It’s one of those things that should never happen to any child, though we all know it does.
It’s also “one of those things you think will never happen to you, until it does,” said Jill Schrage of Highland, talking about the day last year when her then 11-year-old daughter Abby was diagnosed with a cancerous germinoma brain tumor.
“It’s been over a year since the fateful day (April 26, 2016) that completely changed our lives,” Jill said. “A year ago, I was filled with emotions of worry, fear, no idea of what the future held for Abby and our family. It was extremely hard hearing that your 11-year-old daughter has cancer.”
That day was followed by five months of trepidation as Abby underwent of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
The family — which in addition to Jill, Abby and Emma also consists of husband Nathan, Jacob, 9, and Catey, 8 — was “living week to week, day to day,” Jill said.
But then there came a day of uplifting celebration. It was Emma’s 10th birthday, but it also was the day Abby completed her final radiation treatment.
“Being that it was a big day for two of our girls, we celebrated all day long,” Jill said.
But as they celebrated, they did so knowing all too well that life can change quickly.
“We had to learn that our plans can change in an instant,” Jill said.
On Tuesday, May 16, 2017, that instant came, again.
Abby’s family found out that her tumors had come back. The good news was they still were curable. The bad news was she would to travel for her treatments and spend the entire summer going through them.
But they will be even harder than the first time. The new treatments include up to eight rounds of chemotherapy, as well as bone marrow transplants.
“This year’s battle has already been crazier than last year,” Jill said.
Abby’s rounds of chemo treatment include a six-day hospital stay each time, with five of those days getting chemo. She just started her second round of this, and she will get a scan in July to see where they go next. She has a different line this time, a Hickman Broviac, which gave us some issues at first.
“Fingers crossed, we finally have it under control,” Jill said. “From chemo to illness to being neutropenic (basically a zero count for her whole immune system), we’ve netted 10 days at home since re-diagnosis. The rest of the time we’ve been at Children’s (Hospital in St. Louis). Between this and last year, the doctors and nurses know us really well. We’ve been blessed to have amazing people step forward and watch our little three so Nathan and I could be at the hospital with Abby.”
Jill said their family is very thankful for all of the love, support, gifts, donations, help etc. from all of the organizations and people who have given to them.
“We’ll never know how to repay everyone for all of the kindness,” she said. “Abby’s doing well, all things considered. She’d prefer to be home more but is ready to get treatment done and feeling better. It’s helped being in our second year because we know what to expect and how to combat it. All the same, we are ready to have a much slower paced schedule.”
In March, The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Abby’s request to visit Harry Potter World in Universal Studios, Disney World and Kennedy Space Center.
“We have a video of Abby’s Wand ceremony that makes me tear up every time. Just the thought of maybe getting to do this trip got us through so many hospital days and nights. The entire trip was more than we could have ever imagined,” Jill said.
The other Schrage kids have all played a big role in helping their sister in her fight, too, their mother said.
“They have rolled with every tide that came in and did not give their mom or dad too much trouble during this hard time,” she said. “They have also had their share of hardships; I mean it’s very scary not knowing what’s going to happen to your big sister. We are thankful to the family and friends that took the time to watch the little three while we’ve been running around all over. I don’t know how we could have made it through without their help. Through all of this, our family has pulled in tighter and closer. We all know that no matter what, we all will have each other’s backs and will be there.”
The family has created a Team Abby Normal Facebook page to keep their well-wishers — and there have been many — up to date on Abby’s progress.
“This last year has shown us how so many amazing people in this world,” Jill said. “I know I won’t be able to list them all, but we thank every single one from the bottom of our hearts. I honestly wish I could put into words the appreciation we feel towards every single person that has helped us through this journey.”
In addition to the GoFundMe page, Team Abby Normal is also holding additional fundraisers.
There is a T-shirt sale. Orders are due by June 30. More details can be found on the Facebook Page.
There will also be a yard sale at the Highland Masonic Lodge, 721 9th St., on July 28 and 29. You can shop in air-conditioning for housewares, clothes, books, furniture, records, and other treasures. There will also be a bake sale and beverages will also be available. The sale will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., both days. Sale items donations are still being accepted. Donations can be dropped off on the porch at 320 Devonshire Court in Highland.
There will also be a pool party and silent auction August 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Highland Community Pool. In addition, there will be a bake sale every Friday during the Peanut Butter and Jam Festival from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Square.