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Pig Bowl helps area families


September 13, 2017

Pig Bowl website

Helping Hands: Sky Bichler is one of the beneficiaries of this year's Pig Bowl.

The Pig Bowl is back. The annual charity football game between Washington and Oregon law enforcement agencies will be held Saturday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m., at Sid White Field in The Dalles.

As in past years, the game is to raise funds for families experiencing medical crises. This year it will support one Washington family and two Oregon families.

The Washington family is that of Noah Messenger, the 18-year-old who broke his back in a fall off a cliff near Maryhill Winery. "Being a paraplegic is expensive," Messenger writes on a page for the Pig Bowl. "With wheelchair ramps, medical supplies, physical therapy appointments, doctor appointments, house alterations, and pain management being our initial focus, we are realizing now that a wheelchair-friendly vehicle would be a huge blessing and step towards regaining independence because I cannot transfer myself into most vehicles and can no longer drive normal cars, which means I have to depend on other people to take me anywhere. This has been such an abrupt and severe change that I am still going day by day and trying not to look too far into the future. I still have not given up hope of walking again someday, and am trying to do everything I can now to stay healthy and help my body heal. I am so happy to be alive, and it's been so amazing to see and hear about all the support. Thank you to everyone who prays for my family and for me. We know God has a plan, and we know His plans are best, so we continue to trust him. Our family is humbled to have been selected to be a part of the 2017 Pig Bowl, and we thank you for supporting us with your love and prayers."

One of the Oregon families is the Bichlers: Heather, Shawn, and Skylynn. Their story is recounted on their Pig Bowl page: "In Feb. 2016, Shawn started experiencing discomfort in his groin area. He kept pushing it off, thinking it wasn't anything serious. In June, he was finally convinced to go in and be checked out, as the discomfort and pain continued to get worse over time. Towards the end of June, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, confirmed by blood work and an ultrasound. He then had to be seen at urology. On July 7, 2016, Shawn went in for surgery to remove the left testicle, which was found at a Stage 1. After surgery, he was referred to be under active surveillance for the next few years-CT scans and X-rays every 6 months, along with blood work. So far, everything has been in the clear.

"With Shawn's battle still fresh in their minds, in Oct. 2016, Sky started having tongue and facial twitching and even went unresponsive within a few days after that. It was later found that she was having seizures and was diagnosed with Tuberous Sclerosis at the time. Prescribed medication seemed to help control her seizures through most of November, yet Sky's symptoms returned and grew more severe with 10+ episodes daily. On Dec. 7, 2016, Sky was hospitalized for seven days at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland, undergoing several tests (MRI, EEG, EKG, PET scan, ultrasounds on her heart and kidneys, genetic testing, and several medication changes). Results on the EKG showed that Sky had developed a minor form of Dilated Cardiomyopathy. She was prescribed heart medication to hopefully heal her heart condition. After being examined by the epilepsy specialist and reviewing the MRI, results showed Skylynn's brain had an abnormal growth, which was causing her seizures. Maintaining a low carbohydrate Modified Atkins Diet for Epilepsy was recommended by the neurology team to help Sky's body produce ketones instead of carbohydrates, in hopes that it would help reduce her seizures.

"Sky had surgery Jan. 3, 2017 to remove the abnormal growth, which was an eight-hour process. Sky was able to go home a couple days after surgery but was admitted to the local hospital because she wasn't eating or drinking anything the week following surgery. Eating and drinking again, Skylynn returned home to continue healing. Post-Op, Skylynn had left side weakness in her limbs; because of this weakness, she began physical therapy once a week in March 2017. After only three sessions with PT, Sky was no longer eligible because of her progress (though she was still unable to write or throw a ball with her left hand at that time). With therapy no longer available, the Bichlers had to take it upon themselves to help their daughter's physical needs.

"Skylynn was improving well, even faster than most expected until mid-April, when her seizures returned. Sky started having more weakness in her left arm and left leg and her leg started giving out on her at times. Towards the beginning of May, Sky had twitching in her left arm and leg, which made it difficult for her to walk. Then on May 31, 2017 Sky went in for another EEG, which showed seizure activity happening again. At that time, they confirmed that it wasn't Tuberous Sclerosis and planned on doing more tests, such as a lumbar puncture and another MRI.

On July 27th, 2017 Sky had an MRI and lumbar puncture. They are still currently waiting for the results. Sky will have to have another surgery in the near future, confirmed by her neurologist. At this time, Sky is still unable to walk much or even do her normal activities of daily living. Please keep this wonderful family in your prayers."

And the third family is also in Oregon; the Hutchinsons-Sherilyn, Steve, Lucas, and Amelia-need help for a dire condition facing Amelia.

"Amelia's journey began in April this year," her Pig Bowl page states. "Before a trip, she had a slight cough. I wanted to make sure she wasn't getting sick, so I felt her neck to see if her lymph nodes were enlarged. That's where I first felt a hard non-moveable lump that was larger than a quarter. Trying to not be over-reactive, I waited three weeks to see if it would go away. During that time it grew, and I knew something was not right. We saw her pediatrician, who agreed that it was not normal and decided to send us to see Pediatric Hematology/Oncology if the lump didn't subside in four weeks. I prayed about it and spoke with my coworkers and agreed that we needed to have this checked out now.

After our first meeting with oncologists in May, they said she looks way too healthy to be a cancer patient. The lump was continuing to grow and an ultrasound had shown it was solid and not a drainable cyst. Her blood work also showed no evidence of cancer. We were then sent to an infectious disease specialist to let them rule out Mono, cat scratch fever, and many other bacteria and viruses. By this time the lump had grown to 5 cm and was very prominent. She decided to have it removed so we could have answers. Her surgery was in the middle of June and left her with a scar the length of the side of her neck.

The surgeon said that it did not look cancerous because it came out cleanly. While waiting for pathology, we were nervous wrecks, not ever expecting the dreaded phone call we would receive. On June 29, our lives changed, and we felt like we were hit by a truck. The oncologists called and said Amelia has Burkitts lymphoma. She explained that it is a very aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and is very rare. She also assured us that it is very curable after aggressive chemo regimens. They had us drive to Portland within an hour of the phone call to perform CAT scans to see if she had masses anywhere else. They were concerned that she might have a mass on her spine and abdomen due to some symptoms she was having. Luckily after a very long day, the scan showed no other masses, which is a miracle with this type of cancer.

They let us go home and enjoy the Fourth of July with family and were set to figure out what stage she was the following week. That entailed sedating her and performing a spinal tap and two bone marrow biopsies. We received the call that it was not in her bone marrow or spine, so she was Stage 1 and would need two rounds of chemo-that would happen that Friday. When we showed up, they let us know that we hit another bump and they wanted to perform one more surgery to remove a lymph node on her opposite side of her neck that was slightly enlarged. So her third procedure in three weeks happened and came back with no cancer in it. As an answer to our prayers, and to the amazement of her oncologists, Amelia was officially Stage 1. We explained to Amelia and her big brother Lucas what to expect and that she would lose her hair. We thought this would be awful for her. After a few tears, she decided she wanted to shave her head. So the weekend before chemo, Clutch Hair Company in Hood River cut 12 peoples hair in support for Amelia and even let her help.

We were admitted in the middle of July to start her first round, which consisted of four chemo drugs over seven days. Amelia did so well that we got to leave on day five. The next week, her hair started falling out, and she handled it so beautifully. After two hard weeks dealing with sores in her mouth, severe stomach and leg pain, and being neutropenic, she perked back up and we started round two.

That round went just as well, and we are dealing with the side effects now, trying to get her healthy enough to start school. From here we sit, wait, and pray that the cancer does not return. We have cat scans and blood tests bimonthly to make sure, and after two years of clear scans, she will be considered cured. This has been my worst nightmare come true, but even though we feel like we are stuck in a whirlwind, we have seen God with us every step of the way and such an outpouring of love from this beautiful community. Every time we asked for prayers for specific ailments, those prayers were answered almost immediately. Thank you for all the prayers, love and encouragement we received. I do not think we could have done this without all of you. Amelia has shown that she is one of the toughest, most resilient little girls I have ever met, and we are so blessed to call her ours. We truly believe God will do amazing things in her life."


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