Foundation helps bring together young adults with cancer

Sample Camp Day set for Aug. 10

By: Robin Ruehlen | Shelby - Utica News | Published July 10, 2013

 The Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation is sponsoring a Sample Camp Day Aug. 10 so young adults ages 16-30 who have been diagnosed with cancer can learn about the benefits of attending a week-long cancer camp of their choice. Cassie Hines, a 2009 graduate of Eisenhower High School, was diagnosed with tubulocystic renal cell carcinoma in 2008 at age 17. She died on March 1, 2012.

The Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation is sponsoring a Sample Camp Day Aug. 10 so young adults ages 16-30 who have been diagnosed with cancer can learn about the benefits of attending a week-long cancer camp of their choice. Cassie Hines, a 2009 graduate of Eisenhower High School, was diagnosed with tubulocystic renal cell carcinoma in 2008 at age 17. She died on March 1, 2012.

Photo courtesy of Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — Although Cassie Hines was surrounded by the love and support of her family and friends during her four-year battle with cancer, something was missing from her life: a connection with other young adults with cancer who were struggling with the very same questions and concerns that she was.

Would she live? Would she ever experience a normal life again?

It wasn’t until she spent a week at Camp Mak-a-Dream in Montana that Cassie was able to find that missing piece — knowing she was not alone in her fight, and building lasting friendships with those who understood exactly what she was experiencing.

Renee Valentine, Cassie’s aunt, said her time at Camp Mak-a-Dream and a later trip to First Descents kayaking camp in North Carolina proved to be a turning point for her.

“She could talk to her friends and family, but no one understood what she was going through,” Valentine recalled.

“It was when she met kids just like her that she had the connection. Even though they lived all over the country, she would call them from her doctor’s office and discuss things. She didn’t want to scare the rest of us with her fears, but she could call on her friends who had cancer, and they could be cheerleaders for each other.”

Diagnosed in 2008 with tubulocystic renal cell carcinoma, a rare form of kidney cancer, the then-17-year-old Eisenhower High School junior learned that the cancer had already metastasized and was considered incurable, but possibly controllable.

Over the next four years, Cassie underwent seven major surgeries, eight different forms of chemotherapy, three radiation bead therapies, numerous cryoablation treatments and countless emergency room visits for infections and pain, yet she graduated from high school with honors and attended Michigan State University, where she remained on the Dean’s List for the duration.

“Kids who have cancer at that age have so many unique needs. Their friends are starting the rest of their lives, and they have no idea what their own lives will be about,” Valentine said.

“There are so many scary statistics — such as the reoccurrence factor in that age group, and the issues of fertility. She had to decide at 17 if she wanted to freeze her eggs, and if she did, what if the cancer came back and her children lost their mother?”

Valentine added that many of Cassie’s friends began to drop out of her life when they learned of her diagnosis.

“They were afraid to be with her. They were ready to start their lives and have a good time, and the thought of losing a friend was so scary that they just disengage. Some stuck by her the whole time, and others came back when they realized that she was dying.”

In January of 2012, Cassie learned that the cancer had attacked her liver, among other organs, and that she was in the beginning stages of liver failure. The battle was over.

Valentine said Cassie returned home in the care of hospice, where she lived for 42 days.  The first several weeks of hospice care were spent with family and those friends who had shared the ups and downs of her four-year fight, before she was no longer able to communicate.

Cassie Hines died on March 1, 2012.

Shortly afterward, her family started the Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation in order to guide young adults who were diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 16 and 30 to support programs and services.

Cassie’s mother, Karen, wrote on her website on the first anniversary of Cassie’s death that, when her daughter had a dream of helping other young adults with cancer connect through peer support, “we never thought it would end up our mission.”

“The more we researched and the more people we met, the more we realized the void for this age group is real. The voice of the young adult was the same. … ‘I feel alone, even surrounded by people who love me,’” Karen Hines wrote.

“We also found those cancer patients who engaged in peer support, especially cancer camps, found a new sense of self. Those participants developed important friendships and learned not to just survive cancer, but to thrive in life because of their battle with cancer.” 

From 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 10, the Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation, in partnership with Gilda’s Club, is presenting a Sample Camp Day at the Walled Lake Outdoor Education Center. The Sample Camp is the chance for cancer patients ages 16-30 to bring a guest and explore how to attend a weeklong cancer camp, speak with representatives from camps throughout the country and meet survivors who have attended camps, as well.

Valentine said the Foundation has already sponsored several patients’ trips to cancer camps this year and is hoping to sponsor as many Michigan patients as possible.

“Most camps are free the first time, except for travel, so we sponsor patients and arrange and pay for the travel,” she said.

“When they go, they receive a backpack that we fill with all kinds of travel supplies in it, a pillow and blanket, water bottles, snacks and magazines, information on some of the other resources available to them and gift cards for meals in the airport. We’re raising all the money locally, and patients can choose any camp they want.”

The Sample Camp Day will include a rock-climbing wall, a zip line and a high ropes course, as well as representatives from Camp Mak-a-Dream, First Descents and Gilda’s Club of Royal Oak.

“She was a spunky kid. She would walk into a room and everyone would look at her because she was gorgeous and she always had such a positive outlook on life; she was such a happy person all the time,” Valentine said of her niece.

“She didn’t let the cancer bring her down in front of other people. She would sometimes get depressed and want to be alone, but you’d never know that. Most people who knew her never even knew she had cancer. She had a spark; she was the kind of person everyone wanted to be around. Part of this foundation is to carry on that spirit, so others can have the type of attitude she did.”

The Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation Sample Camp Day will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Walled Lake Outdoor Recreation Center, 3577 Sleeth Court in Commerce Township. Participants must complete a Sample Camp registration form, a medical release form and the Walled Lake Outdoor Education Center waiver and return them by Aug. 1. All registration forms are available at www.cassiehineshoescancer.org.  For further information, email camp@cassiehinesshoes cancer.org.

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