Abbey Almelien Banh
Abbey Almelien gave freely of her love to her husband, Luong and to her wonderful supportive family and friends. After a six year battle with sarcoma, Abbey passed away on Saturday, August 17, 2013.
She calls herself “Princess Abbey” because of all the love and support that surrounds her. Abby looks forward to her life; she has no responsibilities to distract from her appreciating every moment as it comes along, she has a strong faith and a new boyfriend who shares her understanding about what really matters in life.
Abbey doesn’t have her right leg, it was amputated above the hip due to sarcoma cancer.
Although her cancer is incurable, she is sad for her family but not for herself. Her strength, she says with a huge smile, is that she can accept the love that has been showered on her in the form of help, caring, and fund raising. As a nurse, she learned that it is easier to help when help is accepted. Her nursing background also makes her excited to volunteer and make a difference where she can.
Abbey’s timeline with cancer began when she was 3 1/2. A neuroblastoma on her kidney was surgically removed and she survived despite only having a 20% chance to live. In 2001 she came full circle and graduated from Luther College in Nursing.
In 2006, at 27 she discovered blood in her urine which led to a kidney being removed. It was cancerous but it was gone so she didn’t worry.
In 2007, while in grad school in Minneapolis, Abbey developed a limp that she attributed to being injured playing kickball. It never really healed and the pain started shooting down her leg. It was decided that it was a thickening of the nerve root in her back due to scar tissue.
During the summer of 2007 Abbey moved back to Iowa City but the pain became worse and she lost function in her foot. The “nerve root thickening” was instead, a tumor. Abbey was relieved to find the source of her pain, thought it would be removed and she would go back to her life of a normal “twenty something” looking forward to her career and her future. As Abbey says, “you can make plans but you don’t know if you will fulfill those plans or others.”
The tumor turned out to be sarcoma cancer. Dr. Joseph Buckwalter delivered the news that she could have the tumor removed but the chances of stopping the spread of cancer was more likely with a leg amputation. She initially refused. She couldn’t imagine living that way. She had two weeks to decide.
In those two weeks Abbey found as many TV shows to watch as she could. Not, she says to deny, but to numb her mind so that she wouldn’t worry all the time. She says that it worked! She actually lives by the mantra; “It doesn’t change by worrying about it!”
The “difference maker” for Abbey was her friend. She told Abbey, “You need to do whatever you need to do to stay around as long as possible because we will love you just as much with or without a leg.”
Abbey describes Dr. Mo (Mohammed Milhelm) as her #1 man. When asked what he would do, he told her, “I don’t feel like I’m my legs. I would be the same person. I would do it.”
It was worth the risk to Abbey even though she now has cancer in her heart and lungs as well.
This does not change how Abbey feels abut the decision or her life! She has learned patience, has a great sense of humor, and a joie de vivre that is unstoppable. Dr. Mo and Abbey together are realistic and hopeful. She hopes that everyone understands how very important research is to her and many others. As a thanks Abbey emphasizes that, “Every person who has contributed to the Courage Ride is directly involved with the fight for my life!”
After a six year battle with sarcoma, Abbey passed away on Saturday, August 17, 2013. She will be remembered for her smile, her spirit, her courageous fight and for being an inspiration to everyone she met.