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Brink of Death: Junior responds to father’s cancer by holding garage sale

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[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Ceaseless sinus infections.

A bulging left eye, which he compared to googly eyes or a frog eye.

These symptoms were enough to make David Lee meet with Otolaryngologist Pete Batra at UT Southwestern Medical Center.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_raw_html]JTNDaWZyYW1lJTIwd2lkdGglM0QlMjI0MjUlMjIlMjBoZWlnaHQlM0QlMjIzNTAlMjIlMjBmcmFtZWJvcmRlciUzRCUyMjAlMjIlMjBzY3JvbGxpbmclM0QlMjJubyUyMiUyMG1hcmdpbmhlaWdodCUzRCUyMjAlMjIlMjBtYXJnaW53aWR0aCUzRCUyMjAlMjIlMjBzcmMlM0QlMjJodHRwcyUzQSUyRiUyRm1hcHMuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbSUyRm1hcHMlM0ZmJTNEcSUyNmFtcCUzQnNvdXJjZSUzRHNfcSUyNmFtcCUzQmhsJTNEZW4lMjZhbXAlM0JnZW9jb2RlJTNEJTI2YW1wJTNCcSUzRFVUJTJCU291dGh3ZXN0ZXJuJTJCTWVkaWNhbCUyQkNlbnRlciUyQyUyQkhhcnJ5JTJCSGluZXMlMkJCb3VsZXZhcmQlMkMlMkJEYWxsYXMlMkMlMkJUWCUyNmFtcCUzQmFxJTNEMCUyNmFtcCUzQm9xJTNEdXQlMkJzb3V0aHdlc3Rlcm4lMkJtZWRpY2FsJTI2YW1wJTNCc2xsJTNEMzEuMTY4OTM0JTJDLTEwMC4wNzY4NDIlMjZhbXAlM0Jzc3BuJTNEMTUuMzUwMjE1JTJDMTkuNzUzNDE4JTI2YW1wJTNCaWUlM0RVVEY4JTI2YW1wJTNCaHElM0RVVCUyQlNvdXRod2VzdGVybiUyQk1lZGljYWwlMkJDZW50ZXIlMkMlMkJIYXJyeSUyQkhpbmVzJTJCQm91bGV2YXJkJTJDJTJCRGFsbGFzJTJDJTJCVFglMjZhbXAlM0J0JTNEbSUyNmFtcCUzQnolM0QxNCUyNmFtcCUzQml3bG9jJTNEQSUyNmFtcCUzQmNpZCUzRDk2NTg1NDM2ODczNzQyNzYyODMlMjZhbXAlM0JsbCUzRDMyLjgxNjIxNCUyQy05Ni44NDU2MTMlMjZhbXAlM0JvdXRwdXQlM0RlbWJlZCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRmlmcmFtZSUzRSUzQ2JyJTIwJTJGJTNFJTNDc21hbGwlM0UlM0NhJTIwaHJlZiUzRCUyMmh0dHBzJTNBJTJGJTJGbWFwcy5nb29nbGUuY29tJTJGbWFwcyUzRmYlM0RxJTI2YW1wJTNCc291cmNlJTNEZW1iZWQlMjZhbXAlM0JobCUzRGVuJTI2YW1wJTNCZ2VvY29kZSUzRCUyNmFtcCUzQnElM0RVVCUyQlNvdXRod2VzdGVybiUyQk1lZGljYWwlMkJDZW50ZXIlMkMlMkJIYXJyeSUyQkhpbmVzJTJCQm91bGV2YXJkJTJDJTJCRGFsbGFzJTJDJTJCVFglMjZhbXAlM0JhcSUzRDAlMjZhbXAlM0JvcSUzRHV0JTJCc291dGh3ZXN0ZXJuJTJCbWVkaWNhbCUyNmFtcCUzQnNsbCUzRDMxLjE2ODkzNCUyQy0xMDAuMDc2ODQyJTI2YW1wJTNCc3NwbiUzRDE1LjM1MDIxNSUyQzE5Ljc1MzQxOCUyNmFtcCUzQmllJTNEVVRGOCUyNmFtcCUzQmhxJTNEVVQlMkJTb3V0aHdlc3Rlcm4lMkJNZWRpY2FsJTJCQ2VudGVyJTJDJTJCSGFycnklMkJIaW5lcyUyQkJvdWxldmFyZCUyQyUyQkRhbGxhcyUyQyUyQlRYJTI2YW1wJTNCdCUzRG0lMjZhbXAlM0J6JTNEMTQlMjZhbXAlM0Jpd2xvYyUzREElMjZhbXAlM0JjaWQlM0Q5NjU4NTQzNjg3Mzc0Mjc2MjgzJTI2YW1wJTNCbGwlM0QzMi44MTYyMTQlMkMtOTYuODQ1NjEzJTIyJTIwc3R5bGUlM0QlMjJjb2xvciUzQSUyMzAwMDBGRiUzQnRleHQtYWxpZ24lM0FsZWZ0JTIyJTNFVmlldyUyMExhcmdlciUyME1hcCUzQyUyRmElM0UlM0MlMkZzbWFsbCUzRQ==[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Instead of birthday streamers and vanilla cake with “Happy Birthday, Susan” written in icing, the UT southwestern medical facility welcomed David Lee. If one were to envision a classic doctor’s office exam room, that would be where David sat awaiting his nasal inspection. The recently acquainted lab coat, Batra, leaned David back in a dentist-like chair and used a scope with a camera fastened to it to inspect David’s nose. The result: A biopsy, meaning only one thing for David.

“It was not a very nice feeling,” David said. “It was painful because I had a big tumor in my nose and … I knew right then, when he said the word ‘biopsy’ that I had cancer.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_raw_html]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[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Coinciding with David’s wife Susan’s birthday, May 11, this day in 2011 marked the beginning of treatment that ensued due to junior Kristen Lee’s father, David, coming home with neuroblastoma.

Surface level explanations were provided for Kristen and her brother, Michael, but the details and risks associated with this head and neck cancer remained a mystery to Kristen in the beginning.[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][divider line_type=”No Line”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

“[My mom] didn’t really tell me a lot,” Kristen said. “I didn’t know any better. When I first found out, I was confused, I didn’t know what [neuroblastoma] was. Once he started going through treatment, I was like, that doesn’t look good.”

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]A laundry basket looking sheet of plastic mesh, heated by boiling water, was placed on David’s face to create a mold for the radiation treatments, fastening David to a table, rendering him immobile. Teeth made contact with a popsicle stick for him to bite down on as invisible lasers part of radiation pierced through the mold.

“It broke my heart,” Susan said. “I also had to pretend to be strong. I tried to shield [Kristen]. Lots of people came to take [care of Kristen] … She probably thought she was popular that year.”

Three months of body molds, MRI’s, tubes and chemotherapy replaced sitting at Cash America, David’s previous job.

“It was hell,” David said. “It was no beach party. The radiation burned my throat, changed my voice, affected my vision, affected my arm and movement. I have pain all over everywhere pretty much all the time, so it was horrible. The only things that helped me were my daughters and my wife and my neighbors and my friends and all of the Hebron High School community because … friends all helped.”

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][image_with_animation animation=”Fade In” img_link_target=”_self” image_url=”5761″ alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]Memories flood back for Susan as Kristen models the mold that locked David in while he received radiation treatment. “He had to be locked in one of these things and then shot up with radiation in a tube like an MRI,” Susan said. “It’s very claustrophobic. He hated this thing.” Photo provided by Susan Lee[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Hair fell, medicine dripped and time passed. Vomiting noises bounced off the wood floors, creating acoustics of sickness due to the lingering effects of chemotherapy which according to Susan brought David to the brink of death.

In the next few months, the smell of evaporated milk wafted throughout the living room signifying the arrival of a new addition to the medicinal regime: The feeding tube.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

“I remember the feeding tube because I loved the smell of the liquid and I would always pour it into the top of the thing … and I took sips of it. It was good.”

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Kristen not only marveled at the white substance in David’s feeding tube, but in a hole the size of a belly button that resulted from the tube’s insertion.

“It’s going to be an indentation/belly button for a long time,” David said, flashing his second belly button. “You go into the doctor and they lay you down, put a foot on your chest, and they yank and out it comes and it closes up.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]

Fifty percent of patients with head and neck cancer face malnutrition. The most common treatment for this is a feeding tube containing protein or amino acids, carbohydrates, fat, water, minerals and vitamins.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]While the feeding tube lay downstairs, sleeping bags lay in the game room just up the flight of stairs. Childhood friend and soon-to-be garage sale co-founder, Cailee Dennis, bounced questions about cancer to Kristen after her own mother was diagnosed.

Bonded by cancer, Kristen, Dennis and additional friend Stefani Doyle, whose mom was diagnosed around the same time, created a way to help cancer patients. This desire manifested itself into a garage sale in which all the proceeds would be donated to the American Cancer Society. Anna Elkin, another friend of Kristen, soon became the manager the group needed in order to keep the girls on task and organized.[/vc_column_text][divider line_type=”No Line”][vc_column_text]“Instead of feeling sympathy for [cancer patients], I wanted to help them,” Kristen said. “I couldn’t really help them because that stuff would make me sick, looking at that. So I help them in a different way … I wouldn’t be who I am today if that never happened.”[/vc_column_text][vc_raw_html]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[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]After the idea of the sale became reality in 2011, the news hit friends, teachers and parents’ ears, leading to donations coming in for Kristen to sell in the sale. In three years, the Lee’s scored the Trinity Medical Plaza venue for the 2014 sale. Star Wars costumes lay on the floor, the smell of vomit lingered from a child’s upset stomach, and clothes lay in boxes waiting to be displayed. In total, the cancer garage sale filled up 20 rooms with donations.

“Even though it was a lot of hard work, we’d say ‘I’m panting, this box is heavy, look at all the donations in the house, we’ve got to move it, but, guess what, we aren’t in a hospital,” Susan said. “We aren’t begging God to live through the night. We are just begging him, ‘Oh, get this box lighter.’”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][image_with_animation animation=”Fade In” img_link_target=”_self” image_url=”5765″ alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]After a child’s upset stomach led to vomit in the corner, two volunteers clean the floor of the Trinity North Medical Plaza. Photo provided by Susan Lee[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Garbage bags and buckets filled with donations came from a variety of sources ranging from neighbors, friends, and even the Uber store who donated Macy’s hand-me-downs and clothing racks, according to Kristen.

The community and local stores also rose to the occasion. The owner of Castle Hill’s balloon shop, Celebrate it! arrived before the sun came up to arrange a balloon arch at the medical center. Community Food and Juice brought the volunteers food, varying from McAlister’s to Chick-fil-A, for four days. From band students to members of the drill team, the school was well represented by its volunteers and English teacher Cynthia Thakady and Assistant Principal Amy Obenhaus left with bags in tow.

“We didn’t just do this ourselves,” Susan said. “The thespian group was there, the soccer girls were there, several drill team girls were there. There’s no way we could have done that without everybody.”

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width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]American Cancer Society representatives simultaneously hugged and accepted the donation money. With all the help, Kristen and her team filled a box with cash, adding up to $15,300 last year. While still collecting money, Kristen plans to reach $30,000 after the 2014 sale.

“You don’t get the feeling of how much you make until you turn it into the American Cancer Society,” Kristen said. “They make a really big deal out of it.”[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][image_with_animation image_url=”5766″ alignment=”center” animation=”Fade In” img_link_target=”_self”][vc_column_text]In all, Kristen will turn in $30,000 to the American Cancer Society from the 2014 sale. Photo by Olivia Bragg[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Starting out as simply a thought formed from her father’s cancer, the idea of the cancer garage sale transformed into something greater. The sale, along with its volunteers, grew. It grew from a few friends selling random donations out of the Lee’s garage to one held in a hospital wing with 20 designated rooms.

“Now people say ‘Oh, you’re the garage sale people,’” Susan said. “It’s a lesson that one person can start something big.”

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Brink of Death: Junior responds to father’s cancer by holding garage sale