ELLICOTT CITY - It’s one of the worst things any parent could hear—you only have a few months left to spend with your child.
Three mothers in Howard County had to hear that after their children were diagnosed with brain tumors. Now they’re turning their grief into action.
Carol Herrmann clearly remembers the summer of 2007 when her daughter Caroline, 14, started getting headaches. At first, they thought it had to do with Caroline swimming all the time. But the headaches never went away.
“It was incredible to me how fast she deteriorated,” said Herrmann.
During one doctor’s visit, Caroline began slurring her speech and she couldn’t hold a gaze. After a battery of tests, Herrmann learned in September that her daughter had a brain tumor.
“They told us when she was diagnosed that there's about an 11 to 15 month survival rate,” she said. “We knew what the odds were—zero. But we always hoped she’d be the miracle.”
Caroline went through surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy. Things started to improve a bit but then the symptoms returned. In December of 2008, Caroline passed away. “It’s devastating, I can’t imagine anything worse than losing a child,” said Herrmann.
Two of Herrmann’s friends and fellow church parishioners also went through similar, painful experiences with their children. Rose Knight lost her 12-year-old son Ricky, whom she describes as a boy with a big heart and a big personality.
“I always said no one in my life will ever love me as much as Ricky does because when he loved you, he loved you to death,” she said.
Ricky’s symptoms were similar to Caroline’s. He started getting headaches and having seizures. Once diagnosed, he too went through radiation and chemotherapy.
“I never ever thought Ricky wasn't going to live. I mean, I knew, but in my heart I didn't believe it,” Knight said. “We really believed he was different and he was going to do it.” Sadly, Ricky lost his battle in June of 2008.
Lisa Sliker described her son Christopher’s diagnosis as “fast and furious.” When their family received the news, doctors told her Christopher had only 9 to 18 months to live.
“We just did as much as we could. His sisters, his dad and I did as much as we possibly could with him to give him as much life as possible,” she said. Six months after being diagnosed, 5-year-old Christopher died.
With no cure and few treatment options, these three mothers knew they had to do something to keep what happened to their children from happening to others. Three years ago they formed Team Caroline, Ricky and Christopher to raise money in Race for Hope in Washington D.C. It’s one of the largest fundraisers in the country for brain tumor research. The team has collected more than $20,000 this year and plans to hit their overall mark of $100,000. They each describe the event as bittersweet, but they know it’s important for them to do.
“We've got to be strong because we don't know which one of these dollars will have funded the research that found the cure,” said Sliker.
To register, donate or learn more about Race for Hope, click here .