'In all her sickness, she was still always thinking of others'
A terminally ill woman who brought comfort to others with cancer has died after a long illness.
Kevina Santucci, a mother of one, was 34.
Ms Santucci found out in 2014 at age 28 that she had spindle cell rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare cancer.
The community rallied to help cover her medical expenses – but her mother, Karon Santucci, said she was happy to share donations to help others.
In 2015, Ms Santucci gave half the proceeds raised for her treatment to her cousin, Neehari Robinson, also battling cancer.
Her mother said: “In all her sickness, she was still always thinking of others.”
Her father Kevin Santucci, a pastor and chaplain, said: “Kevina was impactful and inspirational, despite her challenges – she would reach out to people who were terminally ill to be of encouragement to them.”
He added: “We can’t say enough to the people of Bermuda. In her hardest times in life, the people of Bermuda were there for her. She knew it. She didn’t hold back from doing what she could to give back.
“To see your child serve the community is an honour and a privilege.”
Ms Santucci worked at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, most recently in the diagnostic imaging scheduling team.
Renee Butterfield, the clinical manager of the imaging department, said staff were “shocked and in disbelief at her passing”.
Ms Santucci had worked a full shift until almost midnight the day before her death.
Ms Butterfield said KEMH staff had known her as a student, watched her become a mother, and supported her through her treatment.
She added: “With all that Kevina has gone through, she remained positive and kept smiling.
“Her most common statement during a check-in was; ‘It’s OK, I’m OK’. I knew many times that her ‘OK’ was not ‘OK’ but that was Kevina’s way and I respected that.
“I told her that I admired her because she remained positive throughout her ordeal.
“Many can take a page from her book and live by her values and attitude.”
Ms Butterfield said the department was organising a private memorial.
She said: “Her departure is not easy for our team because Kevina touched every single person. We will keep everyone in prayer, especially her daughter Karis, who she loved unconditionally.”
Francine Burrows, the programme secretary for maternity, called her “a soft-spoken angel with a warrior spirit” whose most important role was mother to “sweet, courageous Karis”, age 9.
Ms Burrows said: “She was more than a friend and co-worker.
“She was my surrogate daughter or as she put it, I was her ’Fairy Godma’.
“Kevina has left a trail of broken hearts behind, but she has also left us all much better human beings.
“She has left us filled with love, courage, and faith.”
Ms Burrows gave her love to Ms Santucci’s family, adding: “If not for them I would not have had her.”
Mr Santucci said his daughter had struggled with her health for 20 years, which kept her from an early ambition to work in ocean research.
Medicine was her other passion: after attending Oakwood University in Alabama and Washington State University, Ms Santucci qualified as a pharmacy technician through Penn Foster Career School in 2018.
Her work at the hospital began as a student, with her first full time job at a clerk in the file room in 2008.
Mr Santucci said she was dedicated to her job, even when in pain from her illness.
Ms Santucci “loved to write”, he said, including poetry, and was a gifted singer with the Bermuda Ambassador Choir.
In an interview with The Royal Gazette in 2016, Ms Santucci said: “Even after all this, I remain grateful.
“Every single day is Thanksgiving for me.”
A funeral is planned for February 28 at 2pm in the Bermuda Institute Hall in Southampton.
Kevina Johnae Lilian Santucci, who worked at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, was born on August 30, 1986. She died on February 12, 2021. Ms Santucci was 34.