Family came. Friends came. Nurses from Montefiore Medical Center, where Erika Altuchoff-Kenny endures chemotherapy, came. More than 300 people attended a benefit for Altuchoff-Kenny at the Manhem Beach Club in Throggs Neck on Friday, July 24.
The Pelham Bay resident, who grew up in Country Club, is terminally ill.
Altuchoff-Kenny was diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago; in March, doctors discovered cancer in her brain. It has spread to her hips, spleen and spine. The mother of two is 37 years old. Altuchoff-Kenny terminated a pregnancy when diagnosed and is growing weak. Yet somehow, she manages to smile and laugh – to encourage those determined to encourage her.
At the benefit, children drew butterflies for Altuchoff-Kenny. There was live music and a raffle.
“She’s very courageous and very strong,” said Joan Iurilli, a friend. “I don’t envy the situation she’s in but I envy the type of person she is.”
After being diagnosed a year ago, Altuchoff-Kenny underwent intense radiation and chemotherapy.
In December, a PET scan showed improvement and her hair grew back. But a persistent headache sent Altuchoff-Kenny to the hospital in March. Doctors found a brain tumor on her sixth wedding anniversary – also her younger son’s fourth birthday. Altuchoff-Kenny has no life insurance; her handyman husband, Chris Kenny, never expected cancer. Altuchoff-Kenny is prisoner to a double chemo regimen.
Generous friends and relatives handle day-care and dinners. Kathleen Schmeling is Kenny’s sister and Altuchoff-Kenny’s former classmate at Lehman High School. She, her husband and three children share a two-family house with Kenny and Altuchoff-Kenny.
“[Altuchoff-Kenny] is a wonderful wife, mother, sister and friend,” Schmeling said. “
Schmeling has launched the Erika Kenny Fund; she helped a handful of cousins coordinate the benefit. On July 24, the beach club offered the Kenny boys a free yearlong membership.
“The benefit was incredible,” Kenny said. “We were overwhelmed. So many people were there. As bad as [the situation] is, it could be worse. I could be doing it by myself.”
He asked that others pray for Altuchoff-Kenny and pay attention.
“Cherish what you have and get tested,” Kenny said. “Get a mammogram.”
To lend a hand, write to the Erika Kenny Fund, care of Kathleen Schmeling, at 2847 Wellman Avenue, Bronx NY, 10461.