Do you Relay?


In the picture above, sisters Emily and Danielle Pragdat joined by Brianna Fornino, Mahima Ohri and Ariana Dzurenko at Kick- Off taking photos with the one and only Felicia Temple after her heartfelt performance.

A mother’s journey through pain

Cancer. One word that can change someone’s life in an instance.

It was one hot Memorial Day weekend and the whole neighborhood was out and about with not a care in the world, but for one family things were about to turn from a nice sunny afternoon to a house filled with tears.

That family was mine, and that day was the day I found out that my mother was diagnosed with cancer, Leukemia that is.

Leukemia is a type of blood cancer that forms when the human body starts to have abnormal white blood cells that do not function properly which end up crowding around the other healthy blood cells and platelets causing them to not flow throughout the rest of the body like they should.

“You can go to the doctor tomorrow and your blood is all ok and then the next month you could go and look at your blood and they could see things, one minute you could be fine and the next minute you could be diagnosed with Leukemia” Debbie Franz said.

She was sitting on a chair in her living room when she started spotting out bruises on her body. Debbie had more bruises than usual and she had to put layers of socks on her feet because she was so cold.

Mother Debbie Franz poses with family at daughter, Morgan Franz’s communion, days prior to getting diagnosed with Leukemia.

Debbie said, “I noticed in May I was having bruises on my arms and my legs and I thought it was from moving things out of the garage.”

That day she ran to Valley hospital to see what was wrong. Soon she found out the news that nobody wants to hear.  

“I was admitted to the hospital, Valley that is and I had to stay there and my blood was all out of whack so they had a blood doctor come in and they took a bone marrow from my back to see if it was cancer, the doctor came in a day or two later and told me I had Leukemia” Debbie said.

From then on out Debbie Franz spent the next couple of months in a hospital bed praying that she can go home to see her kids and family again.

On going procedures were taken into action in order to help stop and get rid of the cancer.

Debbie said, “I was getting chemo all day and then I was in a coma for two, three weeks.”

As a result of the chemotherapy, Debbie had lost all her hair leaving her to have a bald head. Each day she would wear hats in all different color just to get her mind off it.

Debbie Franz stands next to her son, Jared Franz, outdoors to go pumpkin picking at Demarest Farm. She is wearing a hat as a result of losing her hair. Before this, Debbie was at Hackensack Hospital where she received a number of treatments each day.

Debbie was not aloud to see her children during this time due to colds and other germs she possibly might catch due to her fragile state. Since she was getting worse, Valley hospital could no longer do anything else to help her so Valley had to transfer her over to Hackensack hospital.

While she was at Hackensack hospital, Debbie had experience a tragic thing that changed her perspective on life.

Debbie said, “I had a roommate and she ended up dying during the night when I was in the room with her from cancer.”

The days were long and iry, all she wanted to to was go home and see her family but the night her roomate died, she thought that she should always think in the moment and never think about the next day.

“You got to just focus on today because anything can happen tomorrow so you just have to focus on one day at a time” Debbie said.


A disease unraveled through the eyes of a Daughter

“I think it was a week before my birthday, I come home from school one day and not until late at night did I find out she had stage one breast cancer,” Ariana Dzurenko said.

Dzurenko was just starting High School when she heard the terrible news. Just a freshman, Dzurenko did not know what to think or do. She could not understand what was really about to happen.

Dzurenko said, “I knew it wasn’t going to be deadly, but I didn’t know how it was going to affect my family so it made me very nervous and upset, and I was affected a lot by it.”

Dzurenko’s mother, Alexandra Dzurenko, had to receive radiation in the morning everyday for three months.

“It just became a part of her daily routine,” Ariana said.

Both Ariana and her sister Julia were affected greatly by their mother’s diagnosis.

“We just didn’t know who to talk to, we didn’t know how to handle it,” Ariana said.

Before this, Ariana and her mother would always hear about others being diagnosed with cancer, and they always thought that that would never happen to their family.

When the Dzurenkos found out about Alexandra’s diagnosis they started doing more in order to keep her mind off the cancer.

Ariana said, “We always tried to take her out of the house, we had family movie nights, we went out to dinner a few times, we went on vacation.”

Once her radiation treatment was finished, Alexandra Dzurenko wanted to raise awareness for other women about breast cancer and how they can prevent it . She was determined to spread the word  as fast as she could.

“She made a commercial with Valley hospital to spread awareness to get mammograms and it just showed how she went for treatment and she is very healthy now,” Ariana said.

The mother of two daughters who once had breast cancer is now finished with her treatments and better than ever.

Ariana said, “She runs every single day I don’t think she’s had an off day in years, she runs everyday three miles, gets ready for work and lives a normal life.”

She was able to overcome this with the help and support of her family and friends. Her neighbors always helped if she ever needed  and the mothers of her daughter’s friends were always there for support.

Relay for Life was an eye opening experience for Alexandra and she loved it!

“She thinks it is amazing, she thinks it’s amazing that everyone comes together and just celebrate the lives and the hard fought battles all these people face or are facing” Ariana said.

Last year was her first Relay for Life experience and she loves how no matter what everyone comes together for this one event and it makes everything come to life.

At first, Alexandra Dzurenko thought that people could see through her and she felt that everyone who knew about her diagnosis would end up treating her differently. In the end, everyone who knew her helped her and treated her the same way.

“Everyone just helps out so nicely and everyone is so supportive and I just think its like very sweet that everyone just comes together at a time like that,” Ariana said.

For anyone that is going through this at the moment or knows someone who is, it is important to be there for them and tell them they are not alone on their journey.

“It gets better because you will always have family and friends and neighbors and people around you who are always there to support you and your doctors and nurses are only trying to help you, they will encourage you and Relay for Life,” Ariana said.

If you go to the Relay for Life website they have a place where if you are experiencing cancer or if you have a family member who is,  you can talk to someone live and they can help.

Ariana said, “When I found out my mom had breast cancer, I was greatly effected I didn’t know who to talk to but my friends are so supportive, my family members were so supportive of everything and it truly does get better.

Walking for a cause and Hope are two concepts that cross Ariana’s mind when she hears the word Relay. Ariana started to get involved in Relay for Life as soon as she found out her mother had cancer.

“I knew that it was affecting people from all over the world and it wasn’t just me and my own home, so I decided to join Relay to help give back to people that are suffering even worse or fighting for their lives more,” Ariana said.

During Relay for Life, Ariana helped by speaking to the community and guided people to where they had to go. She was able to explain the cause for why the community was all walking around the track together which brought the community closer.

Ariana said, “My favorite part is the community coming together while joining for a cause that affects more people than we truly know and it shows that it’s bigger than just what is going on in your own home and it just gives you a sense of  togetherness and it just is nice to see the community coming together and supporting a cause so big.”

Some of the things that she will be doing for this year’s event is preparing a speech with Morgan Franz about the caregivers, to those who care for those who have cancer while also spreading awareness to everyone.

Relay for Life consists of many things, but one main thing that Relay is known for are teams. Teams are what break down the community even smaller. For example, people may create a group that is dedicated to someone who has cancer or died. Teams are a way to raise money for a certain individual who is diagnosed with cancer, and they do just that.Teams can easily be a fun way to make relay competitive, since each team wants to raise more money than the others.

During the day of the event, people walk the track in honor of different things, like one lap for somebody in your family that has been diagnosed with cancer. If cancer has affected you, that is another lap. There are many different things that you can walk the track for and you can also get a bracelet with a different color bead for every lap.

Another huge part of this relay is the many speeches that are going on, which give recognition to the people that are fighting their battles currently or people who have previously fought in order to show the strength of the survivors. Relay for Life is a day that impacted people with cancer.


Do you know anyone who has cancer?

There are 11,601 people who live in Glen Rock. Out of these people, we at least know one  who has been affected by cancer. A mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, cousin, friend or sibling who has experienced cancer.

For many of us, Relay for Life is a chance to give back and fight for those who suffer or had suffered from cancer. It is that one night in June that people gather in hopes of raising enough money to support our loved ones.

For one person, Relay for Life is not just that one night. For this one person, this event is her life.

Kyra Miller is a Senior Community Development Manager. She works within the communities to create and conduct Relay for Life events while building relationships with people from all over.  

“I love it! I would literally not want to do anything else in the world, to me it’s just a part of my life and I get to do something that I love everyday so it’s great,” Miller said.

She began investing her time in Relay when she was just in eighth grade, as her father wanted her to get more involved with the community. From then on something clicked for Miller and she instantly fell in love with the whole program.

Miller said, “It’s not a job, it’s my daily life it’s something I love. I wouldn’t change it.”

Kyra was just a Junior in High School when she heard the devastating news. Her father had been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. Sadly, her father only had two months to live.

Unaware of what the effects might be, Miller did not know what she was about to face. Being that both of her grandparents had cancer, she knew she had to do something.

Two weeks after the news, she had a Relay for Life event that both her father and Kyra had been going to for four years. Despite the condition her father was in they attended the event with smiles on their faces.

Miller said,“I will never forget the experience of going to the Relay, seeing the way that the community supported us when we walked that first survival lap together and my dad was actually in a wheelchair, so pushing him around that survivor lap and having everyone cheer us on was so motivating.”

Unfortunately, her dad had lost his battle when Miller was just a Junior in college. She ended up being the survivor chair, a person who oversaw cancer survivors in college at the time. She had worked with the survivors all that year.

When it was the night of the event, during the luminaria ceremony, she began to feel the community supporting her.

“I felt like no one in the room was ever going to let me fall and I was surrounded by hundreds of strangers but they all knew my story and they all knew that I needed people around me,” Miller said.  

What many of us don’t know is that Relay for Life is not just a one night event filled with fun and hope. Relay for Life is also a great organisation that provides great care for the families and people going through cancer.

Relay for Life teams up with the American Cancer Society to help families of those in need. American Cancer Society has many programs and services that benefit a great deal of people each day. One of the programs and services that they provide is Road to Recovery which Kyra had the pleasure to use with her father.

Road to Recovery is where people like them that couldn’t always drive to appointments were able to get free rides back and forth to cancer treatments.

Another good way American Cancer Society helps out is by having Hope Lodge facilities. Hope Lodge facilities are located all over the world and they help patients by getting their treatments and living comfortably all at once. This helps out the families as well as the cancer patient so they do not have to pay for a hotel while paying for care.

Miller said, “It is more of a quality of life type program.”

One of Kyra’s favorite programs that the company provides to cancer patients is the wig program. The wig program is located right inside the office so for those who have lost their hair or for any patient that would like a wig can go walk inside and get one.

“We actually had someone in today as I was leaving, a cancer patient can come to our office and actually receive a free wig which is absolutely an amazing thing,” Miller said.  

As soon as her father was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer and given two months to live, Miller took up the role as a caregiver.

Miller said,“I was my dad’s primary caregiver, my mom had to continue to work full time because my dad had to quit his job because he wasn’t able to continue, so I took my dad back and forth to treatments, I took care of him when he was ill, I took care of him mentally, so it was a lot of both physical, mental all different capacities of caring.”

When giving care to those who have cancer, you need to remember you are important too. “You have to remember that you can’t care for someone else if you are not taken care of,” Miller said.

In order to help the best that you can, you need to get lots of sleep and you need to eat. Even though you might feel as though you can not go out and experience life, you must. You have to be able to enjoy life.

Miller said, “I was only a Junior in High School and being put in that situation at such a young age, I lost my childhood and not being able to do the things that a normal teenager would do, and so being able to take care of yourself is one of the most important things about being a caregiver. You have to keep yourself in mind even though it’s really hard when you’re caring for someone else.”

As a caregiver, Kyra experienced a true bond with her father.

“I wouldn’t change it for the world, my dad and I we were so close before that but then we were inseparable, my dad was literally my best friend on this earth. It made me stronger as a person,” Miller said.

One of the most common challenges as a caregiver is forgetting to take care of yourself at the same time when caring for another.

Miller said,“I learned that the very very hard way I didn’t think about continuing to be a teenager and continuing to do the normal things that I would do and I just I took on that roll of immediately becoming an adult and having to worry about my dad, and I didn’t ever think about myself which is why when someone is a brand new caregiver, I always say to them remember that you are important too because you can’t care for someone else unless you are cared for.”

Since Glen Rock is teaming up with Fair Lawn after so many years of running, there are going to be high expectations in order to empress Glen Rock. “Expectations are high so I think that coming together as two different communities is gonna be really really awesome,” Miller said.

Relay for Life is a fundraiser that is run globally. Events happen in 27 different countries and they have over 4,000 events world wide. By going to the website you are able to find the Relay that is closest to you that way you can connect and register. By volunteering to be on the committee, there are a number of opportunities that you are able to get involved in to lend a hand.

The American Cancer Society and Relay for Life is here for you and there are so many programs and services that both Relay for Life and American Cancer Society have. The variety of programs and services will allow you to choose the right one to fit your needs. Just go on the American Cancer Society website or call the 1800 number and they can help. Nobody has to go through cancer  alone they are here to help you.

Join us for this year’s Relay for Life event in Fair Lawn at Dobrow sports complex on June 9th and will be going into the morning of June tenth. Relay will begin at 6:30 and there will be lots of fun and exciting activities.

Glen Rock High School’s Relay for Life Middle School team is walking the track in honor to support cancer. Many of these students here have been touched by cancer in the past.

The activities will take place throughout the night as the communities gather in one spot to acknowledge those who put up a strong fight against cancer. This event will consist of opening ceremonies, the light dinner for survivors and caregivers as well as the luminaria ceremony and so much more.


Fight the fight

As the days grow longer and the nights get warmer students fill with excitement as

Summer is almost here. During this time of year there are a handful of activities that students take part in before those front doors come to a close. One of those activities that the student body takes part in is Relay For Life.

Each year the High School hosts Relay For Life in June. Many people in the community gather around and support for this special cause. A lot of hard work and stress has been put on the students and community in order to make this event come to life.

This year however, Glen Rock will be participating in the Relay For Life event in the neighboring town of Fair Lawn. The amazing event will be held at Fair Lawn’s Dobrow Sports Complex located on Harristown Road. Dobrow Sports Complex is the field located behind the Fair Lawn bowling alley. Registration will begin promptly at 6 o’clock pm and will continue to be open throughout the night. This event will continue to the following morning which there will be a closing ceremony.  

Amanda Sproviero, a math teacher here in the High School and Co Advisor for Relay is very excited about the upcoming event. Amanda started getting involved in Relay For Life when she was only a senior in college at TCNJ.

“My grandmother had breast cancer also my childhood best friend her mom died of cancer when we were juniors in high school so a lot of people have been affected around me so I knew that it was something good to fight for,  something good to get involved with and that’s why I did it,” Sproviero said.

In college, when she became apart of Relay For Life she began to have a passion for it and loving every second of it. For a new teacher at Glen Rock, Sproviero was determined to get involved with the school.

Since she was new and wanted to get more involved with the students and faculty, she chose to become one of the leaders for the Glen Rock Relay For Life. Due to her past experience she knew she had to take part in Relay.  

Being a part of something great like that and seeing the many faces coming back is why Amanda keeps doing it each year. When it was time for her first Relay event at the school, she thought the outcome was great. She also was amazed on the amount of kids and students from town and other towns that came to participate for this one special night.

“I knew that it was a very big thing and I actually didn’t know how big it was in Glen Rock until I came here and saw how many people were involved with it and then I fell in love with it. You know the kids are all super into it and so involved and dedicated so it’s good to be involved,” Sproviero said.

Now that Glen Rock will be joining Fair Lawn this year, Sproviero is now responsible for advising the Glen Rock team as well as being the head of activities. As head of activities she is able to move around, add or take away different things for people to do.

Sproviero will also be the one that people can come to in order to get permission for an activity.

Knowing what the Relay For Life at TCNJ was like, she was able to add to the program and expanded in some areas.

“We kept things like the volleyball tournament and the Ben and Jerry’s scoop night and I added selling Gertrude Hawk chocolate bars, we did bake sales, we kept the car wash so we kept a bunch of the annual fundraisers and things that the High School team did and then trying to expand upon it so like last year, Gabe did the basketball tournament, this year we are doing the family movie night so we just want to keep assign fundraisers to enhance how much money we raise as a team,” Sproviero said.  

Amongst the many memories that were created from this night, Sproviero has her share.  “Luminaria two years ago when Matt Rella spoke was very touching and that was also the year that Stephen McRae played the guitar it was a really really touching ceremony,” Sproviero said.

June 2017 Glen Rock High School Relay For Life event. The outline of the field is covered in luminaria bags to with pictures and sayings of those who have suffered from cancer. On the edges of the field, Middle School students sit and acknowledge those who passed. This is one of the many ceremonies that goes on during the event each year.

Other students say that their favorite parts of the whole thing is when they see the smiles on the survivors faces and seeing everyone having fun and making memories, knowing that all the hard work that they put in from the start of the year has paid off.

What prompted the combination of the two events was both the American Cancer Society and Glen Rock as a community.  American Cancer Society is trying to combine events in order to save money. The less events in the area the more money the event makes. Sproviero strongly believes that by combining Fair Lawn and Glen Rock it is both beneficial and a good compromise. This will give both towns a chance to raise more money together. Combining the two towns will bring everyone together to meet new people and help others.

“Fair Lawn can now see Glen Rock High School students in this new light and you guys are all stepping up to the plate and really showing everyone that you guys are leaders,” Sproviero said.

If anyone who has never signed up or participated in Relay For Life before and are interested in becoming a member for the Glen Rock team, all you have to do is follow these next simple steps.

Go to and from there, join the Fair Lawn relay. Once there, sign up and make an account.

After creating an account, when it says join a team search for Glen Rock High School.

If anyone has a family member of child in Middle school and would like to join for them, they have a seperate team.

In order to belong on the Middle School team just search it and click on Glen Rock Middle School.

Both teams will be in attendance at this event and will love for more people to get involved and be on their team.

The Middle School team is specifically for Middle School while the High School team is just for High School.

Since there is two different teams for Glen Rock, each team has their own fundraisers and activities in preparation for the day of the event.

If anyone would like to make a team without being apart of the Middle or High School team just  create a new one.

After creating a team, pick a name and people will be able to sign up as a separate team.

When doing this make sure the people who want to be apart of tat team knows the name and searches it to become a member.

When complete people are able to start donating money that way the team can start contributing to the American Cancer Society.

On the day of the event at registration just say your team name and that is it.

This is all that simple and will only take five minutes tops.

Each team must have a captain which is the leader present before heading into the event.

The captain needs to sign in before allowing anyone from the team inside.

Countless number of people when asked what they think when they hear the words Relay For Life they say HOPE.

Relay For Life gives many hope, those who have cancer or those who know of someone that has been affected by cancer can know that people are here for them and support them.

Those who have been affected by this disease are not alone they have a strong community that contributes a lot to finding research.

Those who are interested in preparing for this event and will like to help the next fundraiser that the High School will be having is the family movie night.

Parents are welcome to stay and enjoy the movie or they can leave.

There will be High School Relay members along with Sproviero to watch them.

While watching the movie each child will receive a juice box and a bag of PopCorn.

Anyone who would like to get involved this year can attended the ELT meetings or can also contact Amanda Sproverior at  [email protected].

The main people along with Amanda that are helping to emerge this dual event are Ms. Forstot who will be helping Amanda with the High School team along with working with the leads in Fair Lawn Assunta Trischka and Kyra Miller who is the American Cancer Society representative.

Specifically for this year’s event, the only hiccups that were faced so far were making sure that everyone who is volunteering has a place to go on Relay day and making sure everything runs smoothly.

Since a number of students help during the event, finding spots to put them in is a must and can be difficult.

The more people at each spot the more that part of the event will work out great and many will be able to enjoy it.

So far everything has been going smoothly with no major setbacks.

The biggest decision that has been thought over within the past few months is what types of fundraisers the school should have in order to raise money for the team.

The more creative and fun the fundraisers that the school creates and makes happen, the more money the the team will get to contribute to the event.

By getting a lot of money, it allows Relay For Life to donate it to American Cancer Society which then it gets distributed in many ways.

Major changes from last year to this year will only be the location and the time.

Unlike last year, registration will begin directly at 6 o’clock instead of 3 pm.

Amanda Sproviero thinks that the upcoming event will be less stressful given that more hands are involved.

By having more hands on deck, it allows both towns to manage less work while still being able to stay on task and host a great event.

Earlier in the year Relay For Life hosted a kick off in Fair Lawn.

The kick-off is where people gather to hear about the upcoming plans in order to set the tone for the years annual Relay For Life.

During this, many people watch a presentation and listen to guest speakers while enjoying baked goods and freshly made food.

In the assembly we asked the crowd if they knew people who were effected and many stood as a result.

Whether it was a mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa or friend everyone in the room acknowledged those people with respect.

From this presentation, it was then realized that cancer does hit close to home and everyone knows someone that is a survivor of cancer or has been recently diagnosed.

People can always do something to help those in need and should as it is a great way to help the community and those from around the world.

Sproviero said, “If it’s just giving a dollar then that’s something.”

By attending the meetings and making survivors aware of your presents and making them feel good they will know they are not fighting alone.

Many people take life for granted and do not realize how many people in one community can be affected by cancer.

Now is your chance to help and contribute to the community.

For those who are not already involved in the community come on out for a night of fun while supporting something good.



My wife had cancer

“I have cancer…”

When finding out that someone you love has been diagnosed with cancer, it is one of the worst feelings anyone could have. It was very upsetting when Gregory S. Franz  heard that his wife has cancer.

One of the worst things that people tend to worry about as soon as they are diagnosed with cancer is their family. Is the family going to be ok, what are they going to think or do or how are they going to continue on? “You worry about your children,” Gregory said.

As soon as Debbie was admitted into Valley Hospital, he needed to multitask between going to work and taking care of the children. The one way that helped Gregory cope with not having his wife at home was to try and keep things as normal as possible. He advises that for any family who are going through this should, “make sure you kept your routine so you go to school, go to your playdates, go to your activities.”

No matter what, families with young children need to continue these important activities. This will help the children have more things to do so that they will not think that much about it. For the Franz family, Gregory had to manage both following the kids set schedule while visiting his wife when she could have visitors.

After my dad took my brother Jared and I to school he would go see my mom before going to work sometimes even after work. On the weekends, he would spend a couple of hours to listen to doctors and to see how she was feeling and acting towards treatment.

My grandma and aunt JoAnn were always around us. They would come in and out of the house so if one of them had something to do the other would be with my brother and I making sure we were ok and watching us.

Gregory had to work, take care of his wife and two children as well as trying to take care of himself all at the same time. This was very challenging but he made it work. People do not have a choice whether or not they have to make their life work, they need to continue.

Gregory said, “ You can’t dwell on it, you can’t cry about it, you just do it.”

My dad woke up every morning and said to himself, I have to do this for my children and I need to be there for my wife.

That is exactly what my dad did and he was able to do it without ever showing his emotions around my brother and I. Of course, it is always easier when you have a family structure, and that is what helped my family.

Jared and I always had someone who was there for us whether it would be to talk to us or make us food or take us to the park. No Matter what, someone from my family always took care of us.

One of the biggest challenges that Gregory faced was that the children did not have a mother figure around for a period of time to be able to teach them things and witness them growing up a little more. Another big challenge for my dad was staying up all night worried about my mom and her treatments. Some days were good days and some days were bad.

Days did go by slow and for many of those days they were heartbreaking. Not able to see my mom was one of the hardest things I had to deal with and so both Jared and I supported each other.

Some of the things his family did at this time was take the children to the park and play on the swings or watch a baseball game that happened to be going on.

From my dad’s perspective on how I was holding up with this whole experience was upsetting.

There would be nights were I was quieter than usual or just sitting at the kitchen table crying.

“You guys worried about it a great deal,” Gregory said.

During this time, Jared and I were doing pretty well in school and doing the best we could on assignments and homework.

Even though my mom was in the hospital surprisingly school was the one place that I could just not worry about anything.

I became distracted with all the work that all I would do was worksheet after worksheet.

Gregory said, “I remember Mrs. Bajor, oh do you need a lasagna i’ll make a lasagna.”  

Many of the teachers and other parents were so supportive which made going to school a lot easier.

At the time, my brother and I were aware that my mom was sick but we did not know with what.

All we knew was that she was too sick to come home and she had to take a lot of medicine and get treatments that were not accessible at home.

Sitting in the Hospital room was uncomfortable for both my dad and I.

Doctors were the only people who could take care of her throughout the day.

“You always think that you should be doing more,” Gregory said.

During treatments, the patient will most likely be sleeping or out of it from the type of medication that they receive.

Hospitals tend to make people feel out of ordinary because it is an environment that you really do not have much control over.

Once you are in the Hospital for a visit, you will feel like you are not good enough from not being able to help.

Gregory’s daily routine at the hospital consisted of saying hello, making small talk, maybe fluffing Debbie’s pillow so that she can lay comfortably.

Once in awhile, he would change the channel on the tv and bring her something to drink and that was about it.

An abundance of the time,  people feel a little helpless going to the hospital because they will only sit in the room overlooking everything that is taking place.

Just like an outsider looking in on something, they have no control over what happens.

All they can do is observe what is going on without interfering and watch it play in your head.

The room was a basic room nothing fancy.

She was in a double room a few times with different patients which sometimes made things a little uncomfortable.  

As a result for having a lot of different people in the room, my mom had different visitors and doctors coming in and out all night.

That made it harder to rest and stay calm.

My aunt JoAnn hung pictures on the walls of a variety of destinations that when my mom was better and out of the hospital she could go anywhere of her choice.

Debbie enjoyed looking at the many pictures of the places around the world.

Jared and I decorated get well cards and my aunt placed them on the wall so if she wanted a sense of us with her she can always read them and look at the drawings.

Flowers after flowers were placed all over to brighten up every inch of her room.

The mood soon became cheerful and it took Debbie’s mind off of what has been going on for a little.

Once Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, New Jersey could not help my mom, my dad never gave up.

He considered it as a good sign that that happened.  

Gregory said “Hackensack Hospital was a big cancer treatment hospital so that didn’t surprise me having to move mom to the other hospital.”

This gave my dad hope that everything was going to be alright and the doctors will give my mom the best treatments that there possibly was for her leukemia.

Hackensack Hospital was different than Valley Hospital because Hackensack Hospital had the best specialists and the specialized doctors who treat these special cancers.

Even though Valley Hospital had cancer doctors they were limited.

Considering that Valley Hospital has only a small amount of specialists, those specialists may only be able to treat one or two maybe three different cancers.

Whereas, Hackensack had the specific team specialized in the particular treatments for leukemia therefore Debbie had to go there.

“She was gonna get the best treatment that was available at the time,” Gregory said.  

My dad had no speculations reason being that the doctor said Debbie could be cured.

In order to overcome this, people need to live day by day which in that particular circumstance you can not let your mind take you to places that are perhaps seen as negative.

Debbie was getting treated and she was responding to the treatments well, that is a positive reinforcement in order to get her family through the day.

Gregory was able to anticipate the next day due to the good news he would receive.

Gregory said, “You can’t let your mind dictate what’s going to happen you have to just stay positive.”

In the process, there were no major decisions that had to be made at any time.

Reason being was that having talked to the team of doctors my dad was able to hear and see how they were going to treat her and so he knew that the treatment was pretty much laid out.

All along, the scariest moment had to be when my mom was very emotional during the treatment and the doctor’s felt the best for the medicine to work was to maybe sedate her.

By sedating her it would allow her to to become calm so that she would not become excitable and emotional.

Depending on the patient, that person will make themselves excited because at that point they do not know what is going on and you want to try to keep that patient calm.

People tend to try to say things in order to keep them calm but whatever you say does not necessarily work.

Doctors have to use calming medicines to keep the patient calm so the treatment can work because when a patients anxious like that a lot of times the treatment and the outcome does not work.   

When Debbie was in a coma, it was not because she was almost dying and they could not do anything to help her, it was so that the medical team could try to get her to stay calm.

Debbie had no other choice given that she needed the treatments because that was the last thing they could do for her.

Doctors had to try to keep her calm by sedating at the same time so that they would not expect to see those types of things during the course of treatments.

This was kind of difficult to view and watch but since Gregory and his children were hopeful and stayed positive they were strong.

“You were hopeful that ok maybe one more day one more day one more day and then they can wake her up and then she will be calm enough to continue with the treatment and she won’t need to be in that type of state,” Gregory said.

After being in a coma for two to three weeks, Debbie was soon fine and calm enough that she could acquire treatments again and she soon was in remission and ready to go home.

Cancer is a battle that no one wants to fight.

Everyone is acceptable to cancer and it can affect anyone no matter where you live or work.

Never think that once someone has cancer that that is going to be it for them.

Be positive and never think about the negative impacts that cancer can bring.

A helping hand

As the Primary Care office in Wyckoff opens, children of all ages step inside the waiting room to see a doctor.

One by one the office nurse calls the children’s names as the parent rushes them inside.

The door to the room opens as the doctor makes her way inside and on the examining table sits a boy approximately 15 years of age.  The boy is in the office for cold like symptoms and the doctor proceeds with her examination.

This is just an average day for Dr. Erin Leonard, as she examines sick children to determine what illness they have and prescribing treatment, as well as counseling parents, and raising awareness of the HPV Virus in hopes of convincing parents to approve their child getting vaccinated against HPV, with the optional vaccine that has been available to teenagers for several years.

Dr. Erin Leonard sits and smiles at the camera as she is warming up from a long day of skiing. Days prior to this she was teaching her students at Seton Hall.

Dr. Erin Leonard started her career as a nurse and soon after years of school and experience, she became a doctor.

She attended five different colleges; she went to undergraduate school at the University of Vermont, Graduate School at New York University, Hunter College, William Paterson University, and Seton Hall University.

She started her education as a pre-med student at the University of Vermont, and then graduate school at New York University for her advanced nurse practitioner degree.

After completing her degree she went to Hunter College for an additional degree and then soon after to William Paterson University for her post-masters doctorate and advanced practice Doctorate of Nurse Practitioner degree.

After achieving those degrees she continued at Seton Hall University for another post graduate degree, a PHD, which makes Dr. Erin have both a DNP and a PhD.

Originally, Dr. Erin Leonard did not want to become a nurse, instead she started off as pre-med and later transitioned into the nursing program due to an advisor that she had who encouraged her to specialize in primary care nursing.

“I could get the experience as a nurse and then go back to school, either medical school or this DNP program, and I could work along the way while I was going,” Dr. Erin Leonard said.  

She liked it because she can get the practical experience and make sure she liked medicine before going fully into the program.  

The transition from being a nurse to a doctor was made when she realized that the role of nursing was transitioning into more of a leadership role, and with her experience being from the hospital setting, she felt that someone with her background should go into primary care.

Dr. Erin Leonard thought that her patients would benefit from her experience as a primary care nurse if she were to become a doctor due to her understanding of why people would come into the hospital, and if there is a prevention program she could offer and educate her patient in a primary care setting, she would be successful at it.

She worked as a night nurse on the Thoracic Medicine floor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. The Thoracic Medicine Floor is used for patients who have ailments of the lungs and heart.

On her floor she did many of Lobectomy which means the removal of a lobe of the lung, due to cancer or other ailment which makes breathing difficult. Many times part of this treatment called for Dr. Leonard to administer chemotherapy drugs for those patients whose ailments were caused by cancer.

Several years after working at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Dr. Erin transitioned into the outpatient setting of Pediatric Day Hospital, where she gave chemotherapy to children with various cancers.

Deciding to pursue an additional degree, Dr. Erin went back to New York University where she finished a degree and became an acute nurse practitioner going to work specializing in anesthesiology.

She then serviced all the units in the hospital providing primary care with other anesthesiologists for patients who were in acute pain as a result of cancer.

To Dr. Erin Leonard, the hospital is like a family: “nobody leaves that hospital unless it’s because they had to move to a different area.”

During her time working at this hospital, the hospital was very supportive of staff and employees continuing their education and willing to invest money and time. The hospital realized that health care was constantly evolving and that in order to provide the best care possible, staff needed to be educated in the most advanced and latest treatments.  

According to Dr. Erin Leonard, some common signs that correlate with cancer are, “pain, intermittent pain, chronic pain, tingling, any symptom which is considered asymmetrical, a bump on one side and not the other, a loss of appetite, a decrease in energy, bleeding, nose bleeds.”  

Before the diagnoses for any type of cancer, the tests that are run for the patient are a CBC.

A CBC test is a Complete Blood Count that physicians look at to see if there is anything in the patients blood that would tell them that there is a problem, and that there might be cancer present.

Another test that they do is to see if there is an increase in white blood cells or a decrease in platelets.

“We could also see the decrease in hemoglobin so these tests, when they come up abnormal, will warrant further investigation, and we go into more diagnostic studies,” Dr. Erin said.  

Depending on where the doctor works, they have colleagues who may specialize in a specific cancer, and there are teams they rely on.

Each section would have a team, they would have a team that specializes in many cancers such as Osteosarcoma, Osteosarcoma can be a malignant tumor of the bone.

These hospital teams are comprised of doctors, nurses, pathologists, radiologists, people that have the most advanced training in that specific type of cancer.

Doctors would collect data and collaborate to determine the best course of treatment, the team will then treat a patient from the beginning to the end of the process, and then after, provide healing support for the patient when treatment is completed.

When asked if she ever had to tell someone they had cancer, she told me a story about one of her experiences.

Dr. Erin Leonard said, “Most recently, I had a patient who underwent a normal appendectomy for what I thought was appendicitis and it was, but when the surgeon was performing the surgery they discovered that the patient had a Omentum and Mesentery Cancers which is a stage four advanced type of cancer that really there is no treatment for so that person will not have a favorable outcome and I was with the surgeon as the primary care provider when we told the patient, and that was hard because it was so unexpected, but the thing about cancer people don’t realize, is that there’s no cure for a reason.  Tumors just have a mind of their own. Sometimes people with stage four cancer can live a long life and you just never know what the outcome can be so people just have to be hopeful and supportive.”

Being hopeful and supportive is Dr. Erin Leonards’ primary goal in the early stages of diagnoses.

Once someone comes to Dr. Erin about cancer she tells them: “we have to take one day at a time, we have take one test at a time and not anticipate any results, and think about how cancer will affect other people they know especially members of their family”.

With her background in pain management, treating cancer pain is essential. She  also believes in anti-nausea regimen because some of the treatments and chemotherapies that she has given results in the patient getting severe nausea so by her being proactive with pre-medication is essential and also with basic activities of daily living.

She thinks that identifying who the patient’s support system is so that they can do the things that they still like to do is one of the main parts of primary care.

During the treatments to help prevent or stop cancer, the patient becomes weak.

Chemotherapy treatment essentially knocks all strength out of the body.  It kills the good cells as much as it kills the bad cells. The white blood cells which are the fight cells of the lymphatic system and the hematological system will be depleted because of certain chemotherapies.

The patient becomes immuno-compromised and will not be able to fight off infections.

In order to calm her patients down Dr. Erin Leonard would just put her hand on their hand, she feels touch is very therapeutic.

She tries to remain calm throughout this process and she also believes in the holistic approach, which means she believes in lavender therapy and music therapy.

Dr. Erin Leonard finds that when working with the younger children they enjoy pet therapy; “Pet therapy is huge for most of the children.”

Usually patients that get the news that they have finished with their treatments, they are scared to death. They do not want to be done with treatment because they tend to be scared that the cancer is going to come back.

“They come to my office constantly and ask for ultrasounds, x- rays, and blood counts because they are just terrified,” Dr. Leonard said.  

She has never told someone that they have beaten cancer because she thinks that it is giving people false hope.

“If you think about it, cancer is something we all live with.  So we can treat it, we can put it in a dormant state but it will always be part of everyone’s life,” Dr. Erin said.

Cancer is the accumulation of the production of abnormal cells and people always have to be on guard whether a person is one month old or 101 you are always at risk for cancer.

Dr. Erin Leonard currently works at a primary care practice in Wyckoff New Jersey.  At the practice she is a DNP, a Doctor of Nursing Practitioner, with two other doctors. The practice has admitting credentials at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood New Jersey. Between going back and forth to the pediatric care office and Valley Hospital, she is also a professor teaching at Seton Hall University School of Medicine.

When she teaches and brings the medical residents into the surgical units they are exposed to all types of cancer patient’s usually gastrointestinal cancers.

At the hospital, she has had a couple of cases in the last year of leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia.

Acute lymphocytic leukemia and what the mnemonic that she teaches her student in order to remember that is: “most all kids who get (ALL) will do well because (ALL) is the most treatable and curable.”

Now Dr. Leonard  works with two other doctors,  one of them is a traditional medical doctor and the other doctor was like her who was a nurse first and then went back to medical school.

At the practice, there is just the three of them, but then they have a whole team at Valley Hospital which is the Department of Pediatrics.

Her formal name and title is Doctor Erin Leonard, Doctor of Primary Care, and board certified in pediatrics.

During her patients visits at the pediatrics office, she does a lot of screening in primary care, so for example, the HPV vaccine, which is the only anti-cancer vaccine available to teens, has to be approved by the parents before it can be given because it is an optional vaccine, so she has to constantly convince a lot of parents to allow her to vaccinate their kids with this certain vaccine.

She also does Retinoblastoma screenings of every child she sees, whether they just come in for an earache or not, it takes her two seconds with a special tool that looks into the retina of their eye.

If she sees a red flashback she knows that the child does not have a retinoblastoma or a neuroblastoma tumor in their eye.

“I do a lot of screening just because of my oncology background,” Dr. Erin Leonard said.  

She agrees that we need a multidisciplinary approach in order to help treat this terrible disease.

Dr. Erin Leonard states that “we need research, we need occupational therapy, physical therapy, we need education, we need doctors, nurses, we need everyone to get together and sort of figure out how to decrease the number of people that are being diagnosed with cancer, all different cancers.”