May 2, 1986 - March 13, 2017
Age 30, of Castile, NY passed away Monday, March 13, 2017 at her home surrounded by her family and best friend, Krissy after a long battle with brain cancer.
Rachel was born May 2, 1986 to William and Lisa Emmick of Bliss.
She is survived by her devoted husband, Brandon Gebauer; her children, Devin, Destiney and Delyzah; her brother, Zachary (Dannyel) Emmick of Bliss; her sister, Hannah (Joseph Ikeler) Emmick of Gainesville; her grandparents, Merlin (Jody) Kephart of Conewango, Marcia (John) Offhaus of East Aurora, Margery Emmick of Bliss, Earline Feeley of Buffalo; several aunts and uncles including Carol Kephart of Lockport and Kelly (Vinnie) Vasallo of Massachusetts whom she adored; nephews and niece, Zachary, Layla and Craig; her in laws, Mark (Debra) Gebauer of Perry and Patricia Gebauer of Arcade.
Rachel was preceded in death by her grandfather, Earl Emmick. Her greatest love was her children.
A private service for family and friends is being held at a later date. Arrangements are being completed by Harmon-Watson Funeral Home, Castile.
Mar 31.17 from Amanda R. Grandits:
Hello Brandon, Devin, Destiney and Delyzah, Krissy, Rachel’s parents, and other precious family and friends that had touched her life.
I would love to write you a poem that could tell you all about the person Rachel was, how beautiful and strong she was inside and out, but to me, it feels as though it would be right because I did not get a change to meet her so that we could share our strength and make one another even stronger and better.
One thing that I have in common with Rachel is that I have children that I love more than anything in this world. I did not think that I was going to be able to have a family because the doctors thought that it may be too risky, but I had two healthy boys naturally with no complications for them except a little jaundice.
I love my boys more than life itself, just like Rachel, and I try to do everything I can for them so they are happy and they get what they want or need, which often takes a toll on me. I am sure the same was true for Rachel. From what I have learned, she loved to spend time doing things with her children, she enjoyed swimming, taking them to special places like the zoo, going to the lake, going on picnics, and enjoying the campfire with her family. She loved attending her children’s activities, such as watching Devin pull tractors, and going on family gathers, doing anything she could, so that she can spend time with her children.
I can understand what her bad days were like as well, there are days that I feel like a horrible mother because even though I want to be there with my family I cannot because I am too tired, or I just need to be by myself so that I can allow myself time to let my mind repair itself. As a mother, it is hard, we want, no we need to fix it all, we need to push ourselves too far because we feel as though if we don’t it will not get done. I often find myself ignoring my needs of sleep, of relaxation and my mind reminds me with a headache, dizziness and light-headiness, and then I begin to get irritable very easy or my natural voice raises, and until I give in and finally go to sleep these things become worse.
Sometimes I do not have much energy, so I cross stitch, do fill-in puzzles, anything to keep my hands busy and my brain occupied. As Rachel’s mother shared, Rachel chose to add beauty to the world as well as she colored adult coloring books.
So here is what I would like to do for my friend that I have found after she had passed away. I would like to tell you a little bit about my journey as a woman and a mother, who like her never gave up and pushed passed her obstacles to reach her goals and do what she could to enjoy her life and family.
My Junior year of high school I got a headache that would not go away, when my mom got back from her trip on the road with my dad she took me to Wyoming County Hospital. After they took a CAT scan, and maybe a MRI, I cannot remember if they did a MRI at that hospital or not, they determined I had an abnormality in my brain and they could not determine exactly what it was.
So, they told my mother and I that it would be best to send me to Women and Children’s hospital by ambulance and left the room. This was terrifying for the both of us, because we did not know what to think or do, but we had to do what they said. The ambulance came and took me to Women and Children’s hospital by ambulance, and mom was left to venture to the hospital on her own, and of course she ended up going the wrong direction on a one-way street where a police officer found her. Luckily the officer was kind enough to turn her around and lead her in the right direction.
After what seemed like months of living at Women and Children’s hospital as they performed tests, gave me steroids and radiation treatments, they came up with the same conclusion that WCCH had, and told us that I had an abnormality that they could not identify, but there was hope! My doctors at Women and Children knew the best neurosurgeon in the area, Dr. Leo Hopkins and if anyone could help me, he could.
So, we went to his office, at Millard Fillmore Gates Circle, not expecting much because everywhere we went, we got told that we had to go somewhere else. This was different though, no additional testing at all, no, Dr. Hopkins walked into the room, picked up the pictures that were taken at the other hospitals, examined them and said, “You have an AVM Vein of Galen malformation, it is an abnormal tangle of the blood vessels in your brain. I will get you an appointment with a neurologist so you can get some medication for your headaches, and we can begin here by scheduling an appointment for your embolization surgery, where we go through the main vein in your leg and send a special glue to the bad areas of your brain so that we can kill that part and new veins can grow back.”
In a way, it was relieving that they had finally put a name to what was going on, but in another sense I was horrified. At the beginning of the year I was a Junior, attending BOCES for information technology, and once I got out of the hospital I continued to work hard and attempt to catch up, but because I had missed so much time while I was at Women and Children’s hospital, I had to drop out of BOCES if I wanted to graduate with the people I grew up with and went to school with my entire school career.
I am sorry if that was boring and seemed irrelevant to you but it was an important part of my journey, and I don’t know, maybe you could relate, maybe Rachel had to go through the same trials before she learned about her brain cancer, I do not know.
If BOCES was the first major change that came from this diagnoses, my interest in neurology and anything to do with the brain and how it functions would have to be the second. I did not plan to go to college, my lack of taking the SAT’s or any other tests that would determine how well I would do in college proved that, but the moment that the nurses transferred me from the gurney to the soul bed in the middle of a large empty looking room I was hooked. You see, next to me were three monitors, or televisions, pointing towards the room that the doctors would perform my procedure from. Once the catheter was placed in my leg, Dr. Hopkins, trying to calm me, pointed at the monitors and showed me the pictures of my brain, at first there were three pictures of my entire brain, slowly one of the screens showed the veins and arteries in my brain, and then once they found one of the masses Dr. Hopkins told me, “You see that cluster of veins there, that is your AVM.” In that moment, I was hooked, when I had to write a paper, I would research my AVM so that I could learn more.
So, let me tell you a little more about my AVM, imagine a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, if you get a knot in one of the noodles it is difficult to twirl it without having a huge forkful of noodles. This knot of spaghetti and meatballs in my brain acted as a stop sign, the blood that carried oxygen and nutrients to my brain got to the AVM and had to stop and turn back because there was no way to get past it and get to the other side. This meant that certain areas of my brain were starving.
I was lucky, that my embolization procedures and 2 Gama Knife surgeries allowed the doctors to obliterate my AVM. I thought my life would go back to normal and I would be able to live a normal life now that things were back to normal, but things would never be back to normal. My brain had changed. Take the throwing a pebble into a lake analogy, if you throw a pebble into a lake, it creates rippling waves that starts from the moment it touches the water. The water continues to move, but eventually calms. However, that rock is still there, now a permanent resident of the lake, and it has changed the lake forever.
When there is a change in the brain, the chemicals and makeup of the brain changes as well, people with traumatic brain injury often the person experiences difficulty and changes in cognition- being able to process and understand things, memory, vision, mood changes, and many other things that I may not be able to think of right now since it is 4:00 am and I woke up so that I could write this.
The most frustrating thing for me was to be told that I was cured, my AVM was gone, and I should be able to live my life normally again. These were the opinions of Dr. Hopkins however, because of the drugs that the neurologist still had me on, I was tired, dizzy, and light-headed most of the time, but I did not give up, I had gone to GCC the entire time the doctors were repairing my brain, and even though I was tired, and worn out from the additional stress I was still able to make the Dean’s and President’s list, and I was still able to learn and grow.
It is difficult for me, I must work twice as hard as my classmates as I am forced to read lines of books over and over so that I can understand them, and I must check and recheck my assignments to be sure that I do not go off topic or make errors. What makes it even worse, is if I become distracted, or have to stop what I am doing in order to do something else, and I had better finish my sentence because if I do stop midway thinking that I will be able to remember what I was going to say, most likely I am wrong. Sometimes I work days or weeks on assignments and think that I had reached the professors expectations, only to realize that I had overlooked some big part of the assignment and get a lower grade.
Vision changes bring on the headaches, and some vision difficulty often comes from being tired. I supposed it is a process. I get tired or stressed out, my vision starts to change, and I begin to feel the pressure in my eyes, sinuses, etc. You may have noticed it with Rachel as well, I do not really know, but it is something that I have noticed with a lot of my friends whom have traumatic brain injury.
Memory is something that I struggle with daily, for example, I could study for a test, be completely prepared, and as soon as a professor places that piece of paper in front of my face all that knowledge has gone out the window. I also have trouble with names, which makes me very proud to say that I have been able to learn the names of all the people I work with at the Rehabilitation Center, that being said, when it is time for me to write their names down at a certain time my brain freezes up and I cannot access the information. It is not that I want to hurt them or something, it is just impossible for me to reach that part of me at that moment.
Which helps add to, but is not the main reason for my mood changes. The chemicals in my brain, and literally parts of my brain had been changed, and sometimes it does not take much to turn the switch and I am a different person, I cannot control my anger and I want to go off. Yes, I have done well learning ways to control my anger now, but that has not always been the case.
Life is difficult, living with a traumatic brain injury, going to the hospital multiple times, hoping that it will finally be the end of the road and we are finally cured. Even then, we are constantly battling our bodies, our minds, as we will them to work so that we can live a normal life once more.
I would like to honor Rachel by saying that I appreciate all of the effort you put forth to be a strong woman, an excellent daughter, wife, mother and friend to everyone that you touched. I know how difficult it is to do it before a brain injury just as I know how difficult is to do after. It takes strength and courage to even get out of bed in the morning, and we have lived to do so much more.
Okay, as I was in the shower this morning, this poem came into my head, I hope that it does not offend anyone but here we go.
I held you close to my chest
So, you could always feel my heart
Beating as you rest
Please know that we will never be apart
Because I will always be in the best
Part of your heart.
Even though you cannot see me
Even though we cannot touch I will always be
That tingling feeling that comforts you when you cannot see
That everything will be alright
You see that feeling is me holding you tight
And making you feel a little bright.
Even though my body is gone
My love for you will always stay
No matter what my heart will always belong
With you please let this thought bring you peace every day.
Mar 31.17 from Sheryl Northrup:
I would like to send my condolences to Rachel Lea Gebauer's family, friends, and loved ones. It was a honor and privilege to be able to meet such a strong, brave young lady. Whom I was only able to meet through my best friend, her uncle, Wade Kiphart. Thank you Wade.
Mar 19.17 from Brenda Jones:
Lisa and Bill, I am so sorry to hear that Rachel lost her battle to Cancer. Although I did not her personally, I heard so many wonderful things about her. She truly was a great person, wife and mother. May she be at peace and know that she is withoutpain.I know the pain of losing a child, and there is no worse pain. May the Lord hold you close, and know Rachel is with Him.
Brenda Jones, Conway, SC
Mar 17.17 from Bob and Ann Flowers:
Lisa and Family we are so very sorry to hear of your loss. You are in our thoughts and prayers. You have our deepest sympathy.
Mar 17.17 from Cindy Brown:
Brandon Devin,Destiny,Delilah so sorry for your loss. Thoughts and prayers are with you all. R.I.P Rachel with no more pain.
Mar 16.17 from Lynne Kephart Dawley:
Brandon, Devin, Destiney, and Delyzah my thoughts and prayers go out to you all. Rachel now is a beautiful angel watching over her family.
Mar 15.17 from Saundra R Mayle:
Brandon and family, My heart goes out to all of you! Hold the memories close to your heart! We are never ready to lose a loved one, things happen for a reason and it's always hard for us to understand! Deepest Sympathy. RIP Rachel!😇
Mar 15.17 from Bill & Kay Swyers:
So sorry for your loss, your family are in our thoughts and prayers.
Bill & Kay Swyers
Mar 15.17 from Charlotte Barlow:
Brandon & family we are sorry to hear of your loss. She was a great person. She will be missed. She is at peace now.
You are in our thoughts and prayers.
Tim & Charlotte Barlow