Thursday, December 31, 2009

Strength, Courage and Cancer

By Rachel Cassano

Dana Shedd is a 13 year-old athlete. She’s just like any other athlete a strength coach may train, except she has cancer.

Five years ago, Dana was diagnosed with a form of leukemia that only ONE in ONE MILLION children will get. Dana knows that her leukemia can’t be cured with medicine, but she isn’t afraid – she’s determined and battles on.

She is a young woman of many accomplishments. She’s currently on the Indiana Olympic Development Program (ODP) team for her age. She was fortunate to be picked as the 2008 Shining Star Award recipient for the Indiana ODP program. This is part of her acceptance speech for the award:

“I am a girl who loves to play soccer, and who just happens to have cancer. I play soccer for Westfield Nitro.

I had a test while I was playing in a soccer tournament. A soccer game, then tests. Another soccer game, then another test. Our family sat down and talked about what I had. They told me I had leukemia and discussed what that meant. Not one of the more fun nights at our house. I learned that I could die.

Some days I am tired or may feel a little sick, but I am better off than many other kids with cancer, who cannot play soccer. Being out on the field giving it my all is a great feeling. I know there are things in my body that are trying to do bad things to me. But, that is not going to stop me from stepping on a soccer field.

I don’t know what is going to happen next year, but for now I will give it my all any time I am on a soccer field, and have fun doing it. There is no reason to give anything but your best.”

According to Dana’s dad Kurt, the road has been an interesting one, but nobody in his family has ever wanted people to be sorry for them.

“From the time Dana was diagnosed, we have moved forward,” says Kurt. “Although the cancer can’t be cured with medicine, she does take medication that keeps the cancer cells lower in her body. She has good and bad days, but she is a pretty determined person.”

Dana has been offered a Make-A-Wish grant, which she hasn’t taken yet. Her family said that she talks about it from time to time, and looks forward to one day fulfilling and following through with her wish. One wish would be a big deal for any person or 13 year-old, and such things can’t be decided in a day.

Please help Dana and other kids like her by purchasing the 2009 Training Insanity e-book. It’s only $10 (larger donations are also accepted) and proceeds go to Make-A-Wish Foundation. Last year we raised $8,000…this year we need to reach a new PR. We help you break PRs – please help us reach one. It comes with great training tips and crazy, stupid workouts many of our lifters put themselves through.

“Thank you for your determination in assisting others,” Kurt said of those purchasing the EFS 2009 Training Insanity e-book. “We are just one family, and there are countless others out there with much worse circumstances, who are enriched beyond thought with a Make-A-Wish opportunity.”

To learn more about Dana, please read the following written by her older sister, Amy, who is a freshman in high school.

Big Things Come In Small Packages

Standing at four feet, eleven and a half inches, her appearance does not radiate the stereotypical image of a hero. What matters is not Dana Shedd’s appearance; it is her determination, bravery, courage, and discipline. Our small, but mighty hero was not the typical second grader, and even now she is not the typical seventh grader. In her second grade year at Shamrock Springs Elementary School, she was diagnosed with a blood cancer called “Chronic Mylogenous Leukemia.” This disease is classified as terminal, but a resistance drug called “Gleevec” was just being released; this does not rid the body of cancerous cells, it simply slows the multiplication. So, she started taking four Gleevec pills each night with dinner. As well as the Gleevec, she takes a small capsule in the morning called “Prevacid,” this is not from the CML, but is deemed necessary because she has a stomach condition as well. Showing extreme discipline, she takes a total of 5 pills everyday at the correct time they are required. Still, she remains strong and takes care of herself even though she knows that she has to keep fighting, as she says: “with everything I’ve gone through, it’d be a shame to give up now.”

Not only does Dana take care of herself, but she also cares about others. She helped with a program called “Pennies for Patients,” a fundraiser at schools that try to get the students to bring in and donate money for patients with Leukemia, Lymphoma, and Myeloma. During 2006, 2007, and 2008, she talked at eight to ten schools each year about her life and conditions. She talked in front of auditoriums filled to the brim with people, listening to her talk about her roller coaster of ups and downs ever since the diagnostic. This helped not only her, but it also helped everyone else suffering from a blood cancer by causing awareness for this tragedy and raising money for the cause. Dana also assisted with another Leukemia & Lymphoma Society fundraiser called “Team in Training,” where you train for events and run in them to raise money for blood cancers. For this event, she talked to over ten schools and organizations about the program and her illness, informing even more people about Leukemia and helping them take action to find a cure. Dana cares about others as well as herself, but she does have to take care of herself as well.

To take care of herself, Dana ventures to Portland, Oregon with her father once a year to visit the creator of “Gleevec,” her medicine. The outstanding man that was the head of this development is Dr. Druker, who specializes in childhood Leukemia; therefore, Dana is a favorite of his. She goes there and talks to him, asks questions, and makes sure everything is going splendidly. She usually misses a few days of school, but she doesn’t mind because “the mini T.V.’s in the seats on the plane ride over there are awesome!” Dana also gets to have a little fun when she’s on the opposite side of the country by sight seeing and stopping at a humongous arcade. It is amazing that she is willing to miss school, have the patience for an eight hour plane journey, and still be brave enough to talk about ailment openly to a professional.

On the other hand, Dana participates in things like any other aspiring teenager. She absolutely loves the game of soccer; in fact, she watches the game on T.V. whenever she gets the chance. Her motivation gets an extra boost because she knows that she may not be able to play her beloved game ever again one day. Also, she loves soccer because no one out there can tell that she is “different” from everyone else. On the soccer field, it’s like she has a clean slate and everyone watching can judge her on her performance, instead of giving her sympathy. Soccer is a huge part of who Dana is, and it has helped her overcome many obstacles. In fact, our hero’s hero is Mia Hamm, one of the most, if not most, famous female soccer player of all time. A few years ago, Dana wrote to Mia Hamm and she wrote back to her encouraging her to stay strong and motivated, and Dana did just that. Dana has surpassed expectations in soccer and is going to Germany over Spring Break with the Olympic Development Program to perform. She does not let her Leukemia stop her from doing what she loves, that is profound dedication and determination.

Dana is a hero, much like Odysseus from The Odyssey by Homer. They both partake in journeys; Dana goes to Oregon, while Odysseus ventures to Ithaca. Dana shows that she is motivated to stay alive by taking her medication when prescribed and in soccer, while Odysseus shows his motivation by never giving up when trying to reunite himself with his son, Telemakhos, and wife, Penelope. While Odysseus is tall, old, strong, and a fighter, and Dana is vertically challenged, young, inexperienced, and a middle school student; their looks do not matter, it is their heroic qualities that are identical. Both of them are heroes in their own ways, but provide the same character traits that help them get through their toughest times in life.

Heroes can come in all shapes and sizes, genders and colors, and from anywhere or anyone. Dana does not appear to be a hero, but looks can be deceiving. Dana is courageous, because she has been through so much; determined, she never takes her mind off of her goal; and brave, managing to not give up when things looked unfortunate. Even though she is young and still has to go through life learning some more lessons, you can still learn from her existence so far; and, she still has so much more coming her way. If we were all this incredible when we were younger, just imagine what our potential would be like now. All we can do is take some advice from Dana and try to achieve our paramount, “if you keep fighting as hard as you can, one day you’ll be successful.”

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