In August 2008, at age 14, our daughter Shea was diagnosed with nodular sclerosing Hodgkins lymphoma. She has been battling Hodgkins and the complications of treatment ever since.
We are humbled by, and grateful for, the wonderful support from friends, family, members of our community, even perfect strangers who have reached out to help ease the burden of medical and travel expenses related to experimental treatment in New York.
Checks can be made out to the Shea Anderluh Medical Expense Fund, c/o Chase Bank, 1 N. Dunton, Arlington Heights, IL 60005.
Shea's journey began July 2008, when she began to lose her voice. Visits to the pediatrician ruled out mono and strep, so we were referred to an ear-nose-throat specialist. He found that her left vocal cord wasn't functioning (unilateral vocal cord paralysis). He felt it was probably caused by a virus, but ordered a brain MRI and CT scans of neck and chest to rule out an obstruction of the nerve leading to the vocal cord.
On Friday, August 22, Shea underwent the tests. We were shocked to learn that there is a grapefruit-sized mass in her chest, on the right side in the area between the heart and the collarbone. Because the mass surrounds her windpipe, we were told to come into Children's immediately. Apparently they feared that she could stop breathing in her sleep.
When they saw her, however, they were impressed by her healthy appearance, and also by the fact that she had survived two weeks of band camp without experiencing any shortness of breath or fatigue. In fact, other than the strained voice, she showed no other symptoms. This was very good news. But after a painful biopsy surgery, we heard the words no parent is prepared to hear. Shea had Hodgkins Lymphoma, nodular sclerosing variant. Further tests showed her cancer to be stage 2A.
Between the end of August and December 1, 2008, Shea underwent five rounds of chemotherapy. Her treatment included the following:
Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) - day 1 and 2
Bleomycin - day 1 and 8
Vincristine - day 1 and 8
Etoposide (VP-16) - days 1,2,3
Prednisone - days 1-7
Cytoxan - day 1
Mesna - day 1
Zofran - as needed for nausea
Bactrim - 3 days/week
Neulasta - once every 3 weeks
While Shea was able to have most of her treatment as an outpatient, she was admitted to Children's twice after spiking fevers. She battled a bacterial infection as well as an allergic reaction to Bleomycin, and we learned to be especially cautious when her counts were low. In spite of it all, Shea managed to keep her spirits up and her crazy sense of humor intact, thanks to the support of family, friends, neighbors and strangers. It took a tough situation to make us understand how truly blessed we are!
A month after completing chemotherapy, Shea had 14 days of radiation -- the last day was January 22, 2009. She was OT -- off treatment -- until April, when PET and CT scans showed no significant changes. Unfortunately, she began to display some worrisome symptoms (itching, night sweats, weight loss) a few weeks later. Scans at the end of June showed that her disease had returned and had spread to her lungs. Because of her new symptoms and the increase in the tumor's size, her Hodgkin's Lymphoma is now staged at 4B. Chemotherapy begins again on June 29th, with a stem cell transplant to follow some time in the future.
Thank you to all the prayer warriors out there who have supported us during these difficult months. We are SO GRATEFUL for all the support, encouragement, meals, gifts, cards, calls and prayers. Friends and family near and far continue to keep us going as we wait... and wait... and wait for good news. Keep praying for Shea to be cancer-free!
Thanks for visiting Shea's site, and be sure to leave a note in the guestbook. We love hearing from our friends!
The Anderluh Family
Liz, John, Megan (20), Shea (18), and Jamie (12)
The first anniversary
Jul 30, 2013 10:08amThe first anniversary of Shea's death has come and gone. The 25th of July, and the days leading up to it, felt strange to me and John; coming home from Traverse City meant facing reality head-on, with plenty of tears on my part. On the way home from TC I stopped at our cottage, with plans to meet up with old friends Cindy and Heather in Three Rivers. But reality bit me, first with an onslaught of house flies, then with a sopping-wet bedroom carpet (beneath a wall-mounted air conditioner which had been running for several weeks). I ended up spending an extra night there, drying out the rug while killing flies. From the sublime to the ridiculous.
I came home on Tuesday to memories of the year prior. Those days remain as vivid as ever in my memory, and trigger lots of sadness. John felt it, too, and while he wished he could have taken time off from work, he is adjusting to the demands of a new position and wasn't comfortable cutting out early. And so we both spent much of the week alone in our grief.
I say alone because Jamie seems not to share our sadness. She did ask me, a couple of times on the 25th, if I was ok. But when I asked how she was doing, and whether she thinks about Shea or feels sad, she said no, and that she was fine. A grief counselor to whom I spoke yesterday indicated that her feelings are normal, even though I have trouble understanding them. Indeed, I have struggled all along to understand how seemingly unaffected Jamie has been by Shea's illness and death -- but I guess that's the difference between a mother's heart and a 13-year-old sibling. Everyone grieves differently and there is no right or wrong way to do it; I should know that better than anyone.
John and I were touched by many loving, thoughtful messages last week, from friends and family near and far who remembered Shea on the anniversary. Flowers came from Aunt Linda with this note: "I carry her in my heart and feel her watch over me with that huge smile, urging me to do the best I can." More flowers from Nadya, with another touching note: "As one mother to another, my heart breaks over and over for you... rest assured, Shea is not forgotten." Compassionate words from other bereaved parents, Julianne and Mark: "Three girls -- what more could we have asked for?" and from Kathy and Steve: "Hang in there, Tough Cookie." Framed lyrics from "Blackbird," sung at Shea's funeral mass, from Lilan and Kurt. Beautiful notes from Monica, Coleen, Kathy, Lorel, Jeff & Denise. Flowers and companionship from Chanelle. Loving text messages from Bernadette, Joanna, Val, Alex, Heidi, Lori, Debbie, Susan, Katie, Beth, Kathy, Lauren and Kathleen. A visit from Molly and Katie. Anonymous gifts, left on Shea's table on our porch: flowers, candles, a Relay for Life luminaria. And on Facebook, dozens of messages of love and support from friends and strangers alike -- all folks whose lives she touched. I was especially moved to see pictures posted by her friends, visiting her grave, many leaving gifts. The outpouring of love truly helped us get through a tough week, and while we can never fill the hole left by Shea's passing, we are grateful for the kind and thoughtful support we've received, before, during, and after.
Last week also brought the news that Shea's best friend, Molly, was in a very serious car accident. After being sideswiped by a speeding car in highway traffic, she careened into a semi, then spun into the median. Her car was totaled. She came out unscathed. Her mother told me that she felt the presence of her guardian angel -- Shea -- protecting her. This is not the first instance of Shea's intervention... another of her closest friends, Lauren, came out of a car wreck last year with only a broken foot; and a friend and homecoming date, Nick, miraculously survived a fall from a third-story window onto concrete last fall. It's comforting to think that Shea was looking out for them.
Keep watching over us, Shea. We miss you terribly.
We'll meet you there.
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