Rachel Baruch Yackley
Posted Monday, June 18, 2007
“Sarah Beth is scared to death
’Cause the doctor just told her the news ;
Between the red cells and white
Something’s not right
But we’re gonna take care of you.”
— “Skin” by Rascal Flatts
Lorelei Fasetti of Carol Stream was driving down I-294 when she first heard the above song by Rascal Flatts.
“I was in outside sales and I was driving on the tollway when I heard a song about a girl diagnosed with cancer. I was so affected that I had to pull over. When you’re a mom, you know what that family would go through,” said Fasetti.
That was one week before Fasetti’s daughter, Nikki Diehl, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the most common form of cancer which forms in bone. She was just 10 years old.
Nikki had been complaining that her knee hurt, and although Fasetti tried everything she could think of, including making Nikki trade her flip-flops for gym shoes, nothing helped. So she took her to the doctor for an x-ray, just to check things out.
“Nikki was diagnosed July 6 of 2005. I got a call at 2 p.m. from the doctor’s office. I was in there for 20 minutes. The doctor held my hand, flipped her chart, and I could see it was cancer in her femur bone of her right leg.
“Of course I just broke down. The doctor told me to get Nikki to the hospital by 8 p.m. that night, and to promise her not to be alone this weekend. I was helpless ... I pulled myself together and drove home. What do I tell Nikki?”
Nikki entered Loyola Hospital in Maywood, where she remained until June of 2006. She received 48 rounds of chemotherapy. She also had surgery on her leg in October of 2005, during which her femur was removed and replaced with a magnetic metal rod, which will lengthen as she grows.
Fasetti still becomes upset when she remembers the toll all this took on her little girl.
“Nikki never came out of her room. She didn’t talk to anyone. They had a little school and everything, but for some reason, she didn’t want to be associated with the ward. She was so sick and so quiet and so small.
“I stayed with her for the first five months, and slept on a little bench. I would wake up at 4 in the morning, drive to Carol Stream, let the dog out — he would run away — take a shower, and go to work. Then I found out that the other moms go home at night, so that’s what I started doing. Nikki would cry every night. I’d get home and that call would come: ‘Mommy, mommy, help me. Mommy, mommy, take me home,” said Fasetti, crying.
“When she was in the hospital for 365 days, I tutored her. I would pick up her homework and return it the next Monday when I picked up the next batch. I really pushed her. Without a doubt, I knew she could do this,” said Fasetti.
“The doctors said she should lay off the schoolwork; that Nikki would fail. I was reprimanded on four occasions. But she passed, and when she was going into sixth grade this past year, she was so happy to be with her class.”
Nikki will be 13 in September. She’s going into seventh grade. She passed sixth grade with high Bs. Although she had to use a wheelchair after the surgery, she has regained much of the mobility of her leg through physical therapy.
“Before she got sick,” Fasetti said in a tearful voice, “Nikki used to dance, she played basketball, she loved music, she loved animals and wanted to be a veterinarian.”
Nikki still can’t play basketball, dance, ride a bike or walk fast, but her thankful mother said, “She is doing awesome.”
She can swim, she’s active in her Girl Scout troop, and next month she will be going to One Step At A Time, a summer camp offered through Children’s Oncology Services Inc.
Any family would have been overwhelmed faced with a young child with cancer. For Fasetti, a single parent, it was even harder. To make matters worse, Fasetti was laid off from her job in November 2005. And for a while, things got even worse.
“I took a part-time job over the holidays,” she said. “Then I was shoveling the driveway and fell and broke two bones in my leg. I was in a cast and couldn’t work. It really took a toll on us financially.”
One of the things that helped Fasetti make it through that dire year was emotional support from others, including Nikki’s fifth-grade teacher, Liz Sharf, at Spring Trail Elementary School.
“Bless her heart, this lady kept Nikki’s desk in the room, in memory of Nikki. She never moved it out. And she called at Christmas and on her birthdays. That made Nikki a part of (the class),” Fasetti said. “Her teachers and our friends and our neighbors — their support and their prayers — I don’t know if we would have made it without that light.”
Nikki is now “one year clean,” said Fasetti. And she is walking.
A meaningful expression of how far this brave girl has come is her participation in this year’s American Cancer Socity Relay For Life in Geneva Friday night, at which she will be the honorary survivor.
Nikki and her mom will be participating as members of St. Charles resident Loretta “Doogie” Mayberry’s team. Nikki met Mayberry just by chance while eating at a Baskin-Robbins after performing in a school play.
Relay For Life begins with an opening ceremony Friday evening, and then things get going with a Survivor Lap, for which Nikki will be in the forefront. All survivors take one lap around the warning track which circles the baseball field in Elfstrom Stadium, cheered on by friends and family on the sidelines. Golf carts are available to participants who are unable to walk the track.
Then everyone present joins in, with somebody from each team walking in the relay at all times, until the event culminates with a closing ceremony at 6 a.m. Saturday morning.
This emotional, hopeful, supportive event is a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. All proceeds raised for the Relay For Life fund continued cancer research and treatment. Anyone and everyone is welcome to come experience this event; you don’t have to walk.
Relay For Life will be held at Elfstrom Stadium at the Kane County Events Center. Admission is $25 per team of 10 to 15 people.
Campsite setup begins at 3 p.m.; team registration and Cancer Survivor Celebration will start at 5 p.m.; and the Opening Ceremony and Cancer Survivor Lap is at 7 p.m.
For more information about the American Cancer Society or the relay, call (630) 879-9009 or visit www.acsevents.org/relay/il/kane.
If you want to donate to the Relay For Life, send it to the ACS office at 143 First St., Batavia, IL 60510, marked “RFL of Kane County.” Include your team name and your name.
If you go
What: Kane County Relay For Life
When: 5 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday
Where: Elfstrom Stadium, Kane County Events Center, Kirk Road and Cherry Lane, Geneva
For details: Call 9630) 879-9009 or visit www.acsevents.org/relay/il/kane