Brain cancer survivor made honorary Loper
By TODD GOTTULA
KEARNEY – Addison Samuelson’s fight with brain cancer started in the living room of her Cambridge home.
With her mom, Jessica Carbaugh, by her side, it was time to have some serious conversation. Just the two of them. Mother and teenage daughter.
It was May 2012. Doctors at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha just performed surgery to remove a mass near Addison’s brain. Then came the phone call with the crushing news.
“They said the tumor was cancerous. We were blown away. We both cried. We were in shock. We were scared,” Jessica said. “We didn’t know how to react. So we prayed.”
Then came the first of many candid discussions.
“We made the choice there and then to be positive and not let cancer win,” said Jessica. “We had very honest conversation from the start that we would fight hard and beat whatever it was that we faced.”
The conversations between mother and daughter were repeated many times. On the four-hour drives to Omaha, while sitting in waiting rooms and on the sixth floor of Children’s Hospital, where Addison received chemotherapy.
“We talked about keeping a positive attitude and never letting negativity set in,” Addison said. “I talked about being a fighter and staying strong.”
Almost two years later, Addison and her mom continue to remind themselves of those emotional conversations.
“You can’t take a negative attitude because that will just get you down and defeat you. We will fight and stay positive. We say that over and over,” said Jessica.
HONORARY TEAM MEMBER
Addison, 15, is a sophomore at Cambridge High School, where she is the head cheerleader, plays flute in the band, serves on student council and is a member of the basketball, volleyball and track teams.
Following surgery to remove the tumor, she was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, a rare type of brain cancer in the cerebellum — the lower, rear portion of the brain. She endured six weeks of radiation and a year of chemotherapy, which ended in July 2013. Today she is cancer free.
On Friday, Addison was named an honorary member of the University of Nebraska at Kearney women’s basketball team, which was made possible by the Friends of Jaclyn Foundation and UNK Coach Kevin Chaney. Through its Adopt a Child program, the foundation pairs children with brain tumors with college athletic teams.
The game-night festivities included a pregame jersey presentation, postgame reception with the team and locker room ceremony where Addison was given a locker with her own nameplate. An autographed team photo was given to Addison, who also sat on the team bench during the game. Addison and her family also will be invited to the team banquet at the end of the season.
“I’ve learned that you can’t beat cancer by yourself,” Addison said. “There has been a lot of praying and leaning on God, friends and family. So many people have been there for our family with phenomenal support. I’ve felt nothing but love from so many people, and I’m very thankful.”
Coach Chaney said his team’s relationship with Addison is a “lifetime commitment” that he hopes changes their lives.
“We are going to be sisters. … I think they’ll get so much from seeing her strength and the things she’s been through,” Chaney said of his Loper players.
“The lessons I teach my student athletes at UNK are life lessons. This is one of those opportunities to be involved; where you can help someone’s life and assist them just by being yourself and sharing opportunities you have from playing Division II basketball.”
Addison’s mom thanked Chaney and the basketball team for being so supportive.
“The players are great role models, so this is an awesome fit,” she said. “We’re excited to have new friends and hopefully make some lifelong connections.”
Addison is the greater role model, Chaney said.
“We want her to understand that we have her back, that we understand what she went through, that she’s a champion to us and that we look up to her for the strength she’s shown.”
FRIENDS OF JACLYN FOUNDATION
The Friends of Jaclyn Foundation formed in 2005 when Jaclyn Murphy, a 9-year-old from New York, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She was “adopted” by the Northwestern University women’s lacrosse team, which supported her with texts, video messages and friendship. Out of this connection grew Friends of Jaclyn, which has matched sick children with nearly 500 college teams over the past eight years.
The foundation’s founder and Jaclyn’s father, Denis Murphy, attended Friday’s game honoring Addison. He had strong praise for UNK and the women’s basketball team.
“For these student athletes to breathe our oxygen is uncomfortable, but it gives them a completely different perspective on life,” he said. “Love, support and friendship is what we’re all about. Our mission is to improve the quality of life for children and their families who are battling brain cancer, and UNK has embraced that mission by having a wonderful friendship with Addison.”
Denis said his daughter currently is a sophomore at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. And while Jaclyn’s health has improved, the scare of cancer returning always is present.
“My life changed the day I was told my daughter had a brain tumor. It turned my world upside down, and I’ve really never left crisis mode,” he admitted. “Nothing is more painful and horrible than seeing an innocent child suffer. Cancer completely changed how I live and look at life. It is still emotional for me. Every day is emotional.”
Contact: Todd Gottula, 308.865.8454, firstname.lastname@example.org