PLOVER (WAOW)-- Lily Beyer knows a good cause when she sees one. She certainly spotted one last fall when she learned family friend Cindy Chelcun's husband was suffering from stomach cancer.
"When I found out I tried to think of many ways, with my Mom, how to help," Lily said.
What the 10-year-old came up with was cookies--homeade chocolate chip.
She said, "You would have a dozen cookies made and a "Be Strong Hearted" wristband for ten dollars."
Be Strong Hearted are words to live by for the Chelcun clan. When patriarch Greg was diagnosed with stomach cancer in September of 2007 at age 56 it was an ending he knew too well.
"My husband's mother died of stomach cancer in 1982, just a few months after our son was born," said Greg's wife, Cindy Chelcun.
The family lobbied for genetic testing. The tests uncovered a hereditary gene mutation that makes a person extremely suspectible to a late stage stomach cancer called Hereditary Diffuse Gastric Cancer or HDGC. The average age of onset is 38. The hereditary implication led to Greg's siblings and children getting tested. So far 7 of 8 carry the mutation.
"The cancer lies in the lining of the stomach so it's very hard to detect. It's almost like trying to find a needle in a haystack," said Cindy.
Greg died from the cancer in February. Two weeks later his son, Brian, became the third person in the family to grasp prevention. He underwent a total gastrectomy or complete stomach removal.
Cindy said, "For Brian, at 26, that was quite early, but one of his initial biopsis was evaluated by a specialist in Portugal who determined there was a precancer, and so that was a pretty firm decision for him."
The surgery essentially rewires the plumbing.
"So food goes in the normal way through the esophogus and then the small intestine is brought up to replace the stomach. All the ductwork from the pancrease and the bile from the liver is still connected, but there is a procedure that connects the system for the new plumbing," said Cindy.
For Brian, and Greg's brother and sister-who've also had the surgery, it's a change in lifestyle without fear of this cancer being caught when it's too late.
For Lily, it's a cause she can lend her talents too. She baked 41 dozen cookies during her first fundraiser for HDGC. Friends and family, her parents co-workers, they all proudly payed that 10 dollars for some delicious cookies.
"We waited for the cookies to cool and then put them in boxes. Then, we had little ribbons that we tied on," Lily said. "And, the little card that talked about Be Strong Hearted and then the wrist band."
Raising $410 for research was reward itself. It was only capped by the moment Lily gave Greg the money.
Lily said, "He was very happy. He was very excited."
It was a moment for him.
"He didn't really know. So, when we sat down and told him, he was very surprised," Lily said.
It was a moment for his family.
"He was very touched by her effort and dedication and the love she showed for him by doing all that work," said Cindy.
It was a moment for a little girl with big ambition.
"I felt very good being that I did something for someone else," Lily said.
Greg and Cindy's daughter has also tested postive for the mutation. She's deciding whether to have her stomach removed.
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