By Jean Lillquist (Editor HOPE Lifeline Newsletter)
Leah Brumgard’s story is remarkable for its tragedy and for her resilience; she lost not only one but both parents in the same year. Leah’s mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in the summer of 2009, when Leah was going into seventh grade, and she passed away the following June. Leah lost her father two months later to another illness, and she suddenly found herself in a whole new environment when she moved in with her cousins. However, the South Western High School senior distinguished herself among her peers in many areas, from membership in the National Honor Society and National Art Honor Society to Rotary Student of the Month to graphic designer and editor the yearbook to editor of the Phoenix, the school’s art and literary magazine. Ranking in the top 3% of her class, Leah’s senior year course load included four advanced placement classes along with four more electives, plus an independent class in Advanced Graphics Design, this at a time when many of her peers were deep in the throes of senioritis and taking only the classes they needed to graduate.
Leah will be working two jobs this summer before she enters Swarthmore College in the fall. She hopes to parley her graphic design talents into some aspect of the design field; she is particularly interested in communications design. Not only will she be an asset to the school through her achievements, but also, and possibly more important, through who she is. As her physics teacher wrote about her, “Dedication and ability are tremendous assets but Leah’s strength of character will be what truly sets her apart from other students.”
“My scars tell a story. They are a reminder of times when my life tried to break me, but failed. They are the markings of where the structure of my character was welded. Being diagnosed with cancer not once, not twice, but three times in my lifetime, has established that life is like a game of cards. You did not invent the game nor did you frame the rules. You have no control over the cards that are dealt to you but you do have a say in all of your choices in how you handle things.”
This was how Dover High School senior Madison Hill began the essay she submitted in her scholarship application. From her first cancer diagnosis at the age of eight, with the exception of five years, Maddie has been living her life with some form of cancer. Nevertheless, she has still managed to live a normal, even outstanding life, from playing soccer for both a club team and her high school varsity team; to academic achievements including status on the Distinguished Honor Role, membership in the National Honor Society, and recognition as Student of the Month; to involvement in a wide variety of extra-curricular activities. Maddie is a member of the student council, a member of the Varsity Club, a leader in her school’s Four Diamonds Fund mini-thon (Thon) committee, and a mentor for a group of freshmen as part of her school’s Link Crew. During two summers she also worked as a lifeguard and taught swimming lessons.
Maddie will be attending Penn State main campus in the fall, where she will work toward a degree in Occupational Therapy. As an athlete and cancer patient Maddie is familiar with the worlds of P.T. and O.T., and after she shadowed a young person who had been partially paralyzed in a four-wheeler accident she decided she was most interested in the field of pediatric occupational therapy because it’s “more like play” and there is such a variety of treatment.Her biology teacher says it best when she writes about Maddie: “Especially because of Maddie’s health issues, she will be a wonderful asset to the health care industry because she is caring, meticulous, empathetic, and driven to the best she can be.”
Kennard Dale High School has provided many impressive scholarship candidates for many years, and Thomas Lippiard stands tall among them. Literally as well as figuratively. The well-rounded senior excels in academics, athletics, and extra-curriculars, and has a full life beyond school as well.
Thomas will graduate number two in his class this month, a position he established and maintained early on in his high school career despite his mother’s diagnosis of a rare form of breast cancer when he was in eighth grade. A routine mammogram detected the cancer early enough that her treatments ended in the middle of Thomas’s freshman year. Although his mother’s illness affected Thomas most closely, he has also lost three grandparents to cancer in recent years and his mother’s cousin just received the same diagnosis she had.
His easy-going dmeanor disguises a young man with an incredibly packed schedule and impressive list of accomplishments. As salutatorian he will give a speech at his graduation, but his modesty (and time constraints) will most likely prevent him from mentioning his elected positions as President of the National Honor Society, Captain of the Brainbusters team, Parliamentarian of the Senior Class, and captain of the Varsity Soccer Team. (He might, however, talk with pride about the projects the NHS is involved in, including Big Brothers and Sisters and Project Linus, which provides blankets for critically ill children.) A fixture on the Distinguished Honor Roll, Thomas was also a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist and four-year Varsity letter winner. Soccer is a year-round sport for Thomas; he plays for both a club team and his school’s team, and referees for youth soccer games around York County.
One other aspect of Thomas that sets him somewhat apart from his peers is his good fortune to have already seen so much of the world. Because both his parents are tour operators, he has visited most of Western Europe, Costa Rica, the Caribbean, Canada, and Turkey. This familiarity with different people and different cultures will be an asset when he enters the University of Pennsylvania in the fall to pursue a dual degree from the School of Engineering and the Wharton School of Business.
Another outstanding athlete of our scholarship recipient, Dixie Miller’s sport of choice (read passion) is volleyball. It wouldn’t be correct to conclude that volleyball is her life, but it has certainly been a large chunk of it. Three-year varsity team member for West York High School and co-captain two of those years, Division II Volleyball All-Stars Honorable Mention, club volleyball team co-captain, Dig Pink Volleyball Event co-planner and co-host to raise money for breast cancer research, and boys’ volleyball team, manager, Dixie sees her sport as an expression of athleticism and an opportunity to be involved with others.
However, Dixie is far more than volleyball. The tall, poised senior has interests that run the gamut. She loves the sciences so much that she has pursued independent studies classes in biology and human anatomy. She also loves German and hopes to minor in it in college. She is her physics club president, a member of the National Honor Society, and is taking four advanced placement classes this year as well as German VI. The York Food Bank has benefited from her volunteer work as has Well Span Health Services, where she has donated over 100 hours of her free time. She also cherises her time hunting with her father and is a member of the National Rifle Association.
Dixie spoke with poise and personality to the attendees of the H.O.P.E. scholarship award event. Only once did she falter, and that was when she touched upon her father’s cancer. As she had written in her scholarship application essay, “I am used to my father being the man who can do anything and never runs out of energy.” Seeing her hunting buddy lose weight and feeling “sick, tired, cloudy, and uncomfortable” has taken its toll on Dixie and her mother and younger sister. Her father’s illness may not have been Dixie’s original motivation for her wanting to major in pre-med at West Chester University, with the intention of going on to med school in ped
iatrics, but it’s an added factor in her determination to channel her love of science and helping people into a meaningful career.
By JEFF HOFFMAN (Editor - HOPE Lifeline Newsletter)
Imagine being able to use a high-energy beam weapon to fight cancer? Sound like something out of a science fiction novel? Well it’s done every day on thousands of cancer patients. Radiation therapy is one of the most common treatments for cancer. It’s often part of the treatment for certain types of cancer, such as cancers of the head and neck, bladder, lung, and Hodgkin disease. Often, radiation therapy is used in conjunction with surgery and chemotherapy when treating cancer. Radiation therapy uses X-rays, gamma rays and charged particles to shrink tumors and kill cancer cells. The radiation may be delivered by a machine outside the body , or it may come from radioactive material placed in the body near cancer cells. Systemic radiation therapy uses radioactive substances, such as radioactive iodine, that travel in the blood to kill cancer cells.
Once an oncologist determines that radiation therapy is needed they make a referral to a radiation oncologist. They, in turn, develop a patient’s treatment plan. The first step begins with simulation. During simulation, detailed imaging scans show the location of a patient’s tumor and the normal areas around it. These scans are usually computed tomography (CT) scans, but they can also include MRI, PET and ultrasound scans.
Radiation therapy involves the use of a machine called a linear accelerator. It’s purpose is to direct radiation to the appropriate spot. The machine may rotate around the table in order to direct the radiation at the appropriate angles. You should feel no pain during this test. You will also be able to communicate with your team who usually remain nearby in an adjacent room, monitoring the test.
Radiation therapy typically takes treatment sessions five days a week for one to 10 weeks. The total number of treatments depends on the size and type of cancer. Each session usually takes about 10 to 30 minutes. Often, the individual is given each weekend off from therapy, which helps with the restoration of normal cells .
Side effects can include Skin changes can include blistering, dryness, itching, and peeling. Other side effects of radiation depend on the area being treated, and can include: diarrhea, earaches, mouth sores, dry mouth, nausea, sexual dysfunction, sore throat, swelling, trouble swallowing, urination difficulties, and/or vomiting.
The information presented above is for informational purposes and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment recommendations. Consult your medical doctor or treatment team for information concerning your treatment and care.
By JEFF HOFFMAN (Editor - HOPE Lifeline Newsletter)
Each day, thousands of cancer patients walk through the doors of cancer clinics throughout the U.S. to receive radiation treatments. As they walk into the treatment room, a Radiation Therapist is there to greet them. Just who are these men and women who control these machines that save lives? Let’s pull back the curtain and look at one such person.
Meet Matt Bradford, a radiation therapist who works in Gastonia, North Carolina. Each day that Matt walks out the door to head for work, he knows he’ll be fighting cancer. Using the power of x-rays and gamma rays, he zeroes in with pin-point accuracy to kill off harmful cancer cells. But for Matt, it’s more than science, it’s a chance to change the lives of his patients. Matt’s journey along the “yellow brick road” wasn’t easy. Born and raised in Rochester, New York, he moved to New York City where he started working in radio and television. He left that vocation to join his brother working for an international web design company . The move to New York City started a sequence of events that would
ultimately shape his future.
September 11, 2001, was a day that changed Matt’s life and the world we all live in. The horror of that day played out right before Matt’s eyes as he and his brother watched the twin towers fall from their office window less than a mile from ground zero. Christmas Eve of 2002 would also be life changing as his mother was involved in an accident. Upon examination, the doctors discovered she had a brain tumor – in fact, Stage IV metastatic lung cancer. Matt decided to leave New York City and return home to Rochester to assume the role of his mother’s caregiver. During the time he was caring for his mother, Matt’s father become ill and was also diagnosed with cancer. He passed away within two weeks of his diagnosis. Matt’s mother would lose her battle to cancer just five weeks later. It was during this time that Matt first started to realize that maybe he was meant to be a caregiver.However, the idea of taking care of others would have to wait for almost a year as he struggled with the depression and grief that accompanied the loss of both parents in so short a period of time. Matt eventually decided to return to school. It was there that he met his future wife, Stefania. They moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, after Matt was accepted into the Carolinas College of Health Sciences.
When asked about his job as a radiation therapist, Matt explains that it is more of a calling—a feeling that he is in the right place doing the right thing. He’ll also quickly point out that the loss of his parents played a big part in making the decision to pursue this career. He loves working with cancer patients. Every day he finds inspiration in the courage and will to survive demonstrated by his patients. While he might look like a big tough guy on the outside, inside he’s a compassionate and gentle person. The perfect combination needed to make connections with those he treats, especially the younger patients. “You get to know these people. You learn about their families and their struggles,” Matt says.
Each day we encounter strangers, whether it is the mechanic that works on your car, the cashier at the grocery store or the caregiver to help ease your pain. We never know what burdens they carry or what path they’ve traveled unless we pull back the curtain and peek inside. People like Matt Bradford—a guy who much like the lion, the tinman and the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, finally found the things missing from his life and now enjoys precious rewards every day. Oh, and did I mention he has a dog that looks like ToTo.