Benefit for Emily Labrecque

By Wayne E. Rivet
Staff Writer

HIRAM — Watching your young child fight against cancer is an emotional rollercoaster.

Some days, there is nothing but heartbreak. Other days, a positive medical report raises hope.

“You can’t help but ask, ‘Why my child? Why does she have to go through this? Why couldn’t it be me?’ Of course, there are no answers,” said Erin Labrecque

of Hiram. “You can only take it day by day, and try to stay positive. What else can you do?”

Over a year ago, Erin and her husband Richard received devastating news. A CT scan revealed that their young daughter, Emily, had an atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (AT/RT) — a form of brain cancer — which was the size of a golf ball. In the United States, three children per 1,000,000 or around 30 new cases are diagnosed each year. Pediatric brain cancer is the second leading cause of death, just after leukemia.

Since her diagnosis, Emily has had five surgeries, a cycle of high-dose chemotherapy at Maine Medical Center and six weeks of radiation.

Now, the Labrecques keep their fingers crossed that the treatment has worked.

“You’re always on edge. Whenever Emily scratches her head or gives you a certain look, you wonder if something is wrong,” Erin said. “You’re relieved when she tells you her head itches. But, the thought is always there.”

Today, the feeling is upbeat. Emily is finally back home in Hiram. She faces a long recovery ahead, including intensive physical therapy to help her regain her ability to walk as well as speech and occupational therapy. She continues to make weekly trips back to Portland for tests and other medical matters.

“Because she is so young (3 years old), being at the hospital has become a way of life for her. She made some friends while she was in the hospital; some of whom have since died. It’s really sad,” Erin said.

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The Emily Fund Benefit

What: Family Fun Night and Spaghetti Dinner. The dinner will include meatballs, Caesar salad, bread and drinks. There will also be games, abounce house, cotton candy, popcorn, face painting and raffles.

When: Sunday, March 13, 4 to 8 p.m.

Where: Sebago Town Gym, 406 Bridgton Road (Route 107)

Admission: $6 for adults, $3 for children 3-12; donations accepted

Proceeds: 100% raised goes to The Emily Fund, to assist 3-year-old Emily Labrecque who is battling AT/RT brain cancer.

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If Emily suffers a relapse, the next step would be to send her to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Tennessee.

“If there is going to be a relapse, it will most likely happen in the first year,” Erin said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Emily will continue to improve.”

Tending to a sick child can leave parents emotionally drained. Support from family and friends enabled Erin and Richard to pull through a very trying time, as well as help them out with their other two children, Ethan, age 4, and Ean, age 3 — Emily’s twin.

“I’m 28, but there are days that I feel like I am 50,” she said. “Without the support we’ve received, I don’t know how we would have made it.”

The family really had to lean on each other when Erin’s father suffered a massive stroke and she lost her grandfather, who died following the stroke suffered last Thanksgiving. He was 89.

As one might expect, Emily’s illness has given Erin a different outlook on life.

“It’s been a big eye-opener. Your whole world changes in a matter of seconds,” she said. “Because of this experience, I’d like to go back to school and become involved in some way in pediatric cancer treatment.”

For now, her focus is seeing little Emily beat a deadly disease and maybe regain some of a childhood lost.

“We’re thankful that Emily has made it this far,” she said. “We’re also very thankful for everything our family, friends and community have done to help us out.”

A benefit supper and Family Night are planned for this Sunday. Donation canisters have also been placed at Food City, Hayes True Value and Paris Farmers’ Union in Bridgton, A2M in Naples and Bull Moose Music in Windham and Scarborough.

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