IN THE PAINT: Pink Game is Kutra's legacy

IN THE PAINT: Pink Game is Kutra's legacy

REPOSTED FROM SCRANTON TIMES.

BY MARTY MYERS, STAFF WRITER / PUBLISHED: JANUARY 19, 2020


Photo: Christopher Dolan, License: N/A, Created: 2020:01:16 15:42:18

CHRISTOPHER DOLAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER The family of the late Lisa Jones Kutra stands with a photograph of Lisa, who died March 25 after battling metastatic breast cancer. From left are Lisa’s father Ned Jones, Lisa’s daughters Caroline and Cassie Kutra and Lisa’s mother Mary Kay Jones.

Photo: Christopher Dolan, License: N/A, Created: 2020:01:16 15:43:44

CHRISTOPHER DOLAN / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Ned Jones hangs up a photograph of his late daughter, Lisa Jones Kutra, at Kutra’s Roaring Brook Twp. home on Thursday. Kutra died in March after a battle with metastatic breast cancer.

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Nothing stood in the way of Lisa Kutra living life.

Not the arduous trips to Philadelphia for treatment of her metastatic breast cancer.

Not the repeated trips to emergency rooms to have her feeding tube replaced.

Not even the dire diagnosis that followed a liver scan.

Certainly not the final journey to hospice.

“She always wanted to make a positive out of it,” said Mary Kay, sitting beneath a portrait of her 48-year-old daughter taken the summer before she died.

“That was just her nature,” said Mary Kay’s husband, Ned, who with his wife is raising Lisa’s two daughters: Cassie, 16, a junior at the high school, and Caroline, 14, an eighth-grader in the middle school.

Educate others. It was what Kutra, a teacher in the Stroudsburg Area School District, did in life and what she wanted to be her legacy.

“She was a teacher at heart,” Mary Kay said. “When she was 4, she had a classroom in our house in Avoca and had students from the neighborhood. She was a born teacher. That’s what she did. She taught everyone she could possibly teach about metastatic breast cancer.”

Especially those around her, who discovered Kutra’s indomitable spirit.

Ned recalled leaving for the University of Pennsylvania a few months before his daughter’s death.

The day would start with a 2½-hour drive to the hospital, four hours of treatment, and an even longer drive home in Philadelphia rush hour traffic.

“Coming home she’d go, ‘Are we stopping? I want to go to the Olde Brook Inn for supper,’ ” Ned said.

It was just a mile from her house, but was a way of telling her cancer it wasn’t going to win.

“We’d have a couple drinks, have supper, I said, ‘It’s after 9 o’clock. I don’t have to go to work tomorrow but I think you do.’ ”

Her response: “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”

“Then she’d say, ‘Thanks, dad. See you in two weeks. We’ll do it again.’ But, ‘We’re going to the Olde Brook, right?’ ”

Her fight persisted with incredible strength. Even with cancer making an insidious assault, she continued to go on walks around Lake Scranton with friends, or jog around Scranton with fellow members of her running group CINAO, Can’t Is Not An Option

“She was determined,” Ned said.

Then, go socialize like there was nothing wrong. But instead of losing weight, the opposite was happening.

“She couldn’t understand. She thought she should be getting skinnier and she was getting fuller,” Mary Kay said. “It never dawned on her.”

A scan revealed the depth of the problem. Her liver was full of malignant tumors.

Kutra’s childhood best friend, Chrissy Policare, a nurse, was in the room as the scan revealed the worst.

“Chrissy was up there and could see what was going on, and she came down crying,” Mary Kay said. “She called me and I went and got Ned.

“Everyone was crying but (Lisa). She said, ‘What are we going to do?’ Let’s go to Posh. Let’s have a drink.’ She called her friends, one called another and before we knew it, it was one enormous party.

“We were like, we have to get out of here. They were all crying and she said, ‘We’re celebrating life.’ ”

Added Ned: “We had like 15 runners show up in about an hour. I’m saying, ‘How are you going to get home? Do you need a ride? You have to let us know.’

“ ‘Dad. Dad, just let it happen.’ ”

To this day, neither of them can understand how Lisa could have finished the New York City Marathon as part of the Ryan’s Run team, a fundraiser for Allied Services. Or how she remained so upbeat in the face of such a grim diagnosis.

“No one, to this day, could figure out how she ran a marathon in November and came in with a smile on her face,” Mary Kay said. “That was her.”

Determination was their daughter’s strong suit.

One year ago, with the end in sight, Kutra, in her best we’re-going-to-do-this voice, told her family they were going to the Pink Game at Abington Heights High School, where she would be interviewed on television.

“I don’t know if we can make it to Clarks Summit on a night like this,” said Ned, a retired truck driver. “It’s cold and snowy.”

The discussion was brief.

“ ‘Stop. We’re going. I’m speaking at the event.’ ”

Ned didn’t ask again. It was an ordeal: putting together a wheelchair, nowhere close to the gym to park, rolling her through the cold and snow, making sure her medical devices were plugged in when she arrived. Then there was the morphine on hand in case she needed it to ease the pain.

She did.

But she persevered.

“That’s how sick she was,” Mary Kay said. “When they took her over to where they were going to do this interview with her, and my sister-in-law, Lauri Brogan, she came back and said, ‘We need the morphine.’ ”

She remained at home as long as she could, but in the final weeks, the painful decision was made to enter hospice.

Even there, Kutra remained an optimist.

“When she came to us, she said my hope is to go home,” said Laura Marion, assistant vice president for Allied Services Hospice and Palliative programs. “I want to get better or get stable. Unfortunately, her symptoms didn’t allow that to happen.

“But her will to live never left her, Her spirit never left her, and the kindness and her good heart was emulated the entire time she was with us. I can tell you it was nothing but an honor to be a part of her care.”

On Thursday, Marion, whose daughter, Clair, is a standout on the Abington Heights team, will step to the microphone and explain the importance of the fight against metastatic breast cancer.

Kutra’s daughter, Cassie, one of the North Pocono cheerleaders taking part in the game, will be listening.

“It’s very special to me because I get to be a part of it,” Cassie said. “I’m not just in the stands watching. I’ll be there supporting the team and the cause.

“I think it’s very positive. It needs to be carried on.”

Her mother wouldn’t be pleased with the attention given her, Cassie said, but would prefer the focus be on the cause.

“She wouldn’t want to make it a big deal but she’d love to know that it’s becoming such a big thing,” Cassie said. “And metastatic breast cancer is getting awareness like this.”

For Mary Kay, it serves as a reminder of an extraordinary person’s journey against an overwhelming opponent.

“I was proud of my daughter’s exceptional life and I am equally proud of the grace, courage, inspiration and humor she shared with the world as she navigated through the monstrous disease of metastatic breast cancer,” Mary Kay said. “We can’t wait. Something needs to be done now. “Awareness can save lives. It can’t be fast enough. We have to do more. They have to do more. There are too many 40-year-olds dying from metastatic breast cancer. They’re young. They’re young girls.”

Contact the writer: mmyers@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100, ext. 5437; @mmyersTT on Twitter