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Woman Channels Death Wishes of Sister, Live-Hunting Cancer

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Howardena Pindell knows a thing or two about resilience.

Ms. Pindell has faced many obstacles in her life, including being adopted at a young age and having to contend with dyslexia and cerebral palsy in her early years. So when her older sister, Deidre Diakun, was diagnosed with throat cancer, Ms. Pindell was at a loss. “When she got sick, it was completely, completely devastating to me,” Ms. Pindell said.

This summer, Ms. Pindell committed to living with the cancer herself for the next three years. She said it’s a form of preparation for her sister’s impending death.

“In this moment where she’s kind of a fading star, I figured I’d like to be a star and make a statement for myself before she passes,” Ms. Pindell said.

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Ms. Pindell’s niece, Larissa Dearden, started a Facebook campaign to help raise $50,000 for Ms. Diakun’s treatment, and Ms. Pindell decided to contribute all of her personal savings, including her first $1,200 paycheck.

For most of Ms. Pindell’s life, she’s had to contend with the stigma of having a disability. So when she saw a post on Ms. Dearden’s Facebook account that highlighted her aunt’s battle with cancer, she didn’t hesitate to step up to the plate. “These two women are fighting the hardest fight for us in our modern society, and they seem to be trying to fight it alone,” Ms. Pindell said.

She started living at home with her sister last summer, and in an effort to help keep the stress to a minimum, she put together a list of things she’d need before her sister needed to go to a hospice.

She bought comforters, plates, silverware, paper towels, towels, meat, soup, salad dressing, sugar, milk, peanut butter, 100 percent human milk, soup-cans, jars, cheese plates, canned milk, juice boxes, dog food, utensils, toiletries, toothbrushes, toothpaste, liquid laundry detergent, lotion, shampoo, soap, deodorant, shaving cream, an electric toothbrush, microwave, printer, tissues, popcorn, dryer sheets, paper napkins, baby food, baby wipes, a vacuum, a vacuum cleaner, and an alarm clock. Ms. Pindell also bought her sister enough money to send her to a medical facility upstate for an experimental cancer trial, even though she doesn’t have insurance.

Ms. Pindell said all of the supplies were donated by friends and family, not from her workplace at a pharmaceutical company. She hopes her sister will get well enough to move in with her in three years so that she can continue to live at home.

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