HOUSTON — Two months ago, Robin and Doug Stammen didn’t know what Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma was.
Now, everyday, they, along with the entire community it seems, are helping their 16-year-old son, David, fight the disease.
Halloween weekend 2015 the Stammen family went camping. Soon after, David began to not feel well. His parents chalked it up to the cold air and his susceptibility to allergies.
When David still wasn’t feeling right a week later, his mom took him to the doctor where they did a blood and strep test, and put him on antibiotics. Those didn’t work. Eventually the blood test came back positive for mononucleosis, or mono.
“So for the whole month of November we thought it was mono. … The family doctor just kept saying lots of fluids and rest,” Robin said.
In December the family had plans to visit David’s sister in Florida. They went even with David still not feeling well and he spent almost the whole time on the couch.
“He was exhausted. He wasn’t eating anything. So that’s when Doug and I decided that when we got home we were going to take him to Children’s Hospital in Dayton,” Robin said.
Robin and Doug saw one of their other daughters off to boot camp and took David to the hospital on Dec. 14.
“We were there maybe five minutes and all these doctors started coming in. It took them like no time to figure out what was going on with him,” Robin said. “They said the big signs were the low grade fever that just wouldn’t break, night sweats, and the swollen lymph-nodes.”
The hospital did tests and scans while the doctors, Robin and Doug held out hope it was just a nasty infection caused by the mono.
“We knew whatever it was, it was devastating, it was moving fast,” Robin said. “When they showed us the PET scan though, it was a real reality check. The spots on the scan lit his body up like a Christmas tree.”
The scan showed the cancer was all through his face and neck. It was around his heart and lungs and up his spine.
David received the diagnosis of stage four Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma the week after Christmas. This type of cancer has a 70 percent survival rate.
David qualified for a special research program for children with adult types of cancer. He goes in to the hospital for a week to have the chemo-therapy done, then is home for two, then goes back to the hospital for a week. During his two weeks home he has to visit the hospital once a week for a check up. David will have to go through this cycle for a minimum of six months and Children’s Hospital can treat him until he is 21.
If his body temperature tests 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit twice in one hour, or more than 100.5 once, they have to immediately drive to Children’s Hospital for an automatic two day stay. David has strict dietary restrictions and guidelines as well to follow while he’s at home, Robin said.
“The hospital staff has been very helpful and seem to go out of their way,” Doug said. “Every time they enter or leave the room they take the time to see if David or the family needs anything.”
The hospital staff has also taken the time to figure out what tastes good to David now that he’s lost his taste-buds.
“I ask a thousand questions to the doctors and if they don’t have the answer, within 10-20 minutes somebody tells me the answer,” Robin said. “The hospital staff make you feel comfortable, they make you feel at home.”
On Wednesday, David was feeling pretty good, he said. Besides being tired and having difficulty eating, David is still just a kid who likes to play video games, fish, and hang out with his friends. He’s had a group of friends come spend the night and stop by regularly. They look into everything and check on him, Robin said.
David is a sophomore at Hardin-Houston High School, but for now, school is being put on the back burner.
“The school understands what’s going on, and the doctors agree school is important both socially and academically, but by working with special programs through the school David should be getting caught up to his classmates soon,” Doug said.
“David’s always been the kind of kid who reads something then remembers it for the rest of his life. There will be stuff to adjust to with the side effects of the medicine, but reading and doing school work will be difficult for him until the medicine starts making him better,” Robin said.
Since David missed getting his license and a car when he turned 16, he got a puppy, named Sadie.
Something the Stammen family did not expect while going through all this was all the people who have come out of the woodwork to offer them support. “We have a medical card for David and some health insurance that he qualifies for through the hospital, but it just won’t cover everything,” Robin said. “But we’ll do what we can do and the hospital has been able to help us figure some of it out.”
Family friend, Angie Rosenbeck immediately started planning a 5K fundraising event with all proceeds going to help pay for David’s medical expenses. “I thought of a 5K because David does track at school and it’s a healthy thing for the community,” Angie said.
She said she had no idea what it took to put this size of an event on. The “Walk with a Lymph 5K Run/Walk” will be held Saturday, March 19, 2016 at 9 a.m. at Hardin-Houston Local School. Interested participants can register online at cantstoprunningco.com, find the registration sheet attached to this story on sidneydailynews.com, or contact Angie at email@example.com. She has a goal of getting 300 people signed-up. To be guaranteed a t-shirt you’ll need to be signed up by Feb. 26. T-shirts are also available for purchase by themselves if you won’t be participating in the event.
One day David was at the hospital, the Fort Loramie Basketball Team happened to be there passing out gifts.
“It was neat to see kids from our own community being so excited to know that they were helping somebody else,” Robin said. “Our community has just been phenomenal.” David’s social worker is also a Fort Loramie native.
A couple different people have ordered bracelets, David’s third grade teacher’s daughter passed away recently and asked people to donate to David’s fund in lieu of flowers, people have sent cards to him, groups at Hardin-Houston Local School have taken up collections, and neighbors have brought chili and cookies to their family.
Gift cards for gas have been given to the Stammen’s too. Robin said people understand the driving back and forth to the hospital can be pricey.
Picture Perfect, a photo studio in Sidney, volunteered to take Houston’s Homecoming photos this weekend and any money they raise will be put into David’s fund. David decided he might go to homecoming, even if it’s just for a little bit, he said Wednesday.
The Houston versus Russia Basketball game on Jan. 29 will honor David by having a “green-out” because green is the color of the cancer ribbon for his kind of cancer.
Doug, who is a firefighter for the Sidney Fire Department, said his crew did something very special for David on his birthday, Jan. 2. “Those guys surprised me and sent me pictures of themselves with their heads shaved, holding up signs with words of encouragement on them,” Doug said. “It made me feel good that I have such great brothers there at work. The next time I reported into work they shaved my head, the chief shaved his head, and the deputy chief and the training officer shaved their heads too.”
“Doug and I knew a lot of people, but I didn’t know we knew this many people. And I would have never thought in my life that this many people would come out of nowhere to show their support, that quickly,” Robin said.
Donations can be made to “David Stammen’s Cancer Fund” by calling or visiting any Osgood State Bank branch. David has requested that any amount of funds raised over the amount needed to pay his medical expenses be used to buy new gaming consoles and video games for Dayton Children’s Hospital.
Reach this writer at 937-538-4825; follow on Twitter @SDNAlexandraN