Diamondbacks Pitcher Supports his Best Friend Diagnosed with Brain Cancer

With his best friend set to undergo surgery for a highly aggressive form of brain cancer, Diamondbacks pitcher Wade Miley was hoping and praying for a sign, some kind of indication that Johnnie Santangelo III was going to be all right.

This was early Tuesday morning. Santangelo was leaving Miley’s house for Barrow Neurological Institute. Miley told him he loved him, and on Santangelo’s way out the door Miley’s dog followed.

“You know how it is early in the morning; I didn’t really wake up good,” Miley said. “I remember him, in a daze I remember him looking back and saying, ‘Don’t worry, Sassy, I’m going to be back to see you.’ That just made me feel good. That comforted me. Him telling the dog that. That’s what stuck with me.”

A day after surgery, things are looking up. Doctors say they have removed the glioblastoma multiforme tumor, and concerns that existed pre-surgery about motor functions or vision problems have been mitigated. They think Santangelo is going to be OK.

“I’ve never been so happy in my life,” Miley said.

It has been a harrowing couple of weeks.

Santangelo and Miley have been best friends since childhood. Santangelo always went by “Little Man,” and it just happened he grew to 6 feet 5. Growing up in Louisiana, the two would hunt, fish, play sports and raise hell.

“Whatever you could think of that kids from the country would do,” Miley said. “There wasn’t a day that went by that we weren’t getting in trouble.”

Most recently, Santangelo, who was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 2004 but never pitched professionally due to elbow problems, had been running his family’s mushroom farm in Louisiana. But then came the headaches. Bad ones.

“They checked out his nose, checked out his ears and sinuses and all that stuff,” Miley said. “One day his vision got all messed up. They called his dad. His dad thought he was (joking). They took him to the hospital and told him he had a brain tumor. Probably some of the worst news you could ever get.”

Miley heard the news about a half hour before the buses left Salt River Fields for the team’s trip to Australia, and the day after they returned Miley flew to Louisiana. He was worried about how his friend would look, but what he saw was the same old Johnnie. This gave Miley hope.

Every doctor Santangelo visited told him the same thing: the cancer was inoperable. They recommended a laser treatment. Miley mentioned it to Diamondbacks trainer Ken Crenshaw, and a few phone calls led them to Barrow’s Dr. Nader Sanai, who thought surgery was possible. They were told doctors would see him as soon as he could get to Arizona.

And so until Tuesday, Santangelo and his family had been staying at Miley’s house. He went to the hospital early that morning. Miley joined them later and stayed as long as he could, but he was scheduled to face the Giants that day and headed out in the middle of the afternoon.

There was concern about Santangelo not being able to move the left side of his body, but he put those to rest once he came to after surgery, picking up his left leg and fist-pumping.

“I let him squeeze my hand (Wednesday) with his left hand and he almost broke it,” Miley said.

Santangelo is having trouble focusing with his eyes heavily dilated, but doctors don’t think it will last. He watched Miley’s outing from the hospital on Tuesday night with one eye, cursing when Miley hung a slider that Brandon Belt crushed for a three-run homer in the first inning. But Miley settled down, got through seven innings and the Diamondbacks won, and after the game Miley delivered two game balls to his friend.

“He had both of them in his hands, juggling and messing with them,” Miley said. “It meant a lot when I handed those to him.”

Santangelo also gave Miley a hard time for not giving him a shoutout in his postgame interviews.

“He’s a big hunter, so he was like, ‘Get my name out there, I might get a hunting trip out of it,’ ” Miley said.

Miley said Santangelo, who has a 4-inch scar on the back of his head, will probably head home to heal and rest before coming back to start radiation and chemo.

“He’s doing about the best I can imagine,” Miley said. “I was scared to death about what I was going to see. He’s as good as he can be. He’s not out of the woods, but he’s a whole hell of a lot better than he was doing three days ago when that tumor was still in there.”

Link to the story on azcentral.com



Community Support

Community rallies behind 7-year-old leaving to undergo brain tumor treatment

Supporters sporting pink T-shirts and balloons line Main Street last week to cheer on 7-year-old Ella Hembrook. The Stoughton girl is battling a rare brain tumor, and a family friend organized a surprise sendoff for the family as it prepared to go to Boston for special treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. [Photos by Derek Spellman]
Ella Hembrook’s brain tumor was discovered last year after a routine eye exam.
Derek Spellman

Families took to Main Street last week in a show of support for a young Stoughton girl battling a rare brain tumor.

Small crowds wearing pink shirts and waving balloons turned out Wednesday, June 19, to bid farewell to 7-year-old Ella Hembrook, who was bound for Boston to undergo eight weeks of special treatment for a tumor discovered last year. The surprise send-off, in which Hembrook and her family traveled down Main Street amid cheering crowds, was organized by family friend Katie Bridgwater.

“We’ve been planning it for weeks,” Bridgwater said. “We wanted to do it before they left (for Boston).”

Kevin Hembrook, Ella’s father, said he took both his girls to the eye doctor last year after he switched health insurances. That optometrist noticed swelling in Ella’s optic nerve and referred them to an ophthalmologist, who in turn referred the family to American Family Children’s Hospital, where an MRI found the tumor.

Ella has already had two surgeries – the first in February 2012, the second six months later. Kevin Hembrook said three months ago another MRI showed the tumor was growing again.

The family has headed to Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital for a special kind of proton beam radiation treatment there.

“Nothing is 100 percent, but I am hopeful,” Kevin Hembrook said.

Friends, meanwhile, have been rallying to the family’s support.

Three families organized garage sales earlier this month. Teachers and parents from the Stoughton Area School District responded with T-shirts, donations, ribbons and cards of support. St. Ann’s Church also helped. Verona-based Leisure Threads donated T-shirts for the sendoff. Donations have been flowing in from all over, and an account to help the family has been established at Blackhawk Credit Union.

Bridgwater said she has known the Hembrook family for three years through the Stoughton Center for Performing Arts, where Ella dances and Bridgwater’s daughter dances. When she heard of the Hembrook family’s plight, she took to Facebook to start a group to help them.

“It just kind of blossomed from there,” she said.

She wanted to organize a send-off and fundraiser, she said, to support the family because of how long they will be in Boston. Both before and after the sendoff, supporters sold T-shirts and bracelets to benefit the family and also took donations.

All the support has been welcomed, Kevin Hembrook said.

“We’ve had just awesome support from the community,” he said. “It does make things just a little easier.”

How to help

Donate a gift card, cash or cards of prayers to any of the following locations:
• Katie Bridgwater, 1309 Moline St., Stoughton
• Stoughton Center for the Performing Arts, 515 E. Main St.
• Donate through PayPal
• Drop off or send checks made out to the “Ella Bella Cinderella Fund” at Blackhawk Community Credit Union at 1525 U.S. Highway 51-138
• Use donation boxes at Stoughton Tumblers, the Performing Arts Center and Next Generation
• Follow Ella Hembrook’s progress via the family website at ellahembrook.webs.com.
• For more information, contact Katie Bridgwater at 719-9160 or email kbridg

For more information: http://www.connectstoughton.com/articles/2013/06/30/community-rallies-behind-7-year-old-leaving-undergo-brain-tumor-treatment

A Little Support Can Go a Long Way

Who needs hair when you have the world’s most amazing friends?

Fifteen fourth grade boys from El Camino Creek Elementary School in Carlsbad, Calif., volunteered to shave their heads to support Travis Selinka, who was recently treated for brain cancer.

Selinka, 10, had returned to school with apprehensions after 7 weeks of radiation therapy, Encinitas Patch reported.

And so, his friends planned a trip to the All American Barber Shop to have their own locks shorn off.

(Story Continues Below) 
travis selinka

“I was astonished that they did this for me,” Selinka told Patch. “It was amazing just knowing that I have all my friends there.”

Now, Selinka no longer wears a hat to school, FOX 5 San Diego reported. He and his mother told the station that they were thankful for his friends’ actions.

“It was overwhelming and every time I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes,” Lynne Selinka, Travis’ mother, said.

For more information: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/13/travis-selinka-friends-shave-heads_n_3434720.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

Former Mesa Chamber CEO Fights Brain Cancer

After cancer, job loss, Mesa commerce leader looks to the future


By Daniel Quigley, Tribune | Posted: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 7:43 am

Peter Sterling’s ascent to the pinnacle of the Mesa business community was relatively fast.

From the time the then-out-of-work advertising executive had moved to Mesa in January 2009 to be closer to his children, it took only two years — nearly to the date — for him to be named CEO of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce.

Today, Sterling nears a one-year anniversary of a different kind. It was last March that he began facing a whole new reality.

Sickness. Uncertainty. Unemployment. Sterling had been diagnosed with a deadly and debilitating form of brain cancer.

“You’re going to die of this condition,” Sterling, 47, said of his prognosis. “It’s a matter of when — there’s no cure from it. You can maybe contain it a little.”

On the rise

When Sterling moved to Mesa from Southern California, he admits he ran into more economic walls than he’d faced before. It was the height of the recession, but selling his Orange County home and moving to Mesa was a priority, given that his 16-year-old son and 11-year-old daugther, both from a previous marriage, live in Gilbert.

“I knew hardly anyone here; I looked at every advertising place possible, every advertising agency and nobody was hiring,” Sterling said.

But Sterling said he knew that if he met enough people, the right people, he could make his own opportunity.

“I knew the only way to sort of get anywhere was to meet people,” he said.

After two years of doing just that and and creating a strong network, the Mesa Chamber of Commerce came looking for a new CEO. Sterling submitted his resume, along with a plan he created for the organization, and almost exactly two years after coming to Mesa jobless, he was the chamber’s top man.

Sterling worked tirelessly to build up the nearly 108-year-old organization he inherited in the wake of the nation’s worst financial disaster since the Great Depression — and he was using the same networking and advocacy skills he used earlier to get his position.

“Every business in Mesa should be a member of the chamber. It’s a great chamber,” Sterling said last month.

At the same time, Sterling’s wife Megan was also making a name for herself around Mesa and the surrounding comunities. She is now the director of programs and operations for the East Valley Partnership — another civic and commerce-centric organization that works to foster economic growth for the region. EVP projects often overlap with those of the Mesa chamber.

“It’s kind of a small world out here,” Megan Sterling said.

Rapid descent

As time went by, the economy started to get better. Mesa was starting to grow again. The chamber was rebuilding its membership.

“Everything was cruising along,” Peter Sterling explained.

Until March 16 of last year, that is.

“When I was parking cars at Hohokam (Stadium) for a Cubs game, I collapsed,” he said. “But it only lasted a minute or so and I felt fine.”

Sterling said he was experiencing his first seizure — he just didn’t know it at the time. He had more later that day, and a few the next.

“It seemed like 80 percent of my brain — my thoughts — was not working, or working in a limited capacity,” Sterling said. “But that would only go for a minute then I would be right back to normal.”

But the recurring oddity was alarming enough for Sterling to go to an urgent care center, which promptly recognized the problem and sent him to the hospital. There, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

By Monday, March 19, he was undergoing surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible.

“The Glioblastoma multiforme, which is what I have, is the nastiest brain cancer you can get — which, thank you very much, that’s not what I need,” Sterling said, chuckling.

Sterling said humor plays a large part in keeping himself focused on his health and making the most of his time with his wife and children. He later joked about possibly being pregnant due to the sickness caused by chemotherapy and radiation treatments and that doctors cut out “about half my brain” when they removed 95 percent of the “nasty, quick-growing,” 2.5-centimeter tumor.

Sterling recently finished chemotherapy for awhile, and passed the nine-month mark in January which he said about only half of patients make. A year is just weeks away.

“I just focus on getting better and making every day work.”

Crashing down

Sterling said his colleagues at the Mesa Chamber of Commerce were very supportive during the aftermath of the surgery and through his recovery, he said.

Current chamber CEO Sally Harrison said the sudden news of Sterling’s condition shocked the chamber and the community.

“You can’t fix his illness, so we did what we knew was best, which would be all the little things, you know, stuff around the house, food, whatever,” Harrison said.

But as Sterling’s recovery transitioned into the toxic backlash of his treatment, the chamber — a small, nonprofit entity with only a handful of employees — began to wear. With its CEO away from work, the remaining employees were doing their jobs, plus those of their stricken boss.

Otto Shill was the chairman of the chamber’s board of directors during Sterling’s tenure.

“A lot of people have put in a personal time away from their work to make sure that the chamber could continue to run,” Shill said.

As it became apparent that Sterling’s recovery would prohibit him from continuing as CEO, chamber officials created a new position for Sterling during the summer. It was a member sales position, right up Sterling’s alley as an enthusiastic advocate and master networker.

Sterling would also be able to keep his employee health insurance benefits.

“For us that was the most important thing,” Megan said. “And for morale, it gave him a cause to be out in the community and talking to people. It was good to have something for him to focus on other than being sick.”

But Sterling continued to struggle with his health and energy levels, and he admits he struggled to do the job.

About a week before Christmas, the chamber board dismissed Sterling, effective Jan. 1 — a move Mesa City Councilman Dennis Kavanaugh, who also considers Sterling a friend, said was “awkward” because of the illness and the holiday-timing.

Kavanaugh posted on his Twitter feed the night of Dec. 19, “Peter Sterling was a transformative CEO of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce. His dismissal from employment is disturbing and disappointing.”

Shill said the remarks and those by others lamenting the move are misguided.

“We don’t have any government funding of any kind,” Shill explained. “We’re an independent nonprofit organization and like any small business with very few employees there are limits to what we can do legally and there are limits on what we can do according to contracts, insurance contracts.

“And from the time we learned that Peter was sick until now, we’ve been trying to manage this so that it could come out right for him.”

Picking up the pieces

Today, Megan Sterling is more concerned with the unfathomable amount of medical bills her family faces.

“What happened to him could happen to anyone,” Megan said. “I thought everyone has COBRA, right? No. They don’t.”

The Sterling family found out the hard way, she said, that businesses under 20 employees often don’t have coverage under COBRA. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act allows employees and families in many cases the ability to continue group health coverage for a period of time after employment ends. But that didn’t apply in the Sterlings’ case.

“I will never again have health insurance coverage that’s tied to a job,” Megan Sterling said.

East Valley health insurance broker Phil Bobadilla is CEO of Employee Benefit Exchange, and on the board of directors for the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce. Bobadilla said the situation would have been a “moot point” if Sterling had purchased his own insurance plan, outside of work.

“If you have a group policy, then when you don’t qualify as a full-time employee and don’t have the hours, then you lose coverage,” he said.

Bobadilla said that if Sterling had gotten sick in 2014, when new health insurance regulations tied to the national Affordable Care Act — commonly referred to as Obamacare — had taken effect, he wouldn’t be stuck without coverage.

“We’re good people. We’ve worked hard our whole lives and we did the right things and we saved and all that and it’s like everything can just come crashing down,” Megan said. “That being said, there are some things I would have done differently.”

For Peter, the most important use of his time is to spend the time he has with his family.

“I tell (my kids) I could not be here in a year, or I could and I’ll be making your lives miserable,” he said, laughing; Megan is also ready to move on.

“We’ve been dealt a bad hand lately, definitely, but there are tons of people that are in even worse situations than we are,” she said. “In many ways, we are incredibly blessed. We have our faith, our family, and our friends — that is what has been getting us through.”


17-Year-Old With Terminal Cancer Signs Record Deal

Posted by Carly Lanning

Zach Sobiech was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, when he was 14 years old, after months of intense hip pain revealed a tumor was discovered growing on his bone. In the past three years of treatment, Zach has undergone every available treatment from hip replacement surgery and months of physical therapy to numerous cycles of chemotherapy. This past year, doctors recently found growths on Zach’s pelvis and lungs and, running out of treatment options, have given Zach a couple more months to live.

Turning to YouTube to share his goodbyes to loved ones in December, Zach’s song “Clouds” has since gone viral with over two million views. In an interview with Fuse, Zach said: “‘Clouds’ originally started for my girlfriend Amy. During the writing process I thought about it and I wanted to make it less romantic because I realized that there were so many people in my life that meant so much to me. It started out with Amy, then it encompassed everyone that I love and care about.”

“Clouds” has not only put Zach on the radar for his musical talent but also for his perseverance and optimistic attitude. Determined to inspire others with his music, Zach has taken all the money earned from his songs and created The Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund to raise funds for research into the rare form of cancer.

Just this week, Zach signed with Broadcast Music Inc. in New York City, and on February 16th will be releasing his album “Fix Me Up” at benefit concert “Up, Up, Up. A Concert for Zach” at Varsity Theatre in Minneapolis.


The Fight Against Cancer is not the Only Battle Patients Face

Fundraiser will help father with brain cancer

Published: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 17:13 PM.

Steve Meyers says his son has been through a lot, and he is clearly not exaggerating.

Scott Alan Meyers was diagnosed in early 2006 with an anaplastic astrocytoma brain tumor. Meyers, now 39, is taking expensive chemotherapy medication at home as he continues fighting the brain cancer.

A benefit to help with medical expenses is planned for 5 p.m. Saturday. It will be at the old Eli Whitney Fire Department at 3917 E. Greensboro-Chapel Hill Road in southern Alamance County.

The fundraiser will include $8 dinner plates with barbecue chicken, slaw, baked beans, roll and a drink. Eat-in and take-out orders will be taken.

A silent auction will include gift baskets and gift cards to area businesses.

“I just picked up three autographed shirts signed by Roy Williams,” Steve Meyers said.

Other opportunities to help Meyers will include a bake sale, and a sale of crafts and products such as Mary Kay and Avon cosmetics. Donations to help Meyers and his family will be accepted.

Scott is married to Bridget Meyers and is the father of three sons — Tyler, 17, Brandon, 14 and Dylan, 11.

A flier advertising the event says Meyers has been through radiation, chemotherapy and other treatments.

“Due to his physical deterioration, he is no longer able to operate a motor vehicle and is no longer able to work,” the flier says. He is on disability and expects to soon lose his medical insurance.

“It’s really tough,” Steve Meyers said. “He’s had three or four major surgeries,” and cancer treatments have resulted in serious side effects.

Meyers said people who want to come earlier than 5 p.m. Saturday are welcome to do that. He expects family and friends will be there beginning about 1 p.m. Besides serving as a fundraiser, he said, the event is meant to allow people to meet Scott Meyers and his family and to enjoy holiday fellowship.

Anyone who has questions or who would like to make a donation is asked to call Steve Meyers at 336-512-7007.