The world lost a bright star on Tuesday morning with the passing of someone I was privileged to call my friend.
There are some people you are lucky enough to have the “gift” to have known, and for me and so many others, that was Kendra Majors.
Kendra was featured in a Beacon Journal front-page column in October discussing her battles with three types of cancer and how she felt about the annual blitz of pink during Breast Cancer Awareness month. It was more important to her as a survivor to donate locally to help families and educate people, especially women and their daughters, about breast cancer screening. She liked when people wear pink to raise awareness about cancer or honor a loved one, but didn’t want all of the pink gifts people would give her.
Instead, she was a teacher.
Her own words from that column are the most powerful:
“I shouldn’t be here,” she said. “It just shows me I have a job to do. God trusts me to continue to do what I’m doing with you. To share what’s out there and what he can do for you. Those who aren’t spiritual; that’s OK. I believe everybody believes in something higher than themselves, but understand that you have a purpose.”
Kendra said she believed her purpose was “to teach people to live until they die.”
“You have a journey and it’s up to you how you’re going to run your journey and touch someone else’s life,” she said.
The 47-year-old wife and mother of two teenage girls died Tuesday. Born and raised in Columbus, she graduated from the University of Akron with a degree in business management and a master’s degree in public administration. The former Kendra Philmore met her husband, Karl, at UA.
Karl said she worked in the family’s various business ventures over the years, but her proudest role was as a “homemaker.”
She battled breast, bone and brain cancer.
Kendra first found a lump on her breast when she was 16. It was not cancerous. But in 2001, as a 34-year-old mother, breast cancer was discovered and she had a mastectomy and reconstruction and that cancer went into remission.
In 2009, doctors discovered both bone and brain cancer. She endured 14 rounds of radiation and lost her hair.
But she never lost her zest for life or her bubbly personality or her “get it done” attitude. And she was always so open about her trials and death. In fact, her husband, Karl, told me Wednesday morning that Kendra wanted friends and family to celebrate her life with a line dance at a dinner that would follow her “going home” service at the church.
The two of us met several years ago through our daughters’ dance studio and instantly connected.
Last year, around Easter, new brain tumors were discovered. The tumors impaired her vision, eventually forcing her to give up her independence and accept help from others. The steroids caused her to gain weight and gave her stability along with fatigue.
Over the years, Kendra and her family used Stewart’s Caring Place in Fairlawn, an organization that provides free education, services, support groups and items such as wigs to cancer patients and their relatives and friends. The organization was founded by the family and friends of the late Dr. Stewart Surloff.
Kendra and her family volunteered their time to Stewart’s, including forming the Magical Moments support group, which gave people a place to talk about happy things instead of their illness. Kendra was an honorary guest and speaker at the group’s gala a few years ago and hers was among four families featured in last fall’s annual donation appeal literature.
When asked about Kendra’s legacy, her husband told me: “She’s touched so many people in so many different aspects, her legacy is going to be different for so many different people. The biggest thing, however, is that she enjoyed every moment. She lived where she wouldn’t have any regrets. One of her favorite quotes is, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away.”
She is survived by her husband, Karl, and daughters, Kamaria, 15, and Kennedy, 13, and a host of extended family and friends. According to Kendra’s wishes and true to her message, the family requests that in lieu of flowers, all donations go to Stewart’s Caring Place, 2955 W. Market St., Suite R, Akron, OH 44333 or online at www.stewartscaringplace.org in Kendra’s name.
Calling hours will be 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Mount Calvary Baptist Church, 442 Bell St. in Akron, with a “Going Home” service to follow at 1.