill had ever missed. It wasn’t good news.

“Just devastating,” she said. “I mean, you honestly can’t imagine somebody coming in after you’re the healthiest you’ve ever been in your entire life and him looking at you and saying, ‘You have a brain tumor again.’ “

Still, her mindset then was to overcome. She underwent a second craniotomy, this time along with radiation.

The couple married in January 2010. Sitting next to her, Bill looked at Meghan proudly as he described the moment she decided she wouldn’t wear a wig when she walked down the aisle.

“She looked at it and said, ‘I’m not bringing this,’ ” he said. “She said, ‘I just want to be real.’ “

Another five years of life happened. The couple did a second Ironman race - one wasn’t enough for Meghan, Bill said. Their 3-year-old twins, Zachary and Mackenzie, were born. And after getting laid off from her previous job, Meghan started a new career as a personal trainer, aiming to help others live healthy lifestyles.

“But then I started dropping things with my left hand and tripping with my left leg,” Meghan described. “There are times when you can just feel your body because you’re so in tune with how you feel. And I just wasn’t myself.”

When the doctor came in last August, the news was not only that she had a re-occurring tumor, but that it was a grade 4 glioblastoma, which is described by the American Brain Tumor Association as “usually highly malignant.”

Because of the location of the tumor, Bill said, surgery is not an option.

“Throughout all of this, I had never ever, ever said, ‘I’m going to die,’ ” Meghan said. “I remember when they came in, and I remember looking at Bill and my parents and going, ‘It’s a tumor, isn’t it? I’m going to die, aren’t I?’ “

Since then, the tumor has grown, and the Korbecki’s said doctors have not been able to offer one particular avenue of care. So the couple has been wading through options.

So far, they haven’t found a clinical trial for which Meghan is eligible. She currently is undergoing chemotherapy, and the couple is pursuing a medication that might help, but it cannot be covered by insurance. Bill said they have been told it will cost about $4,800 a month.

Recently, Meghan’s friends, Michelle Tagliamonte and Allison Lee, have stepped in to try to help. Tagliamonte, a former training client of Meghan’s, has started a GoFundMe page - www.gofundme.com/missionformeghan - and Lee has organized an upcoming fundraiser set for Nov. 11 at Nick’s Pizza and Pub, 856 Pyott Road, Crystal Lake.

“She deserves it,” Lee said. “When I found out she had a brain tumor numerous times - talk about tenacity and not giving up. And from that, she decided to help others get healthy, focus on them and help them reach their goals as a trainer.”

Any funds raised will go toward medical treatment and a home health worker to help Meghan get around.

Last week at the house, shortly after their two kids were jumping around and asking their parents to watch them dance, Bill said Meghan wants to get back to her life, to shift her focus back onto other people’s health rather than her own.

The couple sat, holding one another, the way it seems they’re holding onto the sliver of optimism they have left.

“We’re hopeful,” Meghan said.

Bill nodded, agreeing.

“We’re hopeful,” he said. “It’s getting hard.”

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Source: The (Crystal Lake) Northwest Herald, https://bit.ly/1RhkWvm

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Information from: The Northwest Herald, https://www.nwherald.com

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