Duck Champions Unite

 

Hi Friends,

Ever wondered how many donuts 🍩 you could eat in one month? Well, donut worry, because we have some delicious 😋 news to share! September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month🎗 and thanks to our sweet friends at Duck Donuts we invite you to find out!

From now until September 30, when you visit your local Duck Donuts store and purchase a $1 paper ribbon to be displayed during the campaign, Duck Donuts will show its appreciation by giving you a Buy One, Get One Free Donut coupon. Now that’s something to quack about!

Since 2017, the Quack Gives Back program, has raised more than $140,000 and provided more than 3,500 Chemo Ducks to children and their families.

So go ahead, get that maple bacon 🥓and the chocolate sprinkle and help us give #HuggableHope to the more than 40,000 children who will undergo treatment for cancer this year.

And donut forget to share a picture of your next visit with us on social media and be sure to tag @ChemoDuck and @DuckDonuts.

Forget the scales. Lead with your heart 💖 and let’s see just how many donuts we can eat in one month!

Thank you to all of our friends who continue to support and spread the word about Chemo Duck. We could not do what we do without you! 💛

With gratitude,

Lu Sipos
Executive Director
Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program

 

Gabe Sipos
Junior Board Member and Tech Specialist
Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program

A Smile Does Not Fall From Heaven

Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program recently had the pleasure of working with Dr. Maria Fernanda Sanchez Mata, founder of A Smile Does Not Fall From Heaven of Costa Rica to provide Chemo Ducks to patients in need. 

Here is a picture of the team in Costa Rica, with Dr. Mata in the middle.

Thanks to Gabe’s diligence, we were able to send over a box of Chemo Ducks. Currently, they are only able to provide ducks to the severest of cases. 

This is where patients ring the bell and leave their handprint on the wall after completing chemotherapy.

Said Dr. Mata, “With the donation we received, we decided to provide the ducks to the most difficult cases we currently have and who need aid the most. The donation from Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program definitely enhances the service we currently provide to patients.”

Building Momentum with Pedals of Courage

Pedals of Courage is an organization that donates active toys (such as bicycles or tricycles) to hospitals. The goal is to ensure that children in hospitals still have the opportunity to keep active and have fun! Lexi, the founder of Pedals of Courage, first found out about Chemo Ducks after MD Anderson had a need for Chemo Ducks and reached out to Lexi about working together to get the ducks donated. Fortunately, Lexi knew of a donor who offered to buy all 100 of the Chemo Ducks that the hospital needed. 

Oh, and in case you didn’t know, Lexi is only 11 years old! She’s also been running had Pedals of Courage for three years now. We don’t know many 11-year-olds who would spend their time doing something like this! #RockOnLexi

Lexi is a state-level swimmer who loves to read and especially loves science. She enjoys researching lactic acid and how it affects pediatric cancer patients. Lexi founded Pedals of Courage after her three-year-old cousin passed away from AML Leukemia in 2015 and she wanted to help kids just like her cousin. 

Help Lexi and Pedals of Courage by visiting pedalsofcourage.org or contacting Lexi@pedalsofcourage.org.

Huggable Hero: Jennifer Figueredo

Jennifer Figueredo is currently three years out from when she was first diagnosed with cancer at age 37. The weeks leading up to her finding out that she had cancer was scary, but Jennifer felt there was hope that her lump could be nothing other than a fibroadenoma. Jennifer’s primary care physician had been watching the lump for a number of years, and her new gynecologist had been watching it for at least two years. To them, It seemed as though the lump had not gotten any bigger. Jennifer, however, knew that something wasn’t right. She voiced her concern to her gynecologist again, being a bit more persistent. This time, she was referred to a surgeon. “The surgeon asked me millions of questions,” said Jennifer, “including if I had ever been hit in the breast with something or ever been an accident. He said it just didn’t feel like a cancerous type of tumor, but I again voiced my concern to continue along the path of getting it checked out. A few days later, on my husband’s birthday, I found myself at a Women’s Imaging Center getting a biopsy.  My anxiety kicked in and I was scared of what the results would be. The doctor who did the biopsy was very caring, knowing that I was scared, walked me through the procedure, and talked to me about many other things to help ease my mind. When she saw me crying at the end, she held my hand and told me that everything went well, and from the way she looked at it, again, it looked a bit like a fibroadenoma.”

Jennifer still had a feeling deep down inside that it had to be breast cancer. Two days after her biopsy, she and her mother went to get the results. The doctor sat back in his chair and told Jennifer that the results came back as cancer. “Time went into slow motion and words only became mumbles,” remembered Jennifer. “Deep down inside, I knew what the results were going to be, but hearing it still came as a shock. My body felt numb, but like it was completely on fire. I couldn’t move and had no idea what to do.”

Since Jennifer’s grandmother had also been diagnosed with breast cancer, Jennifer’s mother asked the many questions that Jennifer could not get herself to ask. The doctor very calmly answered as many questions as he could and proceeded to schedule more appointments to find out more about the cancer.

“I made up my mind that I could not let this news overtake me,” said Jennifer. “I did not want to go somewhere and wallow in scary thoughts.”

It gave time for the fog to start to lift and for Jennifer to figure out how she was going to react to seeing her family and friends, who by that evening, all knew the news. “When we got to the house, I walked into the living room and the air was as thick as molasses,” said Jennifer. “They all just stared at me and none of us knew what to really say. How do you start a conversation with everyone you love after finding out you have cancer?”  

While she was on the phone, Jennifer’s husband walked in. “I had to go into strong mode facing my husband,” she remembered. “I could tell he was scared to the max. We both knew we had to be strong and rational to go through the things to come, and not dwell on the scary things.”

They decided not to tell their children until they knew more about the breast cancer and what was to come. To be with family and friends that night gave Jennifer comfort not to break down and go crazy with all the little scary things that were running through her mind.

Finally telling her son and daughter was the hardest thing that Jennifer had to do. Jennifer and her husband decided to tell their children once school let out, which coincidentally came the Friday before Jennifer was scheduled to go in and have surgery the next Tuesday. “We sat them down on the couch in the living room, and I decided I was the one to do the talking,” remembered Jennifer. “I asked them if they knew why I was so passionate about wearing pink and doing the Breast Cancer Walk every year. They said they knew that my grandmother and aunt had passed away from cancer. I informed them that was indeed the reason, and now I had a reason much closer to home. I explained to them that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My daughter immediately broke down and my son sat in shock, a bit like I did when I found out. It was very hard telling them. My heart broke, but I had to quickly go back into strong mommy mode. I explained to them how everything would be alright, just like I did with my family and friends when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Only this time, I was more prepared to answers any questions that they have had.

Both kids jumped up, ran out of the room and ran upstairs.  “I was so afraid they were going to have a very hard time the rest of the night processing what they just found out about their mom,” said Jennifer. Instead, the children ran back downstairs into the living room wearing every bit of pink they could find upstairs. “My son had a guitar in his hand and my daughter was holding something pretending it was a microphone,” remembered Jennifer. “The next thing I knew, they were serenading me with an impromptu song called Fight Cancer. It was just what I needed. The power of love and support from my own kids was amazing.” That night made Jennifer even more determined to fight harder and stay strong no matter which way her journey was going to take her.

One of the most beneficial things for Jennifer was finally breaking down and letting the cat out of the bag and posting her story on Facebook. “The immediately amount of messages sending prayers, love and support really made a difference,” said Jennifer. “After finding out new things about my cancer, I would again, put myself out there on Facebook. I found that telling everybody in my network really released a lot of the tension and fear I had inside of me. It made me feel empowered and stronger every day knowing that I had such a support system out there. I wasn’t alone going through my journey.”

Jennifer also found support with her Chemo Duck. “What I loved most about my Chemo Duck is that it gave me a feeling of support and comfort at a time in need,” said Jennifer. “I didn’t care if it was originally designed for a child who was going through chemo. Even as an adult, I needed something to hold and hug, just like a child with their stuffed animal, during my own first round of chemo.”

Jennifer advises other cancer patients to take every day one step at a time. “Do not get on the internet searching for advice or information about your cancer,” said Jennifer. “This is YOUR cancer!  It is not a one size fits all thing anymore. Everyone’s cancer is different, from the way your body deals with it, to the way your journey goes. Talk to your doctor and don’t be afraid to ask anything and everything. Stay strong, because love and support are always out there. Even when the day seems to be very down and gray, try to find a small glimmer of sunshine because that is what forces you to continue to move forward with hope through your journey.”

Give a Duck

Did you know that we a counterpart across the pond? Give A Duck is a UK-based charity that helps us spread our wings internationally. Give A Duck is the official UK distributor for Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program and delivers chemo ducks to childhood cancer centers in England and Wales. They also work with local charities to spread the word. Since September 2018, Give A Duck has increased support to the UK Principal Treatment Centres by 50%.

Give A Duck was founded by Karen and Andrew Phillips after their son Harry was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. After seeing the impact that Harry’s chemo duck made on his journey, Harry’s parents made a fated connection with our founder, Lu Sipos. Since Lu was born and raised in the UK, she was eager to help spread the comfort of chemo ducks to England. However, she was having a problem with the international storage and distribution of the ducks. Jenkar Shipping kindly stepped in and since then, the ducks have made their way over to the UK. There’s been no word on if they’ve developed Madonna-like accents yet.

As for Harry, he doesn’t go anywhere without his Chemo Duck. That’s why Give a Duck has continued their efforts and partnered with Candlelighters, a Yorkshire children’s cancer charity, to achieve their goal of making sure that every child that is diagnosed with cancer is provided with a Chemo Duck.

Through Candlelighters, Karen and her husband Andrew met Eve Corry, now charity development director at Give A Duck. Eve recently ran the Leeds Half Marathon (the biggest half marathon in Yorkshire) on behalf of Give a Duck. Eve set up a JustGiving page and posted regular updates on her training on that platform as well as on her social media. She raised more than £680 pounds (that’s more than $850!) by race day. Eve credits her family, friends, as well as locals and visitors for supporting this incredible endeavor!

To keep up to date with Give A Duck’s latest news and help spread the word, follow their charity pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Thank you, Sarah Grace Foundation!

The Sarah Grace Foundation memorializes the late Sarah Grace, who passed away from leukemia in November 2002. The Sarah Grace Foundation is an all-volunteer charity, which means that all proceeds from events go directly to financial aid, funeral expenses, meal and transportation expenses, core programs, “The Bead Program”, “The Escape Hatch”, “Sarah’s Angels Book Program” and of course, their generous sponsorship of Chemo Duck. Additionally, the foundation provides toys, games, parties, ballgame outings and more to help ease the burden of these wonderful children as well as their siblings.

The Sarah Grace Foundation has been working with Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program since 2011 when a hospital partner informed Matt Weippert, Sarah’s dad, about it.  Matt was reminded so much of Sarah and her desire to help others that the foundation made a commitment to sponsor it throughout their region, and have remained committed to Chemo Duck ever since.

The Sarah Grace Foundation has been heavily focused on the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)  with key interest in bereavement time after the loss of a child. The original FMLA did not allow for bereavement time for the loss of a child (for any reason), so the foundation has been working with their local Congressman and others throughout the country to amend the legislation to include this bereavement time. While amended legislation has been introduced to Congress multiple times, it still has not presented to a successful vote. The foundation is hopeful that the current Congress will accept and pass the legislation known as “The Sarah Grace-Farley-Kluger” Parental Bereavement Act. (H.R. 983) 

Please see links to the bill and a recent presentation on the floor of Congress:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/983

https://youtu.be/r9vloi-4dAo

We are so grateful for all that the Sarah Grace Foundation helps us with! We truly cannot fight this battle alone.

Follow them on Facebook for the latest updates.

Shailey Loves Her Chemo Duck

Shailey is a kindergarten student who will be turning six this April. Shailey’s mom, Skye, first noticed a large lump in her neck and took her to their family doctor who prescribed Shailey antibiotics. When that didn’t help, Skye took Shailey to see an ENT. After she was tested for cat-scratch fever with negative results, Shailey had a biopsy and was diagnosed with cancer the next week.

“It quickly climbed from stage one to stage two, then stage three, and finally, after a PET scan, we found out she was stage four,” said Skye. “Thankfully it wasn’t in her bone marrow.”

Shailey had a PICC line placed and then her medi-port. She loves that her Chemo Duck, Quackley, has a port just like she did.

After two rounds of chemo, Shailey was approved for clinical trials immediately. The good news? The cancer is mostly gone!

Shailey has completed three rounds and has been taking everything like a champion! “We had a rough patch after the first round and she ended up getting cellulitis in her eye, along with the flu and sinusitis,” said Skye, “Two more rounds, no radiation and she should be done!”

Shailey really misses school, but she gets to Skype with her class every Friday and she has a Monkey in her school chair to help the class be part of her journey.

Shailey has learned how to rig up an IV and IV bag to give Quackley her medicine! She loves playing with her Chemo Duck and helping Quackley get better, too.

Skye jokes, “I think we have a future nurse on our hands here.”

Thank you to Skye and Shailey for sharing your story with us. We are all rooting for you!

This Group is Second to None!

We are so grateful for the hard work of  Second II None MC (Motorcycle Club), based out of Los Angeles, California. Its Houston Chapter has been working to help children with cancer since 2016, when they first teamed up with MD Anderson Cancer Center and later learned about our program. Since then, they’ve held several successful fundraisers for us, as they saw the benefit of the Chemo Duck being an educational, play therapy tool.

In 2017, Second II None MC was able to purchase 30 Chemo Ducks for children at the hospital. In 2018, they held a Chemo Duck Drive and were able to purchase a total of 80 ducks! Moving forward, Second II None MC will host their 4th Annual Chemo Duck Drive in December and hopes to double the number of ducks purchased each year as they look to start a Christmas in July initiative.

Second II None MC currently has 25 chapters in 11 States, and the Houston Chapter was founded in 2011. It is under the leadership of Johnny “J-Fatt” Schooler and Sean “Big Truck” Turner. The mission of the club is to promote brotherhood, serve the community and give back in areas where needed. We are so thankful for all their hard work for us and their continued commitment to so many families in the Houston community!

You can learn what Second II None MC of Houston is up to on their Facebook page!

Eli Loves his Chemo Duck

Eli is three years old and has been in the hospital since November 2018 after being diagnosed with Medulloblastoma. He had an emergency surgery when he and his family found out about the mass on his brain. He was rushed to New Orleans Children’s Hospital, where he underwent surgery to have the mass removed. It had been growing since he was just a baby, but he had never experienced any developmental delays and had always been a very independent child.

He went from running in his front yard with his little brother and sister to not being able to walk, eat or talk.

He has completed three weeks of radiation and therapy, as well as two weeks of chemotherapy. He is almost walking again and is getting back to his old self.

One of Eli’s doctors gave him his Chemo Duck when he first received his port. Eli’s Chemo Duck has taught him about his own port and how the medicine works to help him get better.  He loves his Chemo Duck because he has been by his side for most of this journey.

Like most young boys, Eli loves cars, motorcycles, monster trucks, airplanes and Paw Patrol.

Eli’s family remarked, “It’s amazing how such big changes can happen in such a small window of time.”

Everyone with Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program is sending well wishes to Eli. Thank you to Eli’s mom, Renesmee for sharing Eli’s story with us!

Kayleigh finds comfort in cuddy companion

When she was just three and a half years old, Kayleigh was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. It was a Thursday, and her mom Valerie Hale remembers every single moment of it.

“I felt so helpless. I started crying so hard I couldn’t even hardly see,” said Valerie. “I sat down beside Kayleigh and she just looked at me and said, ‘Mommy, why are you crying? It’ll be okay. Hold my hand, mommy.’ She didn’t even know what was going on. She was just trying to comfort me.”

When Kayleigh was first admitted on August 4, 2009, there weren’t any available rooms on the hospital’s oncology floor, so she was admitted to the cardiology floor. It wasn’t until the next day that she finally got a room on the oncology floor.

As soon as she got into her room, there was a Chemo Duck waiting on the bed for her.

“We didn’t realize it at the time just how important and special he would become,” explained Valerie. “In the early days, he was always by her side for the majority of her journey. But as time went on, and even today, as she is nearing her teens, he goes with her everywhere. He is her comfort and her peace of mind. He is her best friend.”

While Kayleigh found comfort in her Chemo Duck, Valerie found comfort in her family and other families within the childhood cancer community.

“The most beneficial thing for us during this time was just being together as a family,” said Valerie. “For parents going through this, I’d recommend finding support groups. They help.”  

Today, Kayleigh is almost nine years cancer-free. This November, she will be eight years out of treatment. She still has her original Chemo Duck from nine years ago, as well as a newer duck and a Chemo duckling.

“She loves them all, of course,” said Valerie. “But the others don’t even come close to comparing to her love for her original ducky. I don’t think she will ever let him go.”

Kayleigh has a lot of lasting effects from chemo, radiation and other treatments. She lost a good bit of her hearing and now has a hearing aid on one side and a cochlear implant/hearing aid hybrid on the other. She has also had problems growing and gaining weight.

“Her bones are more fragile now and more prone to breaks or small fractures, too,” explained Valerie. “She is being followed in GI, Endocrinology, Nephrology, sees her survivor clinic once a year, Audiology and ENT as well as Neurology and Mental Health. They all keep pretty close tabs on her to make sure she is where she should be and has everything she needs.”

However, despite her struggles at such a young age, Kayleigh takes it all in stride and very rarely complains. She is doing well in school — all A’s and B’s! — and is friends with everyone in her grade.

In fact, Kayleigh is a very spunky girl. She’s bright and can put a smile on anyone’s face. An artist at heart, Kayleigh loves art, music (more specifically: Twenty-One Pilots) and animals. She has a bearded dragon named Zilla and a chihuahua named Sammy. Known for her big heart, Kayleigh truly cares about people.

Everyone with Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program is so glad to hear that Kayleigh is doing well and that her Chemo Duck is still by her side every step of the way. We cannot wait to see where Kayleigh’s loving, artistic spirit will take her next. The sky is the limit for this sweet, spunky girl!