Looking back: Toddler's outlook is positive in light of health issues

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of year-end stories looking back on some of the people and events in the news in 2013.


In August the Sterling community banded together and raised $15,000 to help the Shoemaker family.

In June, Linzi, the 2-year-old daughter of Jon and Jen Shoemaker, was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, a rare disease in which a solid tumor is formed by special nerve cells called neuroblasts. That month 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.

In August, Jen said tumors were found on her adrenal gland on her kidney and had spread throughout her body, as well as in her bone marrow.

An outpouring of support from the Sterling community, where the family lived and worked, followed the news of Linzi’s cancer. A fundraiser and spaghetti dinner was held to raise money to help the family get through the difficult time.

Both parents had to take time off from their jobs to relocate to be with Linzi. Jon worked for Foster Construction and Jen was an Intensive Care Unit nurse at Central Peninsula Hospital. The couple also has three other children, ages 6, 4 and 8 months.

Treatment has required travel back and forth from Alaska to Portland, Ore.

The family sold their Sterling home and most recently lived at the Walter J. and Ermalee Hickel House in Anchorage during Linzi’s treatment.

So far Linzi has endured six rounds of chemotherapy and in October she had major abdominal surgery to remove two tumors.

“She is doing awesome,” Jen said. “She has recovered very well.”

Today they are staying in the Ronald McDonald House in Portland, where they plan to be for the next eight months.

Linzi will soon have a MIBG scan and she will have a stem cell rescue near the end of December. Both Jen and Jon will have extended family travel to Portland to celebrate the holidays.

“We will probably be celebrating (Christmas) here at the hospital,” Jen said.

She said the goal is to get a tree in Linzi’s hospital room, to brighten the room and the spirits of all.

Jen said while Linzi has gone through so much this past year, she still has tons of energy and is a happy toddler. She recently had a ball riding on the tram to the hospital.

“She is very smiley and chatty,” Jen said.

Jen said the family is positive about the future.

“As long as the tumors are shrinking, her prognosis is still really good,” she said.