The Sterling community will hold a fundraiser and spaghetti dinner at 5:30 p.m. Friday to help raise money for the Shoemaker family and their daughter, Linzi, who suffers from pediatric cancer.
Linzi Shoemaker was a typical two-year-old girl who was always smiling, her mother, Jen, said. She was super happy and enjoyed talking on her play cellphone, dancing to music and playing with her baby dolls.
“Linzi would light up a room,” she said.
In June the toddler started complaining about pain in her knees when she climbed stairs, her appetite dwindled to nothing and at one point she stopped walking and standing altogether.
“It was really scary,” Jen said.
In late June, Jen and her husband, Jon, took Linzi to Providence Medical Center in Anchorage where she was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, a rare disease in which a solid tumor (a lump or mass caused by uncontrolled or abnormal cell growth) is formed by special nerve cells called neuroblasts.
According to kidshealth.org, normally, these immature cells grow and mature into functioning nerve cells. But in neuroblastoma, they become cancer cells instead.
Neuroblastoma most commonly starts in the tissue of the adrenal glands, the triangular glands on top of the kidneys that produce hormones responsible for controlling heart rate, blood pressure and other important functions. Like other cancers, neuroblastoma can spread or metastasize to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, skin, liver and bones.
For Linzi, the tumor was found on her adrenal gland on her kidney and has spread through her little body.
“(Tumors) are all over her body, because it is stage IV, it is in the marrow,” Jen said.
The family traveled to Portland, Ore., July 21 for Linzi’s chemotherapy.
Linzi started treatment and is beginning to feel better, surprising her parents each day with the amount of energy she has.
“She is doing very well,” Jen said. “She is in really good spirits.”
Linzi will now face six rounds of chemotherapy, a surgery, stem cell transplant, radiation and antibody therapy.
“Linzi’s surgery will be in October after chemo round five,” her mother explained. “The surgery is done to remove the remaining tumors not in the bone marrow.”
Currently Linzi has two tumors in her abdomen, which need to be shrunk by chemotherapy before they can be removed safely.
With months of treatment needed for Linzi to get better, the Shoemaker family must move to Portland.
Both parents had to take time off their jobs to relocate to be with Linzi. Jon works for Foster Construction and Jen is an Intensive Care Unit nurse at Central Peninsula Hospital.
“It takes two of us to manage everyone,” Jen said. The family also has three other children, ages 6, 4 and 4 months.
The Sterling community was overwhelmed with the news of Linzi’s cancer.
The Shoemakers oldest son, Levi, attends Sterling Elementary. The news of the family’s issue sparked concern and plans to hold a fundraiser began.
“In a small community, they all know us,” she said.
Krissy Mahan, one of ten organizers with the Sterling Parent Teacher Association, said they have received many donations from local businesses and individuals.
Linzi’s Fund Fest will be held at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Sterling Senior Center. The Sterling PTA has planned a silent auction, spaghetti dinner, carnival games and several businesses will be at the fundraiser selling goods and donating a portion of the proceeds to the Shoemaker family.
Jen said the community support means the world to her and the family.
“For the PTA and all others who have stepped up to help us, we are extremely grateful. The sense that we could never repay everyone for their generosity is overwhelming,” Jen said. “It shows us the great community that we are a part of and shows us what true friendship is.”
For those wanting to donate to help the Shoemaker family, Wells Fargo account 7349075072 has been set up to assist the family.
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.