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‘We were lucky’ — Family optomistic after cancer diagnosis came early on

Posted: Monday, Nov 25th, 2013

Ten-year-old Shayleen Stahley sits at home with her mom, Jenny Stahley, and one of her dogs, neither of whom has left her side since Shayleen was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia over three months ago. The Stahleys say they’re lucky to have learned of Shayleen’s illness early on, after she went to the doctor with flu-like symptons. (HERALD PHOTO/Deborah Demander)

EVANSTON — Jenny Stahley thought her 10-year-old daughter Shayleen had a case of the flu. Shayleen had been sick for a few weeks, and wasn’t getting much better.

“The dogs knew something was wrong with me,” Shayleen said. “They wouldn’t leave my side.

During a visit to Dr. Catherine Depalma’s office, the Stahley family learned Shayleen had something worse than the flu.

“I like Dr. Depalma,” Shayleen said. “She’s pretty cool. She took some blood, and did a blood test and told my parents to take me to the hospital.”

Jenny Stahley concurs.

“We were pretty lucky,” she said. “Normally kids go six months to a year before they ever realize they are sick.”

Shayleen was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on Aug. 19. Since then, she has undergone weekly chemotherapy treatments that leave her feeling tired and sick.

She sits on her mom’s lap, resting after a long day. The family’s three dogs sit nearby, protectively watching over the tired youngster.

“She can’t go to school, but she’s in the fifth grade,” Jenny Stahley said. “We have a tutor who comes in to help her with school work. Every Friday, we head to Salt Lake for treatment. It’s been rough, but we have a good family.”

Shayleen can’t have many visitors, because of the risk of bringing germs around her weakened immune system.

“We have to screen everyone who comes into the house,” her mom said. “She has had a couple of friends over, but we have to make sure they aren’t sick, or around anyone who has been sick.”

Shayleen spends her days working on schoolwork, and playing games on her kindle. “I’m learning how to play Yahtzee online with my grandma in Colorado,” she says with a small smile.

Shayleen’s mom makes the best of it, “At least I have someone to do crafts with,” she said. “As long as Shay is doing okay, I’m usually okay.”

Jenny Stahley spends her days taking care of Shayleen, making sure she is comfortable and pain free, and helping her with homework.

“My brain just feel like scrambled eggs some days,” she said. “It’s sometimes overwhelming.”

A fundraiser has been organized to help support the family. Jenny said she had never met the people organizing the event. “We didn’t even know who she was. Someone saw one of the change jars around town, and started talking to my husband about wanting to do something.”

Ashley Willey is one of the organizers of the spaghetti dinner fundraiser for Shayleen.

“I don’t know them personally,” Willey said. “ A friend of mine met them and felt compelled to help them. She wanted me to help her organize a fundraiser, so now I’m in charge.”

Willey is currently accepting donations for a bake-sale, silent auction and live auction, to accompany the spaghetti dinner, which will be held at Evanston’s Machine Shop, Thursday, Dec. 19, from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., followed by the live and silent auctions.

“We’ll have a kids corner, movies and games so that kids can hang out while their parents look at auction items,” she said. “We are taking donations of baked goods, gift certificates, gift baskets, and large items for the live auction. Anything will help.

“I don’t think anyone should go through this without help. We want to ask the community to offer whatever help they can, to help the family through this difficult time.”

To donate items for the bake sale or auctions, or for more information about the charity event, contact Willey at (307) 708-8116.

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