By Dave Pearce
All members of the Tim and Theresa Schickel Family will all be home for Christmas. For that, they feel blessed. Even though 12-year-old Tanner will be in between trips for radiation for a form of cancer on Christmas, his grateful family realizes that things could be worse. Tim, Theresa, Tanner, brother Tyler and sister Tori will enjoy Christmas together at home in St. Wendel.
But on Friday at St. Wendel School, members of the Schickel family got to see first-hand the blessing of good friends and some of the rewards of a small school in a loving community. Members of the school presented Tanner with cards, prayers, and a check for $1,800 from fundraising efforts raised by “Team Tanner.”
Tanner was like most 12-year-old boys, he enjoyed playing sports with his friends and “hanging out.” But a diagnosis this summer rocked the world of this young man and his family.
“Tanner had mono back in May,” his mother explained. “He recuperated from it and we thought everything was going well. Then, we were at Holiday World and I noticed he had a lump on his neck. It was a small lump but we went to the doctor in August. He ended up having surgery to have it removed. They sent it off to the Mayo Clinic and we got the results. We have been in a whirlwind ever since.”
While the results were frightening because they contained the “c” word (cancer), Schickel said that despite the chemo and radiation, the prognosis for a full recovery are excellent.
“He has a rare type of Hodgkins Lymphoma,” Theresa explained. “The doctor he saw originally had worked at St. Jude’s and he had only seen this type of cancer four times. But the rare is not a bad thing in Tanner’s case because it is very treatable. There is about a 99 percent success rate.”
Tanner has been through three rounds of chemotherapy and now faces low doses of radiation in Indianapolis. But the family expects a full recovery.
But there were tears and hugs enough for everyone on Friday at St. Wendel’s School Convocation.
“It is a good thing we have such a strong support system,” Theresa explained. “This school and this community have amazing. We have had prayers and cards from people in South Carolina. His name has gone with someone who traveled over to Rome. He has even gotten a prayer blanket from Florida.”
Although students at St. Wendell knew there was little they could do to help Tanner’s illness, they realized there was a more practical side that they could contribute to. They formed “Team Tanner” and began to raise funds to help offset the expenses of travel, food, and hotel stays.
The group, raising money from Team Tanner T-shirt sales, raised $1,800 for the family, and members of the class have kept Tanner in reading material for the long trips to Indianapolis for treatment.
“We’ll be driving along and I will hear Tanner laughing in the back seat and it will be because of something someone wrote in one of the cards,” his mother explained.
Fuller Grafix has done all the artwork and the printing at no charge.
“It is so overwhelming that words just can’t express,” Theresa said in response to the gift received Friday from the school. “We’re not people who like to be out in the public eye. But the first time you see everyone in those T-shirts, it is just an amazing thing…overwhelming.”
“I can’t put it into words…the amount of money…and it’s not just the money,” she said as tears swelled in her eyes and her voice weakened. “The amount of funds is one thing but the number of people from this school who have prayed for him and have sent him so many care packages. They send him something every time he goes up there and he has so much it is just beyond words.”.
Tanner seems to have kept a good attitude despite the normal things that come with chemo. Aside from wearing a Mater Dei baseball cap to cover his thin hair, Tanner just looks like one of the boys.
“He goes to Peyton Manning Hospital up in Indy and we have always heard so much about the good things that happen at Riley’s and St. Jude’s but I just can’t say enough about Peyton Manning,” Theresa said. “The doctor calls us himself and it is just amazing.”
The hospital, which has sites on the north side of Indianapolis and northern suburban Carmel, specializes in treating children with complex, chronic or congenital conditions. It has 46 inpatient beds and 15 beds in a pediatric intensive care unit, as well as 17 private rooms in the pediatric emergency department.
The week before Christmas, Tanner will spend in Indianapolis and will return home on the weekend. He will return to Indy on Christmas Eve and will return in the evening. On Christmas Day, everyone will be at home. Then on the morning after Christmas, Tanner will head out again for treatment and will remain there until the same schedule applies for the New Year’s holiday.
Tanner will follow up his treatment every few weeks when radiation is completed and then eventually every few months he will be checked.
“When you have a first-hand experience such as this with this community and this school, you understand why you live where you do and you send your children to school where you send them,” Theresa concluded. “Everyone has been just great. He has been able to keep his homework caught up and everyone has gone out of their way to help us in every possible way.”