Athena Krueger was a lifelong planner. She had a successful career in software sales and a happy marriage. Her next plan was to become a mom. Sadly, her plan was thrown for a loop when she discovered a painful lump in one of her breasts just 15 weeks into her pregnancy. The lump was discovered to be cancer, and was already aggressive.
Cancer during pregnancy is extremely rare, but is more prevalent in women who have children later in life.
Amari, whose name means "precious gift from God," was delivered by C-section eight weeks prematurely so that Athena could undergo chemotherapy.
While some of the treatments appeared to work, the cancer continued to spread throughout her body, and it seemed all hope was lost. Athena, a woman of great faith, decided that she wasn't going to let terminal cancer stop her from expressing her love for her family.
In her final weeks in hospice care, Athena planned a lavish, over-the-top party for Amari's first birthday. The event was one that she had struggled to see, and the only one she would ever see. She planned the whole thing, invited hundreds of family and friends, and decided to enjoy herself.
The party, which saw some 300 people in attendance, was Alice in Wonderland-themed, with Ben playing the part of the Mad Hatter.
Her doctors advised against leaving the hospital, but Athena knew this was her only chance to celebrate a birthday with Amari.
She attended the party, which was held on May 2, and had a blast. The party allowed her to see all of her family and friends, and spend time with her husband and daughter outside of the confines of the hospital.
The party was a great success.
Amari's actual birthday is on May 5. Athena lived to see it, but she passed away the following day. She died peacefully at home with her husband, having lived to see and accomplish what she most desired. She died on her own terms, and with the happy memory of her daughter's first birthday, at the young age of 33.
"It's awfully tough to be sad when you got [Amari]," Ben says. "It's really sad and tough right now, but tomorrow the sun will come up again, and we will make the day what it is. It's what Athena would want." Ben will be continuing Athena's mission of raising breast cancer awareness and encouraging early screenings.