Steven H Foundation Support Helps Family Facing Health Crisis

“They first saved my life and then were taking care of us even when I was no longer a patient.”

Steven Holmes and his family were in a difficult spot. Over the course of several months, it seemed as if their life was spiraling through one tough challenge after another.

It started in late October 2019, when Steven, a 33-year-old firefighter, was diagnosed with acute leukemia, a form of cancer that invades the blood. He was hospitalized for 30 days and received chemotherapy treatments for eight months at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) Hamilton’s Cancer Center.

At the same time, his 35-year-old wife, Victoria, a paramedic, was pregnant with their second child. Their baby boy, Jacen, came into the world to join his 4-year-old brother, Lucas, in April 2020. But this joyful news quickly became overshadowed by events that followed.

Unexpected Diagnosis

Steven’s chemotherapy regimen wrapped up in July, on Independence Day. “We were finally getting back to normal after my treatments,” he says. But several months later, on November 23, Victoria suddenly became paralyzed and lost sensation in her feet. Her diagnosis: Guillain-Barre syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the body’s nerves. “This syndrome can kill you because it can paralyze your diaphragm so you can’t breathe,” Steven says. “We were lucky we got to the hospital quickly.”

The diagnosis hit the family hard. “We had been through so much already,” Steven says. “We went into survival mode and did what we had to do.” He took a month off work to help at home. “During Victoria’s first month, she was learning to walk again,” he says. Grandparents stepped in to help with childcare when they could, but the couple was struggling when it came to daycare.

Fortunately, the family’s plight came to the attention of the RWJUH Hamilton Foundation and the Dr. Katherine Lynne Cannon Cancer Fund, which was created in 2017 to support families of cancer patients with their ancillary expenses.

The case was especially touching to Lynne Cannon, who, with the Foundation, administers the fund with her daughter, Jacqueline. The fund is a memorial to Lynne’s daughter, Katherine, a physician who died in 2017. Like Steven, Katherine had experienced acute leukemia. “My daughter was a force of nature and a beautiful person,” Lynne says. “This is exactly the kind of situation where we want to help.”

The fund donated an unusually large amount, $2,000, for a scholarship that allowed Jacen, by then 8 months old, to enroll in the same daycare as his brother. When Steven found out about the scholarship, he didn’t know how the Foundation learned about the family’s need. “I found out it was the nurses at the infusion center,” he says. “They first saved my life and then were taking care of us even when I was no longer a patient.”

Learn more about the Dr. Katherine Lynne Cannon Cancer Fund at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton.

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