Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Focusing on the Future 

Posted by James at 8:00 AM ET

Slinger woman concentrates on helping others, battling cancer

By Gay Griesbach
Summyr Zuern wants to share her good fortune with those who will go on to help others.

Finding out she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia was not part of the blessing, being able to give a student a break on medical education is.

"We had tossed around the idea of having fundraiser to defray medical bills, but felt it wasn’t necessary," said Zuern, 26. "We had that under control.

"With all the time I spent with doctors and nurses, it became important to me to help someone going into medical field," she said. "They’ve played such an important part in my life recently."

A 2000 graduate of Hartford Union High School, Zuern’s goal is to secure a BEST scholarship for a student entering the medical profession.

To keep the scholarship going, the school requires a $20,000 donation, but Zuern said if her group can’t raise that amount, other scholarship options available. If funds exceed $20,000, the balance will be donated to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic in Slinger, where Zuern receives her treatments.

The fundraiser was not only raise scholarship money, but also awareness about the disease, Zuern said.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is most common in childhood and young adulthood with a peak incidence at 4 or 5, and another peak in old age. Adults with ALL have a disease-free survival rate of 50 percent.

Zuern and her husband of three years, Mike, began talking about having a family this spring, so when she began to experience fatigue and a few other minor in April, she wasn’t too alarmed.

Zuern, a former member of the Hartford Energizers and Milwaukee Bucks Energee! dance teams has always been physically fit, so she took the symptoms as a sign of early pregnancy until they worsened and she called her doctor, who suggested blood work.

"I went in on a Thursday afternoon and then I went to work," she said. "When I got home, I had three messages on phone saying go to the emergency room at Hartford hospital."

At Aurora Medical Center, a second doctor urged her to immediately see a hemotologist/oncologist at St. Luke’s Hospital in Milwaukee. That night, she received her first transfustion and, the next day, a bone marrow biopsy.

"It hit me very fast," said Zuern. "In March, I had absolutely no symptoms. I think it surprised the doctor, how few symptoms I had because my numbers were so incredilby low."

Zuern had to put her education at Moraine Park Technical College and job at Humana Insurance on hold, but she’s still a busy woman, as her health allows.

When not taking in rounds of treatment or working on the fundraiser, Zuern spends time reflecting on her experiences in her Caring Bridge journal:

"I personally don't enjoy feeling sorry for myself or having others do the same. I never have - since the day I was told that I had a horrific disease. Of course the question of ‘why?’ enters my mind or I think of the crazy ways I could have maybe avoided this, but it takes up too much of my energy and I want to expend my energy on positive things," Zuern writes.

A better investment of her time is working with "Team Summyr," a group of family and friends who have rallied to her cause.

Zuern’s former Energizer coach Sheila Trost is a member of that team.

"It’s a way for our program to give back to one of our former dancers," said Trost, who knew Zuern even before she joined the Energizers.

In addition to donating some of the food that will be part of the refreshment sale, the Energizers will perform to the song "I’ll Stand By You" at the benefit.

"Cancer is not a surprise anymore. Everyone is affected by it or knows someone with cancer - friends, family," Zuern said. "My story isn’t any different than anybody else’s. Its amazing how many people truly care. I’m so surprised and so thankful."

Team Summyr is hosting a scholarship fundraiser from 5 to 11 p.m. on Nov. 8, after Hartford’s Christmas Parade.

Team members are hoping parade-goers and others looking for sports memorabilia, hunting gear, vacation packages or a special gift will join them at the Erin Town Hall, 1846 Highway 83 South. Their goal is to raffle at least 150 baskets and gifts.

Highlights of the event will include food and refreshments, raffles, music and games, with all proceeds going toward a Hartford Union High School BEST scholarship in Summyr Zuern’s name.

A Team Summyr Scholarship account is also available for donations at West Bend Savings Bank, 1195 E. Commerce Blvd., Slinger, WI 53086.

If you have any questions about the scholarship or fundraiser, contact Janean Handel at 673-2125 or Cyndi Aulenbacher at 673-6253.

If you would like to learn more about Zuern’s battle against leukemia and follow her progress, visit her Web site, here.

Labels: , ,