When 3-year-old Ingram was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, his big sisters sprang into action, raising more than $220,000 for St. Jude.
When Ashley and Craig Dismuke discovered that their 3-year-old son, Ingram, had a rare brain tumor, they experienced the gamut of emotions all parents undergo under such circumstances. But the couple made a conscious decision to bring Ingram’s sisters along on the journey. And what a ride it has been.
In March of 2012, Ingram began having headaches. A CAT scan revealed a brain tumor.
Amid the subsequent whirlwind of tests, hospitalization and neurosurgery, Craig and Ashley began searching for the best place to take their son for further treatment. During their search, they spoke with Amar Gajjar, MD, director of Neuro-Oncology at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. After that conversation, the couple obtained a referral to St. Jude.
A family affair
At St. Jude, the couple discovered their son had ependymoma, a cancer arising from cells in the passageways that produce and store cerebrospinal fluid. Ingram’s tumor was a type called anaplastic.
“It’s a more aggressive variety of ependymoma with a lower cure rate,” Gajjar explains.
Ingram’s treatment would include 34 rounds of carefully targeted radiation treatments as well as four rounds of chemotherapy.
With the assistance of St. Jude Child Life specialists, the toddler and his sisters adjusted to the unfamiliar routines of cancer treatment. Not only did 10-year-old Madison and 8-year-old Lindsey learn about the crucial role siblings play in the experience, but they also participated in Sibling Star Day—an annual red-carpet event that applauds brothers and sisters for the sacrifices they make. Craig and Ashley made a conscious effort to include Ingram’s sisters in other ways, as well.
When Madison and Lindsey suggested creating a team to raise funds for the 2012 St. Jude Memphis Marathon, Craig and Ashley thought it was a great idea. Not only would the activity give the children a way to support a worthwhile cause, but it would help them feel involved.
“It would be the girls’ way to help,” Ashley says. “They could pray for Ingram; they could love him; but they couldn’t do anything physical to help him.”
A nationwide approach
Madison and Lindsey set a lofty goal of $200,000.
Then they did the math: If they built a lemonade stand and raised $100 a day, it would take them 1,000 days to raise $100,000. However, if they could talk to business executives, they might be able to raise money more quickly.
The girls practiced their presentation, and their dad helped them set up appointments.
To accelerate their progress, the girls created a video that could be posted online. A local video producer donated the technical expertise; the savvy young fundraisers provided the talent. The donations started to roll in.
As people started seeing the video, they began sending in $100; $2,000; $5,000,” Craig says. “It was amazing; the girls ended up raising more than $220,000.”
The whole, wide world
Thus far, Ingram has had a fairly smooth course of treatment, with mild side effects from chemotherapy and radiation. With the help of physical therapy and speech therapy, he has regained his strength and has overcome minor articulation issues. “He’s doing great,” Gajjar reports. “He just came in for a follow-up, and everything was fine.”
The talkative 4-year-old is enthralled by dinosaurs, swords, art and baseball.
Baseball, above all.
“I try to hit it, and sometimes I don’t hit it, and I swing so hard and I can’t hit it. It comes fast, and I make my bat go fast,” explains Ingram, words tumbling over one another in an excited rush.
What else does he like? Once, during treatment, someone asked Ingram where he would visit if he could travel anywhere in the whole, wide world.
His answer was immediate and enthusiastic: “St. Jude!” he exclaimed.
Abridged from Promise, Spring 2013