Fort McMurray raising money for 11-year-old girl diagnosed with cancer for 2nd time
'We were actually supposed to announce that she was cancer free,' mother says
A group of strangers is helping raise money for an 11-year-old Fort McMurray girl who was diagnosed with cancer for the second time.
Lauren Stemmann was four when she was first diagnosed with Stage 4 neuroblastoma. She spent the next two years of her life fighting the disease, finally going into remission at six.
Her mother Leneah Stemmann was planning a celebration for Lauren's 11th birthday and five-year mark of her remission. Instead, her daughter spent her birthday in an Edmonton hospital undergoing tests.
There she learned that her neuroblastoma was back.
It was a shock for the family.
"We were actually supposed to announce that she was cancer free," Stemmann said.
Now Lauren is back on a cycle of 10 days at the hospital, 10 days at home, and that's only if she doesn't have any extra testing to do.
"The only thing currently that we can do in Fort McMurray is blood work through the cancer clinic down at our hospital," Stemmann said.
In the last five weeks, Stemmann has taken her daughter to Edmonton five times. So far, gas, hotels, food and medical equipment have cost about $2,800.
"That was just for the beginning," she said. "That wasn't even for the long periods of time that we have to be there."
Billy Martin, the founder of YMM Angels, heard about the family's situation and rallied his team of "angels," setting up fundraisers for the family with the goal of raising $20,000.
YYM Angels has helped people rebuild homes or raise money for medical treatment.
Martin has organized a silent auction that's running until Dec. 12. He's had more than 50 donations such as $5,000 toward a new roof, a new set of tires and wooden carvings.
He is also working on an evening of music, having musicians play at five different bars across Fort McMurray. Each will have door prizes and 50/50 draws.
Stemmann said it was humbling to see so many community members step up to help her family.
She said she can't help with the fundraising, as caring for her family takes too much time.
The last time Lauren had cancer, Stemmann fundraised $60,000 to cover travel costs over the two years.
As Stemmann travels with Lauren, her husband remains in Fort McMurray to work and care for their other three children.
Right now Lauren is "as strong as she can be considering everything that's going on," Stemmann said.
"She is adamant about fighting it again," she said. "She's a really good kid, and doesn't deserve to go through this."