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'In sickness or in health'

  • Nine years ago this April, Kate Burke, right, was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM). Over those nine years Santa Rosa residents Kate and her husband Brian, left, and their two children have kept hopes high as Kate entered remission for several years. During the past year, the Burkes suffered a set-back as her tumor came back stronger. Weighing their options after surgery and a stroke due to meningitis, the family together decided to let the disease progress and take her life. Kate sleeps 20-22 hours a day, a natural progression of the GBM, Thursday Feb. 7, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

Valentine's Day has just never sparked much candy-and-Cupid action at the home of Brian and Kate Burke.

Everyday expressions of affection are common enough in the house that the family hasn't sensed a need to make much of Feb. 14.

Daughter Riley, a 17-year-old senior at Santa Rosa's Maria Carrillo High, looks at her dad from across the family room and grins. "Sometimes I'd come downstairs and you guys would be dancing to some mushy love song."

Kate And Brian Burke

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The dancing days are over at the Burkes' place in northwest Santa Rosa, yet the declarations of love come more frequently than ever.

For the past 10 days or so, Kate Burke, 46, has mostly slept as a brain cancer she fought off twice before proceeds now to shut down her life.

She was just 37, and a decade into her marriage with Brian, when a grand mal seizure in 2004 led to a brain scan and a crushing discovery.

Brian, 49, is grateful that she has remained with him and the kids for so long after doctors found the stage 4 glioblastoma multiforme tumor, a malignancy that often brings death within about a year or less.

"In April, it will be nine years," Brian says. He blinks and adds, "I don't know that we'll make it to April."

As time grows short, Riley and her brother, Colin, 14, speak words of thanks, comfort and devotion to their mother, by now mostly nonresponsive, and reflect on all they've learned from her and from her quest to live.

"She was always everyone's inspiration. Everything is positive," Riley says. "I just hope to carry that with me."


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