Child recovering from cancer asks for gift donations to St. Jude's
Butterfield Firefighters Auxiliary fulfills wish by hosting toy drive
With the Christmas season officially here, children everywhere are anticipating the thrill of opening gifts on Christmas morning.
To help make that happen, Blazi Lowe, of Exeter, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor after starting kindergarten last fall, has a Christmas wish: She is asking the community for toy donations to help other children at St. Jude's Hospital battling cancer to have a good Christmas.
To fulfill her wish, the Butterfield Firefighters Auxiliary is hosting a toy drive on Dec. 10 at the station from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., for anyone who would like to help. Items donated should be unopened, unused and unwrapped, and can include toys for all ages. Examples include: toys, crayons, coloring books, books or beanie hats. Refreshments will be served at the event by auxiliary members.
After Lowe had surgery to remove the tumor last year, she was treated at St. Jude's, where she spent four months and developed friendships with other children also battling cancer. She continues to return as needed and is undergoing therapy. Lowe is now in first grade and in recovery.
"We got clean scans this last week when we were at St. Jude's," said Melissa Whisenhunt, Lowe's grandmother. "We still do physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy each, twice a week. We were at Bass Pro, and Blazi said, 'All my friends are there [at St. Jude's]. I hope they have a good Christmas.'"
"She told her mom and grandmother that she wanted to ask people to send toys to her friends, so they could have a good Christmas, too," said Laci Lynxwiler, auxiliary president. "It was her idea."
"She is a giver, and she wants to give back to the kids," Whisenhunt said. "She wants to make sure they are taken care of. She's just that way. What people don't understand about childhood cancer is there are no child drugs or child radiation [formulated for children]. It's adult treatment but in children. So you take chemo for children in adult strength and you know how sick that child's going to get? That's what happens. St. Jude's is not a cure-all hospital, its a research hospital."
"Those kids have to grow up so fast there, and their mentality is way above adults at all times. They're sick but they still have that fighting spirit and they think of others before themselves. It's unbelievable."
With the passage of medical marijuana on the rise in several states, Whisenhunt said St. Jude's uses a synthetic form of the plant as part of their treatment protocol.
"They prescribe it to children as an appetite stimulant," she said. "Once the kids get into treatment, eating is the last thing they want to do."
She described the struggles children had with eating during treatment, including a boy from Pennsylvania, who could only eat sweets, but doctors are happy to get any calories they can into them.
During her time at St. Jude's, Lowe made many friends fighting the same battle.
"She's got friends out of New York, Pennsylvania, and one in Springdale, Ark.," Whisenhunt said. "You get to be such a close-knit family because you live together for so long, and you take care of each others' kids. Everyone would have treatments the same day. You are one big family, and once you're in a St, Jude's family, you're in it forever. It didn't matter which kid was throwing up, you'd grab a towel to help."
"There's a type of cancer kids are coming up with called DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas). It's inside the brain stem, inoperable, and takes away all their motor skills. They lose everything to where they can't breathe and that's it. There is only a six to nine month life span. It is a brutal one. When you hear that diagnosis, you just cringe. With this one, they say there is no fighting chance. One day, we saw staff process 13 new families with childhood cancers."
Some of Lowe's friends are in recovery and holding steady, but not all have won their battles.
"There is one out of Chicago, she passed away six months ago," Whisenhunt said. "And the boy in Springdale with brain cancer, he has come back four times. So you get really close with your family. [When you receive a cancer diagnosis], you're desperate and want that monster gone. I'm holding onto my faith. Her doctor said this week the cancer will come back, but I'm holding onto my faith.
If anyone would like to donate toys but is unable to attend the event, they can contact any of the following auxiliary members: President Laci Lynxwiler, Vice President Lois Deener, Secretary Kim Garner, Treasurer Sherry Sears or Historian Jamie Lee.
For more information about the toy drive or to arrange a pick up, people may call Lynxwiler at 417-846-3700. All toys must be received by Sunday evening.
To follow Lowe's battle with cancer and her recovery, people may visit Blazi's Fight on Facebook.