Some children don’t grow up dealing with hard-hitting circumstances until adulthood. Two children dealt with the hard-hitting for most of their childhood.
It certainly was hard-hitting for Joel Alsup and Lindsey Wilkerson. Alsup was seven when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and Wilkerson was 10 when she battled with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Childhood seemed grim for both.
“At the age of 10, I went from being a kid who had her whole life ahead of her to thinking that this cancer was a death sentence for me. But fortunately, our family found hope and support through St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital,” Wilkerson said.
“They discovered a tumor in my right arm. It had grown large enough that it broke a bone in my arm near my shoulder,” Alsup said.
Eventually Alsup lost his right arm. Only after both were declared cancer-free and reunited, did both become the happiest they have ever been in life.
After they became instant childhood friends, both lost contact after leaving for college, but reunited after both accepted jobs at St. Jude’s.
“When I met this guy, when I was in treatment, I admired him. I looked up to him. I thought he was such an incredible person. We grew in our friendship over the years,” Wilkerson said.
After working at St. Judes for awhile, both started to develop feelings for each other and Alsup decided to take their relationship to another level and propse to her.
“I was finally brave enough to tell her that I liked her, not only that, but I loved her. Luckily she felt the same way,” Alsup said.
“I could have never fathomed that I would be sitting here today at his side as his wife, having the privilege to be married on the grounds of the place that saved our lives,” she said.
Eventually both settled on September 1 as their wedding date, which symbolizes the first day of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
“It was the first day of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, because all of these pieces have come together to give us our ‘happily ever after,’” she said. “Now it’s our turn to pass that gift on.”
The couple had a chaplain (who met Alsup during his early days of treatment) officiate the ceremony. The couple also had other former cancer patients at their wedding party.
Both hope their story encourages individuals in their battle against cancer.
When doctors diagnosed J.J. Hanson with terminal brain cancer, he considered sparing his family, and himself, needless pain and suffering.
“I was done,” Hanson recalled. “Would this be easier if I just gave up–if I just said, ‘This is too much of a burden on my family, the pain is difficult, I don’t want to deal with this?’ What if I just said I’ve had enough and ended it.”
Hanson passed away in December 2017–but not from a lethal dose of medication. Rather, he spent his final days vigorously opposing physician assisted suicide.
Hanson was president of the Patients’ Rights Action Fund, an anti-euthanasia organization, during his battle with cancer. He ultimately chose to fight that battle to the end: “Every single day is a gift, and you can’t let that go,” Hanson explained in a video released by the organization.
Hanson received his cancer diagnosis in May 2014, after an MRI scan revealed two lesions on his left temporal lobe: evidence of Grade 4 glioblastoma. Doctors deemed the tumors inoperable, and gave Hanson four months to live.
Hanson and his wife Kristen faced “overwhelming grief” but sought a second and third opinion. They eventually located a neurosurgeon who was willing to operate on Hanson’s tumors. “We were so grateful,” Kristen recalled. “We had hope that with treatment we could get time together.”
After a successful operation, Hanson entered a clinical trial to receive chemotherapy and radiation. Initially, Hanson appeared to respond to the treatment. However, optimism soon gave way to despair: in 2014, Hanson caught a common cold, which resisted his body’s efforts to beat it back.
“Those were dark days,” Kristen told reporters. “He questioned everything–whether it was worth fighting, whether he was too much of a burden to his family and whether it would be better for everyone if he gave up.”
Ultimately, however, Hanson decided that the answer to each of those questions was “no.” He continued treatment, and by 2015 doctors found no evidence of his tumors.
“My hope and my fight is to keep [the cancer] at bay for as long as possible,” Hanson stated at the time. He had reached a clear conclusion regarding physician-assisted suicide: “You can’t unmake that choice. Once you do it, it’s done,” Hanson said.
Hanson’s heroic battle against his disease and against euthanasia won him valuable time with his family. Hanson lived to welcome his newborn son Lucas into the world. “Life was good,” Kristen told The Washington Post. “It was a gift to have all that time that we never expected.”
Although Hanson eventually passed away in 2017 after his cancer returned, Kristen feels grateful that her husband chose to live his life to its natural conclusion.
“It was time I would never give back for anything,” she said.
Last Saturday, July 21st, over six hundred families rallied together in the morning for a “reunion” in front of the Randall Children’s Hospital. Each family had surrendered a newly-born family member to the neonatal intensive care unit in the hopes of saving a loved one’s life. Now, whether they had visited the NICU several months ago or many years ago, all gathered together to celebrate life with music and other activities.
Another event took place in front of Randall Children’s Hospital later that day to raise money for cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The event, titled “Shave to Save a Life,” gathered together current and former patients, families, staff, and friends to shave heads to raise awareness and money for the cause. A diverse crowd offered up their hair for the cause, including young children, teens, and adults from all walks of life. The foundation funds more childhood cancer research grants than any other private organization in the United States.
View an article on Fox12 Oregon for more information, pictures, and videos of the two events.
From 10am on July 14th to 10am on July 15th, participants in the Relay for Life walked the track of Fowler Middle School in Tigard, battling the heat wave that has taken over Portland this last week. The event was held to raise money for cancer research through the American Cancer Society. The goal was to raise $66,000 in 24 hours.
The only time the participants stopped was to participate in the Luminaria Ceremony, in which candles were lit for those who had passed away from cancer, battled cancer and survived, or who are currently fighting cancer.
By the time the event was concluded, over $77,000 had been raised.
Burt Waugh, a cancer survivor, said in an interview with KATU2, “Being a survivor, it certainly means a lot to me and a lot of people within the company and relatives and friends that have had cancer.”
The event is open to more donations on their website until August 31st.
Five years ago, Atticus Lane-Dupre led his soccer team to a 10-9 defeat of the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field. Many professional players would consider winning against the Timbers, who took home the 2015 MLS Cup title, a significant achievement.
Lane-Dupre, however, wasn’t a pro soccer star at the time of his victory. He wasn’t even eligible for a driver’s license. In fact, he was only eight years old–albeit an eight-year-old with exceptional bravery and talent.
In late 2011, doctors diagnosed Lane-Dupre with kidney cancer. During treatment, he wished that his youth soccer team, the Green Machine, could play a game against the Timbers. Lane-Dupre’s dream became a reality thanks to Make-A-Wish Oregon, who partnered with the Timbers to arrange a match.
For Lane-Dupre, the game wasn’t a farewell to soccer, but rather a celebration of his recovery. On game day, May 1, 2013, his doctors had declared Lane-Dupre to be in remission after rounds of surgery and chemotherapy.
“The game occurred just when he was really getting better,” explained Bert Dupre, Lane-Dupre’s father. “So, that was an awesome celebration. He was done with chemo, he was feeling better and the whole city celebrated with us.”
3,000 fans showed up to cheer Lane-Dupre at Jeld-Wen Stadium as his team walked shoulder-to-shoulder with the Timbers onto the field. Lane-Dupre ultimately contributed four goals to the Green Machine’s effort, including the tiebreaker at the end of the match.
Now a 13-year-old middle school student at Mt. Tabor, Lane-Dupre still cherishes memories from his experience with the Timbers. “I remember the morning,” Lane-Dupre told The Oregonian. “All my friends, we were out on the blacktop before school and then the limo pulled up and we all just ran over and were really excited. The rest of the day is kind of a blur.”
The Timbers have continued to remain in contact with Lane-Dupre. In 2015, the club paid for Lane-Dupre and his family to attend the MLS Cup title match in Columbus, Ohio. The Timbers won the game to claim their first MLS Cup title. “That was really fun,” Lane-Dupre recalls. “We got to stay at the same hotel as the players. . . . I would go down and get hot chocolate and I would say hi to the players.”
“We just feel so embraced by the Timbers and the Timbers Army,” added Jennifer Lane, Lane-Dupre’s mom.