We’re Not Famous

I’m not famous. My children aren’t famous. Neither is my husband. In fact, there isn’t a single famous person in my family or circle of friends. But I still see all of my family members and friends as super stars. Especially my almost 13-year-old son Joey, AKA Super Joey. Joey is known for his strength and knocking Langerhans out.

Super Joey

Super Joey

Joey isn’t muscular or a big guy. In fact, he’s only 5’1 and under 75 pounds. Yet he still knocked out Langerhans, which was pretty amazing since Langerhans is vicious. I’ve gotten to know him over the last few years and he devours people, mostly kids. Nothing is off limits – he’ll go for the bones, organs and even skin, whatever he can do to take to out his victim. Sometimes even death. It takes a lot to be able to stand up to Langerhans and fight back and even more to beat him down. No, Langerhans isn’t some new trendy boys name or a nickname for a terrible bully.

Langerhans – Langerhans Cell Histiocytois – is a horrible rare cancer that my son beat. This disease, often argued by doctors is to whether it is cancer or an autoimmune disease, is ferocious. It ate Joey’s hip bone causing him to need a bone graft, spend months in a wheelchair, go through lots of physical therapy and much more. Two years later, he still deals with chronic bone pain that puts him on crutches or in a wheelchair for weeks at a time. But the good news is, the LCH is gone. The doctors told him he’s whooped it’s butt and they can’t imagine it will ever attack again. Woohoo!

Super Joey

Super Joey

You’d think we’d be celebrating everyday! And we have celebrated. We are truly ecstatic for Joey but not all of our friends have been so lucky. Our 19-year-old friend Ian Anderson, who also isn’t famous, has LCH in his pituitary gland. He’s been through chemo, surgeries and so much more. He’s probably looking at some sort of life-long treatment and/or follow up.

Princess Sophia

Princess Sophia

Our sweet 5-year-old friend Sophia Lopez, who is not famous either, has another form of Histio – Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis. This beautiful 5-year-old has spent most of her life in hospitals. She and her mom have traveled to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital from New York City to get the best care possible. They have been living at the Ronald McDonald House for a year while Sophia’s dad and brothers are back in New York. The men her life travel to Cincinnati as often as they can to see their Princess Warrior who has been through chemo, a bone marrow transplant, multiple surgeries and much much more. But that gets expensive and vacation time runs out.

We also think of our friends the Culley/Marshall family. They aren’t famous either. But their daughter Ellisyn is a hero in my eyes. Langerhans didn’t hold back at all when it attacked Ellisyn. By the time she was diagnosed with LCH, it was too late. Ellisyn lost her battle at 15 months old.

So although we are thrilled for Joey, there isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t think about this horrible disease – Histio, Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis – that has attacked Super Joey as well as some of our friends (we all met as a result of diagnosis – Histio attacks five in a million).

Most people have never heard of Histio. It doesn’t receive government funding for research, there is no sure cure and there is no known cause. We just know it sucks and can kill. I know some people might think I’m horrible for what I’m about to say but… there are MANY days I wish that a famous person or a famous person’s child would get Histio. Yes, I feel horrible for even saying it but hear me out.

Bengal Player Devon Still’s beautiful daughter Leah was diagnosed with Nueroblastoma and over $1 million was raised in an extremely short period of time. This is awesome! The money went to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital cancer research, which is fantastic. I hate that Leah has this horrible disease but it has brought tons of awareness to Nueroblastoma and childhood cancer.

Lauren Hill, the Mount Saint Joseph Basketball player with an inoperable brain turmor, became famous with the help of the media and has now raised more than $324,000 for the Cure Starts Now. It is horrible that Lauren has been stricken with this disease and she has deserved every bit of media attention she has gotten. She is truly an inspiration to all and I believe her strength and courage will help find a cure for this some day. I have followed her story from day one, cried through the ENTIRE basketball game and will be devastated when she passes. I will always remember that brave angel.

joey rareBut again, I often find myself wishing someone famous or their child would get Histio. I don’t want them to go through all the pain and anguish my friends and family have gone through. I just want that famous person to have a voice for all of us. Believe me, the Anderson, Lopez, Culley/Marshall and Holt/Stegner families have a loud voice. We have been on local media, held fundraisers and educated people but none of us our famous. We don’t have the outlet or the reach that someone famous has. We need a famous person to raise awareness for Histio, to raise funds for research, to help the families fighting this horrible disease and to encourage others to remember the angels we have lost.

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Note: Please contact me at gina5620@gmail.com to learn more about Histio or find out how you can help… You don’t have to be famous. 🙂

A True Histio Warrior

Super Joey

Super Joey

My head is swimming right now. Joey had a follow up with oncology today. He is two years free of active disease. That means there has been no evidence of Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis for 24 months! Dr. Palumbo, Joey’s oncologist, considers Joey Histio-free and no longer a risk for relapse! Now with that said there is still a small chance but it’s VERY small. Dr. Palumbo said we no longer have to follow up with him unless we need him. Wohoo!!

So you would think I would be partying and overjoyed right now but I’m actually experiencing a mixture of feelings. Joey went to this appointment in a wheelchair. He is having horrible leg pain. The same type of leg pain that he has experienced for two years since his biopsy and bone graft. Dr. Kenneth McClain, the world’s leading LCH expert, told me via email that he sees this type of unexplained pain in patients who have had bone LCH often. Unfortunately he doesn’t know why or how to fix it although he said it’s something he’s working on.

Dr. Palumbo, our social worker Molly and Dr. Palumbo’s assistant Michelle asked Joey’s dad (Troy) and I to go to a conference room while Joey stayed behind. During our walk to the conference room I started thinking they were going to ask me if he was faking. I even whispered to Troy that they better not state that. I was ready to go off if they even brought up the idea. That’s not why we were called in though. In fact, they repeatedly stated they knew he wasn’t faking.

Dr. Palumbo assured us that there is no active disease and he is not worried about it attacking again. He did say however that he was concerned about Joey’s pain. Joey has post traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Palumbo suggested that maybe some of the pain is stress and anxiety related. His dad and I completely agree with that. None of us believe it is the only thing causing the pain but it is definitely a contributing factor.

The oncology team was happy to hear that we already have Joey seeing a psychologist at Cincinnati Children’s and referrals for a psychologist who deals with pain and biofeedback and a psychiatrist who works with kids who deal with anxiety and have been through a lot.

Dr. Palumbo did bring up something that I have thought about and talked with Joey’s psychologist about a thousand times… Joey and I have been very active in the Histio community with raising awareness and money. He asked if it would be easier on Joey if we weren’t so involved. I knew what he was going to ask before he finished the question because I have thought about it so many times. I have discussed it with Joey. I explained to Dr. Palumbo that Joey says he has to be a spokesperson for these kids who are so sick that they can’t speak for themselves. I also told him that the psychologist feels this is to important to Joey to give up. But I completely understand him asking questions. He also asked if Joey understood that he didn’t have the type of LCH that is fatal. Joey absolutely knows that. However, Joey often has dreams that the LCH is back or that one of his friends with Histio takes a turn for the worst.

Once we went back to the examination room, Dr. Palumbo told Joey that I shared his dream with him. “Joey, I need you to know that you are not going to die and I am confident the LCH is no coming back,” Dr. Palumbo said to Joey. I think Joey needed to hear that. He needed to know that his oncologist believes he is completely fine. Dr. Palumbo also told him he was concerned about his anxiety and thought it was contributing to the pain. He told Joey he was so confident that the Histio wasn’t coming back that he didn’t need to follow up with oncology any more. Joey seemed a little relieved.

He still has to follow up with orthopedics so they can check his bone graft. He will continue counseling, massage therapy and physical therapy.

Although I’m relieved the disease is inactive, I worry about his worry and leg pain. I hope everyday that I am making the right decisions and not contributing to his anxiety. So now we concentrate on letting go of the worry (for both of us) and getting him pain-free again.

Team Super Joey Gears Up for Histio Hike Ohio 2014

This post is written by Joey Holt.

My mom tells me that I am five in a million. That’s because I have a rare, cancer-like disease called Langerhans Cell

2012 - spent months in a wheelchair

2012 – spent months in a wheelchair

Histiocytosis (www.histio.org) that impacts five in one million. I’m 12-1/2 now but was diagnosed with LCH at age 10 after my white blood cells attacked my hip bone eating it away. I had to get a bone graft, steroid treatment, spend months in a wheelchair, use a walker and crutches and endure 2-1/2 years of physical therapy.

Due to debilitating pain, I have been in and out of the hospital over the last 2-1/2 years and missed a lot of school. Luckily I have awesome teachers and am determined to not fall too far behind. I am in the 7th grade this year.

There is no known cause or cure for Histio. Just like cancer, it can attack the bones, organs or skin again at any time. Many children need transplants or chemotherapy to treat. If it attacks me again, I will undergo chemotherapy. Since it is a rare disease, it does not receive state or federal funding for research. The majority of the money for research comes from the families of Histio patients, the same people who are usually dealing with excessive medical bills.

In spite of everything I have dealt with, I am determined to participate in the Histio Hike Ohio this September in honor of Histio Awareness Month but I need to raise funds and awareness.

Histio Hike Ohio 2013 - Histio Warriors and their siblings

Histio Hike Ohio 2013 – Histio Warriors and their siblings

I am asking you to help one of two ways.

TeamSuperJoey_Mockup_Final (3)

  1. Buy a 2014 #TeamSuperJoey T-shirt (pictured below) for $15. You can pay via paypal (gina5620@gmail.com) or by
    cash or check. Payment not due until shirt arrives. Be sure to sport your shirt around to raise awareness.
  1. Sponsor me in the Histio Hike Ohio, which takes place September 26-28. Visit http://ohio.histiohike.org/teamsuperjoey. Whether it’s a $5 donation or a $500 donation, it will help.

Please email questions to my mom Gina (Holt) Stegner at gina5620@gmail.com. Money raised will be donated to Histio research in hopes to find a cure for me and others who have Histio.

Princess Sophia - 4-1/2-years-old, has HLH and lives at the Ronald McDonald House, thousands of miles from home for treatment.

Princess Sophia – 4-1/2-years-old, has HLH and lives at the Ronald McDonald House, thousands of miles from home for treatment.

Super Joey

Super Joey

Sincerely,

Joey Holt    🙂

Please help us find a cure.

Histio Hike Ohio 2014 – For a Cure

histio ribbon“Being with people who understand,” is what Joey, age 12, said when asked what his favorite part is of the Histio Hike Ohio. Last year Joey was able to meet dozens of other kids, and even a few adults, who also have a form of Histiocytosis. Joey has Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis. His white blood cells attacked and ate his hip bone. He had to get a bone graft, was in a wheelchair for quite some time, took high doses of steroids and pain meds and two years later still does physical therapy. He has been in and out of the hospital over the last two years, has regular check ups in oncology for his cancer-like disease and still deals with unexplained debilitating pain that can last weeks, even months at a time.

Some of the kids he has met have gone through intensive chemotherapy and steroid treatment, received bone marrow and/or organ transplants, have had to move away from their friends and family to get treatment at an out of state hospital and so much more.

This disease can attack any of these kids, including Joey, again at any time. It can attack their bones, skin or organs. It’s just like cancer (Read: At Least it’s Not Cancer). There is no known cause and no known cure. The one comfort these kids get is when they can come together and feel normal, even if it’s just a weekend in Shawnee State Park for Histio Hike Ohio Sept 26-28.

We are in the process of forming Team Super Joey for this year’s hike. We have set a goal to raise $1000. There are two ways you can help us raise the money and find a cure for Joey and his friends.TeamSuperJoey_Mockup_Final (3)

1.  Buy a 2014 Team Super Joey Tshirt. Cost is $15 or four for $50. They come in youth and adult sizes. You can buy via paypal (gina5620@gmail.com), be sure to put your size, quantity and address. You can also email gina5620@gmail.com with your order.

2. Make an online donation to sponsor Joey in the Histio Hike Ohio by clicking here (this is a tax write off).

Please help us find a cure and buy a T-shirt and/or make a donation today.

#TeamSuperJoey

Joey Histio flyer 2014 final

 

12 Ways to Help Someone in the Hospital

Whether it’s a dear friend, a family member or someone’s child in the hospital it’s natural to want to help but people often don’t know what they can do. I have a lot of hospital experience – not only have I been a patient, I have had to take care of my son, who has a rare disease and has been in and out of the hospital, and my mother, who recently spent two weeks in the hospital.

While caring for my loved ones I got several calls from people wondering what they can do. Sometimes it’s hard to think of things on the spot and sometimes you just don’t want to ask. So I thought I’d put together a list of things to do for someone (and their family members) while in the hospital.

1. Don’t ask if there is anything you can do, just do it.

20140218_1232492. Snacks for the hospital room. This is helpful for family members who are taking care of the patient. A few of my co-workers put together a box of snacks for us while my mom was in the hospital. It was great.

 

3. Bring new pajamas. Most patients hate the hospital gowns and if they are allowed to wear regular pajamas they appreciate a new pair.

4. Drop off books, magazines and games that can be played with one other person in bed. Being in the hospital can be boring and the patient or family caregivers might want a distraction.

5. Visit but keep it short. Visitors are appreciated but the amount of visitors can often be overwhelming.  If you are the only visitor, assess the situation and maybe stay a little longer.

6. Drop off the patient and family members their favorite beverages. This saves them from having to run to vending machines and spending extra money.

7. The hospital provides meals for the patients but not the family member who stays with them. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital sells meal cards for family members for $5 each. Having these cards allows the caregiver to not have to leave their child in the room alone while they eat. Many hospitals sell gift certificates for the cafeterias. These are also helpful for family members staying with the patient.

8. Show up with a cup of coffee (or other favorite beverage for the family member) and insist on staying with the patient while the family member gets a break from the room.

9. Send balloons, cards and/or flowers to brighten the room.

10. Remember that the patient and immediate family members might be extremely stressed and worried about the patient’s condition. Even if you are upset or worried do not show it in front of the patient. Take a walk down the hall and pull yourself together. The patient doesn’t need to worry about their visitors too.

11. If a parent of young children is in the hospital or a child is in the hospital taking the parent away from the other children, see what you can do to help. Drop off dinner to the family members at home and offer rides to extracurricular activities and school.

12. In the words of my 12-year-old son: “Candy, bring candy, candy is always good.”

Do you have any suggestions to add?

 

 

Team Super Joey in the Media

cyclones3My amazing son Joey has been in the media a lot lately so I want to have one spot where you can find links to his stories. This will be the spot. I will update this post as needed.

Joey’s goal is to raise awareness for Histio, and hopefully someday find a cure for his disease.

Histio Survivor Prepares for Fundraising Event, Community Press, July 12, 2013
Enjoying the Little Things and Making Memories, Looking4ward2tomorrow, Nov. 15, 2013

Fort Thomas Boy Fights Rare Disease With a Strong Voice – WCPO Digital, Feb., 2014

Teen is Survivor of Bone-Destroying Disease – Community Press, Feb. 25, 2014
Histio Awareness Video – Produced by Cathy Ross, Starring Joey Holt, Requested by Histio Association, 2014
Rare Disease Day Proclamation, Fort Thomas Matters, Feb., 18 2014
Team Super Joey Fights Histio, Rare Disease Day, Feb., 2014
Joey Advocates for Histio & Rare Disease Day, Fox 19 Morning News, Feb. 28, 2014
Joey is Five in a Million, Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Blog, Feb. 28, 2014
Follow Team Super Joey on Twitter @gina5620 #teamsuperjoey
Follow Team Super Joey on Facebook at Raising2tweens
Thanks to everyone who has shown their support!
cyclones2 cayton family cyclones rare disease hope waiting for trainTeam Super Joey
My Histio Family

joey super herosuper joeyHistio Warriors and siblingsmy histio hike 2

 

Speaking Out for International Rare Disease Day

cyclones3As my regular readers know, my son has a rare disease called Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis. His white blood cells attacked  hip bone eating it away causing him to need a bone graft and spend four months in a wheel chair. I have told Joey’s story for him hundreds of times through the blog, newspapers, doctors, etc… But Joey is ready to tell his own story.

In honor of International Rare Disease Day, Feb. 28, Joey has planned three ways to spread awareness for his disease. And he wanted to be the one to do it.

1. In November, I wrote a post based on a conversation my son and I had called “I just don’t understand why my disease isn’t important.” This post got a lot of attention in the online world. The Histiocytosis Association read it and asked if Joey would be willing to tell his story on camera. He has been wanting to be an advocate for his disease so he was excited. So with the help of a dear friend, he created this video: http://youtu.be/Vpq3BIYlGQ0. Please take two minutes to watch 12-year-old Joey Holt tell his own story.

rare disease fact

2. In early January Joey decided to write a letter to the mayor of Fort Thomas, the city we live in. He asked her to make a proclamation making Feb. 28, International Rare Disease Day, Histiocytosis Day in honor of Joseph Holt in the City of Fort Thomas. The mayor agreed and the proclamation will made at the Feb. 18 council meeting. He plans to be there to answer any questions anyone might have.

3.  Joey asked me to send a news release about International Rare Disease Day and his disease to the local media. He hopes to get interviews with print and online media and on TV. He wants to teach as many people as possible about rare diseases and Histio. At his young age he realizes that people will respond more to hearing the story straight from the child who has been impacted by this cancer-like disease than from his mother, doctors and other experts. He already has an interview setup with an online publication and he is hoping more will be arranged.

rare diseaserare disease 2These are three fairly simple ways anyone can make a difference and advocate for International Rare Disease Day. So consider doing something like this where you live. You can also help spread awareness by sharing this post and showing the video Joey made. Awareness is the key to a cure. Please be part of the cure.

P.S. Be sure to like us on Facebook! And if you Tweet about us, use #teamsuperjoey and @gina5620.