Faith Matters Benefit set for Feb. 27
By Holly Neumann
n Iola family shared their journey with cancer and how an upcoming benefit will help them.
When Faith Stubinski, 15, first complained about pain in her shoulder, her mother Angie thought she had just slept on it wrong or possibly strained it in her physical education class.
“I’ve never been someone who panics when the kids were sick,” said Angie. “We’ve had some major health issues in the family with some of Faith’s siblings, so I’ve learned to take much in stride.”
But when Faith did not seem to be getting any better, they decided to see a doctor.
“By this time, she didn’t really want to use her left arm and she sat in a very guarded manner,” said Angie. “We saw the nurse practitioner in Iola and she examined Faith and thought maybe she was having an issue with her shoulder joint. She wanted to get an X-ray and possibly start some physical therapy.”
The family headed to St. Michael’s to get the X-ray and was instructed to wait until the radiologist could read it before they left.
“We waited and waited,” Angie said. “I kept thinking that it was funny that they weren’t letting us go.”
When the news finally came that Faith’s lung was filled with fluid and that is could possibly be pneumonia, it did not sit well with Angie, who had worked in health care for many years.
“It would be atypical for her to not have symptoms other than that, but not totally unheard of in kids,” Angie thought. “I kept saying that it didn’t make sense though – she wasn’t sick.”
The family was directed to put Faith on an antibiotic and steroids and re-evaluate her on the following Tuesday.
Angie recalls Faith asking about what was going on.
“What if I have cancer or something?” Faith asked her mother.
“You don’t have cancer, Faith. You’ll be fine,” was Angie’s response.
Seeing no improvement, Faith was admitted to the hospital in Marshfield for observation.
After having more X-rays and a CT scan, two pediatricians showed up at Faith’s hospital room door.
“Uh, oh,” thought Angie. “They told me that they found a mass in Faith’s chest and they think it’s a lymphoma. I immediately started to cry. Lymphoma, isn’t that cancer?”
The tumor was pressing on her lymph nodes in her chest and causing all the fluid. Her lung wasn’t actually full, it was collapsed and the pleural space where her lung should be was full of fluid.
More tests were scheduled immediately.
“When I got back in the room, Faith was googling lymphoma. She looks at me and says, “So I have cancer, right?” I said yes, and hugged her, and asked her if she was ok,” said Angie.
Faith had immediate concerns.
“I heard the word lymphoma first and I wasn’t quite sure what it was so I googled it and that’s when I saw the word cancer and everything inside of me went numb,” said Faith. “I didn’t know what to do. I thought of everything in my life that I hadn’t accomplished yet, getting my driver’s license, going to college, traveling the world and getting married. I thought all of that wasn’t going to happen because I thought I was going to die.”
In the days that followed, further testing revealed that not only was the tumor in her chest huge, but that Faith was filled with multiple other tumors as well.
“She had the large one in her chest, five or six smaller ones in the pleural space of the left lung, one in her breast, several in her liver, several in her uterus, all of her lymph nodes from the neck down were involved and a few others scattered around,” said Angie. “Seeing that was terrifying. Faith was asleep when those results came in and I didn’t tell her for a long time the extent of the tumor involvement. She didn’t need to know that. This was all scary enough for a 15 year old girl.”
After several surgeries and a biopsy, Angie sat and watched as her little girl’s health declined.
“She was moved to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) for her recovery,” said Angie. “We were told we may not have a final diagnosis of the biopsy until Monday, so we were facing a long weekend.”
Finally on March 13, Faith’s oncologist said she had some news.
“If you’re going to have cancer, this is the one to have, she told us,” said Angie.
Faith had T-lymphoblastic lymphoma, a type of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is highly treatable and has a high rate of remission.
“It’s a cancer that has many similarities to the childhood leukemia that many of us have heard about,” said Angie. “She has no bone marrow involvement. Lymphoma is more characterized by the tumors. Faith had a lot of tumors, so she was classified as a Stage 3 cancer. That was frightening. Her oncologist told us to not focus on that; it was still very treatable at this high stage.”
For months now, Faith has endured chemotherapy treatments.
She finds the hardest part to be that she is missing out on a lot of the teen experiences.
“I had to put off getting my driver’s license and I usually don’t have enough energy to hang out with my friends or go to the movies on the weekend,” said Faith, who has missed out on a majority of her sophomore year at Iola-Scandinavia High School. “Nausea is another problem that I have. The chemo makes me very sick and there are times that for a few days after I get chemo I have to stay laying down because if I’m sitting or standing I feel like I’m going to puke. I guess the hardest part is knowing that I have a lot of limits now.”
Faith’s biggest fear is that when she is finally done with chemo, she will go in for a check-up and the doctors will say that her cancer is back and she will have to go through this all again.
Along with all the physical issues that come with cancer, there are financial ones as well.
This is where Faith’s aunt, Julie Glodowski, stepped up to the plate and began planning a benefit for the family.
“This benefit is important to me because first and foremost I love Faith, my sister and the rest of the family. I have seen how the financial strain has affected them,” said Glodowski. “It’s hard enough to have to deal with the strain of a sick child and trying to be there for the other kids without having to deal with paying all of the normal bills along with the added financial burden.”
The Faith Matters Benefit is scheduled to take place from 1-7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, at Silver Lake Lanes in Scandinavia,
There will be an 8 pin tap, raffles, food, a bake sale and more.
Proceeds from the event will be used to pay for bills, living expenses and extra costs associated with commuting to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield for treatment.
“Having this benefit really helps me see that there are many people that care about my family and me,” said Faith. “I am completely astonished by the amount of people that have been helping and donating to this benefit. It makes me really happy and it means the world to me.”
According to Angie, having this benefit makes the family feel loved.
“We are so lucky to live in a community that rallies together to support those in need,” she said.” I have not been able to work full time since Faith was diagnosed and our expenses are much greater than my income at this point. We are so relieved to have the benefit to ease some of the strain.”
She went on to say that their journey is far from over.
“Faith still has a long way to go,” said Angie. “She’ll have had almost a year of intensive chemo treatments and then will go on a maintenance plan for another 18 months.”
Faith is definitely a fighter.
“My strength has come from my family and friends,” said Faith. “I don’t know what I would do without them. They have all believed in me this entire time and they never once let me believe that I wasn’t going to make it through this.”