Friday, February 26, 2016

Local student seeks help battling cancer - By Michelle Libby

Windham High School student Hunter Loring has spent the majority of his junior year in the hospital. Halfway through the soccer season this past fall, he had to stop playing because of the pain in his back. When he no longer could walk, stand or sit, muscle relaxers didn’t work and hot and cold didn’t touch the pain, he went to the doctors. After an MRE, doctors found two cancerous tumors wrapped around the nerves in his lower back. 
“The tumors he had were in there a long time,” said Hunter’s mom, Wendy Loring. “It has been weird from the beginning.” The tumors were taken out and tested. The rare tumor, called Myxopapillary Ependymoma, is more often found in 40- to 50-year-olds. The doctors at Maine Medical Center said they had never seen a kid with this type of cancer, Wendy said. 

Since the fall, Hunter has had two major back surgeries and has been under anesthesia eight times, six of those so that he could relax enough to be in the MRI machine. He is on constant pain medication and is only now able to walk 300 yards, with the medication. He started radiation to kill the cancer cells, but wasn’t able to do it consistently, so they suspended that until he could try to get his pain under control. 

Hunter is not able to sit in a chair or lay flat, according to Wendy. He now can sit up to 30 degrees in his bed. 

After the second surgery, the family was told that Hunter would be back on the slopes snowboarding before the end of the season. Hunter has been disappointed that this hasn’t happened. “He thinks it’s never going to happen. The chronic pain scares him,” said Wendy. “This is one chapter in our life. We’ll get through it.”  

His family has been looking for a facility where Hunter can do inpatient pain management therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and counseling, all in addition to radiation. “He needs so many other things that go with the radiation,” said Wendy. Once the radiation begins he will need 24 treatments over five or six weeks. 

Hunter has been at Maine Medical Center’s Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital wing since January 14, unable to go home while waiting for a bed in a pediatric hospital that can meet all of his needs. He has had some of his friends come in to visit him, which he likes. He plays X-Box, but he isn’t able to keep up with his school work, nor is he able to continue participating in the culinary arts program in Westbrook. “That’s what got him to go to school,” Wendy said. 

Wendy, an administrative assistant in the RSU14 superintendent’s office, has had to take time off to spend time in the hospital with Hunter. She also works two other jobs that she’s had to cut back on. She has had her car packed to travel to the nearest hospital that has the care that Hunter needs since January 31. The cost of some of the rehabilitation hospitals average $2,700 a day per bed. The Loring’s have insurance, but it won’t cover the whole expense. 

Michael, Hunter’s father, works for Walmart’s distribution center. 

“It’s just exhausting,” Wendy said, of trying to keep up with work, Hunter and their oldest son, Tyler, who is 21. 

To help the family with the mounting medical bills, friends have arranged a spaghetti supper and auction fundraiser on March 12 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Windham High School cafeteria. Donations will be accepted at the door. Volunteers have been stepping up and the coordinators, a group of five, have been successful in getting donations for the silent auction. The LEO Club from WHS has volunteered to put on a cake auction the same night. 

Kellie Sampson, Wendy’s co-worker, has taken the point in the fundraiser. She wanted to help with the dinner, “because she’s my friend and because I care about her and her family.” The hope is to raise between $3,000 and $4,000. All proceeds will go to the Loring family.
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“The community has really stepped up,” Sampson said. So far the auction has a large number of gift cards as well as two signed basketballs from Dave Cowens, formally of the Celtics basketball team. Other notable items are a certificate for a driver’s education class, a kid’s crooked playhouse and a crooked dog house, $500 worth of services from Designs by Gary and Arkie Rogers has donated a septic cleaning. 

“It’s taken on a life of its own. Everyone wants to help,” Sampson said. 

Hunter and his family are hoping for a pediatric, inpatient hospital that can give him all of the services and therapy he needs, but so far they are striking out. At some facilities, they only have outpatient care, but Wendy said that Hunter can’t ride to get to the hospital every day. At others he’s on a waiting list with 40 people ahead of him. One hospital is in Ohio and Hunter won’t be able to get on a plane, she said. “We’re stuck.” 

“It’s going to be a long, slow process,” Wendy said. “He’s in less pain because he’s on more drugs. It’s the worst thing to watch,” she added.  Dealing with the chronic pain has been one of the hardest parts for Hunter. 

“There are not a lot of places to take kids with chronic pain,” Wendy said. “We’re playing it day by day,” said Wendy. “We’re moving to get new eyes and ears on the problems.” 

Hunter started a consultation for radiation this past week at MMC. 

“I’m a believer that things happen for a reason,” Wendy said. She’s hoping for the best. 

Donations can be made by check to Norma J. Huntley/Hunter Loring Benefit, TD Bank, NA, Mailstop, ME 2-076-031, PO Box 9540, Portland, ME 04112-9540. There is a GoFundMe page set up.

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