Vivian Gelormino dearly hopes she can shave her head on April 30.
As a show of solidarity for her best friend, Sarah Lynch, who has been battling cancer caused by a rare tumor-producing disorder, Gelormino has pledged to cut off all her hair if she can raise $30,000 for the Lynch family by the end of April.
For every $1,000 raised, Gelormino will cut one inch off her hair. It’s the least she could do, she said. Even with good insurance, Lynch’s medical bills have been piling up because her recent treatment has included two hospitalizations at a specialized hospital in New York City.
“When I heard Sarah had cancer, I told her, ‘If you lose your hair, then I’m losing mine,’” Gelormino said. “Sarah is such a sweet, tender young lady who got dealt a tough hand ... She’s kept such a positive attitude. The girl’s a fighter.”
Lynch and Gelormino have been friends since they met as teenagers while working part time at the local movie theater. Gelormino was the maid of honor at Lynch’s wedding. Now they’re both mothers and still best friends.
Lynch, 33, had barely celebrated her 31st birthday when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. She endured long stretches of chemotherapy, but when that didn’t work she had surgery in June 2012 to remove a large tumor in her colon. A second surgery was planned to remove tumors in her liver, but because those tumors were cancerous, too, it was considered too risky. Spots on a lung also were found.
Plan B was more chemotherapy, and Lynch responded much better than during the first 12 rounds of chemo.
Amid the intensive treatment, Lynch has striven to create a normal home environment for her and husband Travis’ two children, Trenton, 6, and Brooke, 4. Support from family members, friends and her church family at First Presbyterian Church have helped the family through the ordeal.
Lynch has been diagnosed with Cowden Syndrome, a condition that causes a mutation of the tumor suppresser gene.
“My body makes tumors at will,” she explained. “I have tumors on my spleen that are not cancerous.”
When Lynch’s primary local doctor told her she would have to keep doing chemotherapy for the rest of her life, she sought a second opinion and help from Kalispell oncologist Dr. Michael Goodman, who researched Lynch’s condition and found a doctor who specializes in liver cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Lynch and her husband flew to New York last April and she underwent a resection surgery that removed about 25 percent of her liver.
“He cut out six other tumors and burned five others,” she said. “I was there two weeks and that surgery put me in remission.”
More chemotherapy was to follow, though, and Lynch endured six more especially “horrible” rounds of chemo that left her with gastritis, nausea and severe dehydration.
“I got through those by the grace of God,” she said.
The New York doctor warned her that two spots detected in her left lower lung would have to be removed if they showed up on a positron emission tomography, or PET scan, and sure enough, surgery was needed to remove those spots. The colon cancer had metastasized to her lung.
Lynch had more surgery March 12 in New York City and is still recovering.
Having Cowden syndrome “means this is my new normal,” Lynch said. “I have to be aggressive with my health and aggressive with my scans, and I have an increased risk of many different cancers.”
She’s doing everything she can to keep the cancer at bay, such as “eating clean” with a diet of nonprocessed organic food.
Managing cancer with young children has been daunting. Travis’ job with BNSF Railway Co. can take him away from home for a couple of days at a time, but Lynch said they’re thankful he has a steady job with good insurance.
“This is the third year Travis has spent his vacation time in the hospital with me,” she said.
Four surgeries, including the travel expenses of two trips to New York, have stressed the family financially.
“This won’t be my last surgery,” Lynch said.
She’s determined to do whatever it takes to make sure she sees her kids grow up.
“You don’t want to tell your kids they lost their mom because of money,” she said. “But it is hard to ask for help.”
Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.