Superhero Lincoln

Written by: Courtney Kurtz, Lincoln’s mama

 

When Courtney took her son Lincoln to the doctor for a check-up, she never thought it would result in a hospital visit and a cancer diagnosis.

Lincoln didn’t seem to have any symptoms that anything was wrong. But when the pediatrician examined him and found that the 18-month-old’s liver was enlarged, he immediately sent them to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

January 2017, Lincoln was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia T-cell. 

Here is Courtney’s perspective of their cancer journey…

Q: What would you like the world to know about your cancer journey with Lincoln?
It’s been an incredibly hard journey, but Lincoln is an outgoing kid who loves people. He has spent more than 100 days in the hospital, and through it all he has kept his spirits up.

Cancer treatment is really hard on kids and there are many side effects. During the first 30 days of treatment, Lincoln lost the ability to walk and crawl. He stopped eating and lost a lot of weight, and we nearly had to have a feeding tube put in. But we were able to work through it with various medicines, and after the first nine months, he started gaining weight again.

There is a tremendous need for more research for childhood cancer.  These kids are amazing and deserve better treatment options with fewer toxicities and long-term side effects.

Q: What did others close to you do for you and your family that made a difference?
We are thankful for all the support we have received, including meals, financial assistance and gifts for Lincoln.  These all helped us get through some really difficult times.

Q: What gave you strength during your journey?
It’s been really hard, but my child is my everything – I’d do anything for him. This kid is amazing, and his spirit is unbreakable and that gives me strength.  Right after Lincoln’s diagnosis, I took two months off work, and then had to go part-time. I didn’t want to miss a single minute with my baby. My employer has been helpful and understanding, letting me have time off when he’s sick or has appointments.

Q: Is there a program at Cancer Support Community that has helped your family?
The monthly moms’ support group has been a big help.  It is always great to connect with other moms and know you’re not alone. I’ve found that during the intense times, I run on adrenaline. But when things get a little better, the emotions start to creep up on me, and that’s when the support group is helpful.

Lincoln went to an art program in the Kids Korner and he loved it. He is immuno-compromised so he can’t be around a lot of other kids, especially if someone is sick. He longs to play with other kids, but it’s been hard to find a safe space for him to do that. So it’s nice to have these activities at Cancer Support Community in a safe environment, where other parents know not to bring a sick child into the program.

Q: Where are you now in your journey with cancer? 
For his type of cancer, treatment lasts for 3½ years. Lincoln had nine months of initial treatment to get the cancer into remission. Now, he receives daily, weekly and monthly chemo and steroid treatments. He takes nausea medicine every day, but still throws up a lot. He’s had a rougher road than most with the side effects and hospital stays. But he’s in maintenance now, after almost 3 years. The treatment will end in May 2020, although there will be more tests after that to make sure there is no recurrence. But for now, Lincoln has started preschool and is enjoying being a kid as much as possible.

Please consider becoming a Superhero by donating to Kids Korner for children with pediatric cancer and their families. Click HERE to donate.
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Written by: Courtney Kurtz, Lincoln’s mama   When Courtney took her son Lincoln to the doctor for a check-up, she never thought it would result in a hospital visit and a cancer diagnosis. Lincoln didn’t seem to have any symptoms that anything was wrong. But when the pediatrician examined him and found that the 18-month-old’s liver… Read more.

Scarlett and Mommy

Written by Melissa James, Scarlett’s mother

I became a cancer mom on a sunny, beautiful day in April. My sweet two-year-old girl, Scarlett, and I were having one of those days that every mom yearns for, just us, our mommy and me time. We decided to read some books at the library to end our perfect day. Halfway through a book, I saw Scarlett’s face change. She looked up at me, let out a cry I will never forget, and collapsed in my arms. I ran screaming for help in that quiet library. I do not remember how we got to the hospital, but we did. I just know that I held her hand the entire way and she never grabbed mine back.

After a long day, we were sent home with no answers and no plan, but with a promise of an appointment with a specialist. I was furious, terrified, and not ready to give up. We drove to our pediatrician and I demanded a scan. We were not given one, but as we left the building, my daughter collapsed in pain again – this time, in front of them. We were taken for scans.

This part of my story is blurry. All I can remember is a tiny room, with a strategically placed box of tissues, and a man in blue scrubs saying words that I did not hear. I was too focused on my sweet, little pig-tailed princess, who was laying cradled in my arms, sleeping after a long, scary day. I watched my tears fall onto her tiny cheek, and gently swept them away.

“I’m sorry to say, but your daughter has a mass in her colon. It’s decent in size and from our images, appears to be a tumor. At this time, I hate to say the ‘c’ word, but it’s possible. We are going to need to do some more testing and…”

That’s it. That is all I heard. Inside I was numb. Gone. I just kept looking at my sweet baby’s face and thinking of life without it. I was crying in closets, showers, and bathroom stalls. I was going through the motions necessary for Scarlett, but I was devastated, and felt like I was trying to hold onto something that was slowly slipping away. In fact, the first night in the hospital room I laid awake watching her every breath. Unable to shut my eyes, I climbed into the crib with her. I was afraid that I would wake up and she would be gone–that I wouldn’t remember her smell, touch, or the sound of her little snores.

Before this, I HAD a happy child and husband, a brand-new home we built for our daughter, a wonderful job, and a routine that was feeling SO secure that my husband and I were trying for baby number 2. Now – my career? Gone. Our routine? Gone. That new house? Gone. That marriage? Crumbled. And, that baby? Passed away by miscarriage due to stress.  Still, I could swallow ALL those losses, because I hadn’t lost my daughter.

Scarlett, though, has sadly lost more than anyone should. She lost her childhood, her carefree life, and most of her colon. Today, Scarlett suffers from decreased immunity (she cannot play on public playgrounds, go out when viruses are high, or attend school half the time), and she has GI issues that land us in the ER every few weeks. Her PTSD and anxiety are often so severe that parking garages (like the hospital’s), gloves (like a doctor’s), and children’s tattoos (like the numbing strip for IVs), are triggers that remind her of her surgeries and cause panic attacks. She has lost friends to this disease, watched them fight and wither. She has had to grow up, like all pediatric cancer patients, very quickly. Yet, we are lucky, because most pediatric cancer patients also grow up with heart damage, hearing loss, liver problems, and loss of limbs.

Scarlett managed to make it to remission without those issues. Yet, she still must endure hospital visits and scans every few months. You see, there is no prognosis, no plan, we are just living day to day, like most pediatric cancer patients. We will always fear scan days, overreact to comments like “I don’t feel good,” and worry about the future. We will always be scared. I will always be scared.

This is why I searched for support online, and that’s how I found Cancer Support Community Central Ohio. When I met with them, I knew I had found a place where the other moms I knew could find support. I could find support. The people there are so supportive and understanding. They make it possible for me to share my fears, to not feel so alone.

But the sad truth is I’m NOT alone. In fact, a child is diagnosed with cancer every 3 minutes. People often don’t believe that there are 16,000+ cancer moms in one of the national support groups and more than 120 in my local support group, Feel Better Mom. Yes, that’s 120 local moms that I speak to daily, stay up late with, visit at the hospital, and cry with. And 120 kids and angels that I love.

I’m so grateful that Cancer Support Community Central Ohio has programs for all these pediatric families I’ve become so close to. There are support groups and individual counseling, grief counseling, resources to destress, including yoga, art therapy, and cooking classes, and programs for our cancer kids and their siblings to get together and have fun while they learn. All of it is SO valuable and needed. And it’s all provided at no cost, which really important, because sadly, as you can imagine, pediatric cancer comes with extremely high bills, the loss of jobs, and very little time and money for self and emotional care.

Today, Scarlett is four and she’s in remission. She recently had a routine scan that came back clear! We are continuing to attend the programs at Cancer Support Community, which have been an enormous help. Cancer may have broken our hearts and made us question everything, but all the supporters at Cancer Support Community make us believe in humanity again. You make us see that there is still some good. That we will get through this, together, as a community.

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Written by Melissa James, Scarlett’s mother I became a cancer mom on a sunny, beautiful day in April. My sweet two-year-old girl, Scarlett, and I were having one of those days that every mom yearns for, just us, our mommy and me time. We decided to read some books at the library to end our… Read more.

Meet Aireen

Aireen’s Story

It was an average day at work as a medical doctor in 2017 when the nurses noticed something was off with Pedro. When he started to lose his speech, we went to the emergency room and an MRI found lesions in his lungs with the cancer rapidly spreading to his brain.

Pedro’s prostate cancer diagnosis in 2015 had been difficult, but this was even more devastating for all of us – our daughter and son and their families. It all happened so quickly! As a doctor, Pedro knew his prognosis presented a challenging journey ahead. He went through chemotherapy and radiation, but the cancer was relentless.

Between the endless hospital visits and appointments, being his caregiver was overwhelming. I took care of him both in the hospital and at home. Caring for him felt like a roller coaster. Some days were good, most of them were not. Some nights I would only get an hour or half an hour of sleep, if I was lucky. I was constantly fatigued. I wanted to be there for him, but the challenge of caring for Pedro left me physically and mentally exhausted.

At Cancer Support Community, I found hope and respite. Five years ago, after Pedro’s original diagnosis, a friend saw the stress I was dealing with and invited me to a yoga class at Cancer Support Community. Having this organization as a resource was so helpful, especially when we received Pedro’s second diagnosis. Being around others who were dealing with the same situation made it a little easier. I was able to share my hopes, fears and challenges with others who understood. Coming to a cooking or yoga class, even for just for an hour, helped relieve my stress. The programs and the people I met helped me realize I needed to take care of myself to be able to provide the best care for Pedro.

I’m grateful that Cancer Support Community was there when I needed the support. The nice thing is that they’re still here for me as I adjust to life without my husband. I’ve learned ways to take care of myself and reduce my stress at my favorite programs, Gentle Yoga, Belly Dancing, and Cooking for Wellness. I’ve developed friendships with people who understand how cancer changes families and who understand the stress of taking care of a sick loved one. We share stories, we share hugs, and we lift each other up.

I’d like to thank Cancer Support Community for helping me on this journey. I didn’t sign up to be a caregiver any more than Pedro signed up to have cancer, but I am so thankful that they’re here for me.

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Donate by September 1st to help caregivers, like Aireen, access programs of emotional support, education and hope, so that no one faces cancer alone.
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Aireen’s Story It was an average day at work as a medical doctor in 2017 when the nurses noticed something was off with Pedro. When he started to lose his speech, we went to the emergency room and an MRI found lesions in his lungs with the cancer rapidly spreading to his brain. Pedro’s prostate… Read more.

Leaving a Legacy

This summer, you may notice some changes around Cancer Support Community. We are busy completing several major renovations to our facility, including renewing our entryway garden. With the addition of commemorative bricks, our newly transformed Garden of Hope offers the people of our community, like you, the opportunity to create a legacy.

A brick honors a legacy. Whether it’s a spouse, sibling, parent, or friend you’ve lost to cancer, or someone who is currently living with cancer, think about the impact that person has had on your life and the joy you shared. Through a brick, their legacy will be honored and live on in our garden and in the community for many years to come.

A brick builds a legacy. With a brick, you become part of something bigger than yourself. You join a community of people who, through many smalls acts of kindness, make our world better.  Your action begins a legacy of philanthropy, inspiring others and creating ripples of compassion and generosity.

A brick ensures a legacy. As a part of our Garden of Hope, each brick will literally, and figuratively, help build our community. You will create a beautiful outdoor space for our participants to enjoy and your gift enables Cancer Support Community to provide programs and services of support – at no cost – to ensure that no one faces cancer alone.

How will you shape your legacy? Visit our commemorative brick donation page to get started.

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This summer, you may notice some changes around Cancer Support Community. We are busy completing several major renovations to our facility, including renewing our entryway garden. With the addition of commemorative bricks, our newly transformed Garden of Hope offers the people of our community, like you, the opportunity to create a legacy. A brick honors… Read more.

Meet Mary

Mary Sheskey MSW, LSW

For more than 40 years, my professional career had been as a graphic and package designer. I had provided services to corporations and companies across the country that depended on my talent to bring their products to market. As a business owner, I was used to being in control. But when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, that changed. I experienced the devastating emotional, physical, psychological, financial and spiritual repercussions that come with a cancer diagnosis.

In April 2013, I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a fast-moving, invasive cancer that had to be addressed immediately. Although I had owned my own business for more than 30 years, high health care costs and pre-existing conditions meant I was not able to get insurance. Without insurance coverage, my doctor wouldn’t make an appointment.

I was devastated, but I knew I had to get medical care, so I found the Breast and Cervical Cancer Project through the State of Ohio, which is a type of Medicaid coverage based on income, and they sent me to OhioHealth, where I had surgery and chemotherapy.

During my first month after diagnosis, I had medical appointments every day. As I sat in waiting rooms filling out general information for the thousandth time, I felt like something, or rather, someone was missing from my treatment. Despite having a nurse navigator, radiologist, oncologist, surgeon, and chemo nurse, I felt alone and helpless. In this time when I needed support the most, I had no one who could help me put my life back together after it had changed so dramatically.

When you’re diagnosed with cancer, it becomes your whole focus. There are constant appointments and doctors and nurses calling to check in. But after treatment ends there’s nothing – no appointments, no one asking how you’re doing.

I knew I needed support and help at this pivotal point, and I knew I was not the only person who felt this way. Every woman I encountered during my treatment was potentially facing the same feeling: a void, a loss. Now what?

These feelings drove me to return to college, 40 years after receiving my bachelor’s degree. I saw that there was a need for someone else to be part of the health care team, such as a social worker, to help patients and caregivers understand how the cancer would impact all aspects of their lives. I wanted to be that person, so I pursued a master’s degree in social work. I was motivated to help ensure that no one else had to endure the same helplessness that I did during my treatment.

In July of 2018, I began volunteering with Cancer Support Community Central Ohio. I was impressed with the caring, community environment where I could provide support to others when they needed it most. Fortunately, a position opened, and I was hired in November. Now, as the Clinical Program Coordinator at Cancer Support Community, I have the opportunity to help survivors, caretakers and their families discover the benefits of our programs that can help them strengthen themselves in body, mind and spirit to help them fight the emotional and social effects of cancer.

More importantly to me, as a social worker, I get to be that missing part in someone else’s treatment that I felt I did not have during my own. Cancer Support Community has allowed me to fulfill my dream of working as a social worker with cancer survivors and caretakers to help them develop the tools that they need to get through their cancer journey.  My passion is to help others, like myself, find the knowledge and strength to win back their lives. I want others to know that they may have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have them.

At Cancer Support Community, we provide a community where people can support each other, grow and learn. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with our participants, and with each person I interact with, I am reminded of why I became a social worker.

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Mary Sheskey MSW, LSW For more than 40 years, my professional career had been as a graphic and package designer. I had provided services to corporations and companies across the country that depended on my talent to bring their products to market. As a business owner, I was used to being in control. But when… Read more.