Past Featured Heroes

Amy LeClaire’s Story

Amy, our spunky and active 7 year old daughter, had been complaining of stomach pains for awhile, and we had thought that she possibly had food allergies. Her appetite had become minimal, and she was starting not to feel well in general. We brought her to the pediatrician several times and then ended up at a Gastrointestinal Specialist. She went from an x-ray, to an ultrasound, to a CAT scan in one day. After the imaging, they found that she had a mass the size of a Kleenex box in her small abdomen.

Andrea, Amy, Ben and Mike

On February 26th 2009, our little daughter was officially diagnosed with a malignant abdominal tumor following exploratory surgery. Initially, they could not confirm what kind of tumor it w as, and they had to send the biopsies away to be evaluated. They told us it was a “nasty” tumor, and they started very aggressive chemotherapy on March 4th. She ended up staying in the hospital for over a month. The tumor was disintegrating so fast because of the chemo, it caused a bowel obstruction. The tumor had been adhered to the intestine, and as it was shrinking, it pulled the intestine into a 90 degree angle and caused the bowel obstruction. She had surgery to correct this, and it took awhile for her to start eating. She also had intermittent hospital stays for various reasons, but she always had a positive attitude, and usually a smile on her face!

Amy and her mom

They did determine that the huge mass was a Wilm’s tumor, which is in the kidney. Usually this tumor will grow into the kidney, but Amy’s tumor grew out from the kidney, and this is very unusual. She has had many ups and downs with the effect of chemo and her body recovering from such a large tumor. The tumor and her kidney were removed May 24th, and she had 6 days of radiation therapy after the removal. Her last day of chemo was September 14, 2009. We are beyond grateful for her recovery, and for the research that has gone on for decades prior to Amy’s Wilm’s tumor. Without it, there would not be the expertise needed to treat her and allow her to have a complete recovery.

Amy and her dad

In the beginning of May 2009, we were invited to attend a Heroes Forever weekend at the YMCA of the Rockies at Snow Mountain Ranch in Winter Park. After all Amy and the rest of us had been through, this was a weekend that gave us all hope that life could become normal again. We found support, peers, and a new found trust that everything would be “OK”. We were so grateful to have this opportunity to be with others who had gone through something like this before us, and others who were in similar situations. Heroes Forever made a big difference in Amy’s outlook, and continues to be a group and community for Amy, her twin brother Ben, and her parents to belong to, and do things with on a regular basis.

Amy continues to have a quarterly MRI and CT Scan to make sure that she is “clean” of any cancer. She had her first in February, and received a clean status, and her next one will be April 30th. Amy’s oncologist, Dr. Julie Zimbelman, never says Amy is cured of her cancer but forever in remission.

Emily Rose Funk's Story

Emily in 2009

Emily and her brother Andrew

A couple of years ago, Emily Rose Funk was a normal 5-year-old playing soccer and taking ballet. Her arm was really sore one night after ballet, so her parents, Steve and Margaret Funk, thinking she probably just strained her arm, took her in for an x-ray “just to be sure”. Little did they know their lives would forever be changed. Emily and her parents were plopped right into the Children’s Hospital of Denver’s Oncology/Hematology unit. Emily was diagnosed with Osteorsarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Though she has undergone treatment and surgery, and her cancer is no longer visible, Emily will have to undergo more surgeries to physically bring the arm back to normal. In spite of the medical treatments and hospital stays, Emily is a typical 3rd grader at Bethlehem Lutheran School. The Bethlehem family has been an incredible support to Emily, her parents Steve and Margaret and her younger brother Andrew.

Emily, Andrew, and Dad