Conquering cancer: Jeff Gordon shares common quest with Bremen students
INDIANAPOLIS — Most of Bremen’s 4,500 residents know that SPB is shorthand for Shine-Pray-Believe. The initials represent remarkable community support for three local boys recently diagnosed and treated for cancer within a six-month span at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.
Last Thursday, sports-loving teenagers Dylan Shumaker, Brock Meister and Seth Young shared their cancer battle with four-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jeff Gordon at the 12th annual Jeff Gordon Bowling Event benefiting Riley Hospital. They were among six Riley Hospital families invited to bowl at the “Hats Off to Hope” Dr. Seuss-themed event. Twenty-two NASCAR celebrities were also in attendance, and the community of Bremen is grateful for Gordon’s support.
“When you talk about kids that need Riley, that person’s me,” said Shumaker, now a Riley cancer survivor.
“It has helped raise awareness of childhood cancer in Bremen and the need for funding for research,” says Meister’s mother Jen.
After severe leg pain sidelined Shumaker, a 16-year-old sophomore and three-sport athlete, an MRI in June 2012 revealed three tumors on his back. He was airlifted to Riley Hospital from Memorial Hospital in South Bend and diagnosed with myxopapillary ependymoma, a form of spinal cord cancer. Dylan underwent surgery followed by 33 proton radiation treatments.
The day after Dylan’s final treatment, on Oct. 12, his classmate Brock Meister, also 16, was taken by ambulance to Riley Hospital and diagnosed with a rare malignant brain tumor called a germinoma. Meister, who had been battling headaches and vision changes, completed a 12-week cycle of chemotherapy and four weeks of proton radiation therapy.
Exactly one month after Brock arrived at Riley, Seth Young, a 12-year-old fifth-grader at Bremen Elementary School, had a blood test with alarming results. Young was admitted to the Riley Hospital emergency department that same evening and diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia the next day. His cancer is in remission, and he is undergoing a three-year treatment program.
“All of these boys are very brave,” said Melissa Manges, Bremen High School guidance counselor. “They’ve taught their parents, siblings, friends and teachers what it truly means to live life each day.”
Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation has raised $3.5 million in gifts and pledges to Riley Children’s Foundation. The foundation’s Pediatric Cancer Research Fund provides resources for Riley Hospital and Indiana University School of Medicine researchers seeking to impact treatments, therapies and cures.
Riley Hospital’s Cancer Center, a national leader in providing clinical care and conducting research for pediatric cancer, treats 85 percent of all Indiana children diagnosed with cancer. Each year, approximately 250 children in Indiana are diagnosed. The Riley Hospital Cancer Center’s achievements during the past decade include increasing survival rates by 10 percent for children with high risk neuroblastoma and acute myelogenous leukemia.