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Help a family and 'pay it forward'
CASCO — The staff at Salon At 616 is asking for help by “paying it forward” for a very special family. It has chosen to sponsor an event to help the Meserve Family with their financial burdens brought on by a life-threatening illness.
Julie Meserve was diagnosed with cancer in late 2010. It had been months since the staff at Salon At 616 had seen Julie and her kids for hair services. When she went to the salon in December she was so weak it was difficult for her to move from the waiting area to the shampoo bowl.
She fatigued very easily and her scar, looking newly healed, was revealed when she lay back for her washing. Filled with instant compassion and at the same time counting her blessings, salon owner Tonya Tibbetts had a strong reaction.
“Julie did not deserve this. She is so kind, a great mother, wife and loves life!” said Tibbetts. “She has two polite, loving, respectable children who attend Calvary Christian Academy. Her husband is hard-working ... why would this strike someone like her?”
Some questions are never answered, continued Tibbets, “but we feel we can be the answer to some prayers for Julie and Jeff. I asked Julie to share her story."
Choking Saved My Life
“We were on a family camping trip in Rangeley in August 2010," writes Julie. "My husband and kids – Jeff, Noah and Arianna – mom Leigh and step dad Paul, brother Rick and sister-in-law Jeannie, niece Elizabeth and two of my kids' friends were on the trip.
“It was pouring rain one night, so we decided to go to a restaurant instead of tromping in the mud and rain to make dinner. I ordered a salad with steak slices on it and began eating.
“I had been having trouble swallowing for a few months before, so Jeff was paying close attention. A piece of steak got stuck in my esophagus and I stood up because I couldn?t breath. Jeff did the Heimlich and I could breathe again.
“The steak was still stuck in there though. We tried different things to get the steak to come up or go down, but it wasn't budging. The paramedics came and we decided it would be best to take the ambulance to Farmington.
“On the 45-minute ride, I was gagging and coughing trying to get it out. About 20 minutes from the hospital I felt different and could breath easier. The steak had finally gone down.
“The physician's assistant did a thorough exam and said that I should go have an upper endoscopy done to see why I had been having trouble swallowing.
“I had the endoscopy done in September and was told there were some questionable cells. At that point, they thought I was pre-cancerous. I was then sent to the oncologist and he proceeded with further testing to determine the exact nature of the cells. Those tests concluded that I had Stage I esophageal cancer.
“He explained that this is an aggressive cancer and that we needed to take action. He immediately set up an appointment for me to see a very experienced surgeon for this cancer at The Lahey Clinic in Burlington, MA. We met her on October 10 and the surgery was scheduled for November 1.
“At this point I was on an emotional roller coaster. It was happening so fast. I don't have any of the risk factors for this type of cancer and I am very young to have it. It wasn't making sense, but it was happening. I am very thankful to God that they found it early and could get rid of it with surgery and no chemotherapy or radiation.
“The prognosis for this cancer at later stages is not very good. We prepared our family as best as possible for the upcoming surgery. The kids were scared and confused. Jeff was deeply concerned and trying to hold it all together at the same time.
“Surgery day finally came. We drove down to Burlington on Sunday, October 31 to stay in a hotel with my family. The rest of my family came later to wait during the nine-hour surgery.
“The cancer had spread further up my esophagus than they thought so that complicated the surgery more than it already was. I was taken to ICU for two days. I remained in the hospital for two and a half weeks.
“I could not have anything to eat or drink. They gave me small sponge swabs to moisten my mouth with cold water, but I couldn't swallow any of the water. It was very difficult. I was in a lot of pain from the three large incisions and the drains that went through my ribs. Thank God, my mom was able to stay in a near by hotel and be with me everyday.
“She and the nurses took great care of me. Eventually, I got to go for walks in the hallways to get some circulation and oxygen flowing. Finally, the day came when I was sent home. I was excited and very nervous because we would now have to tend the feeding tube and the medicines on our own.
“Jeff took the bull by the horns and became super nurse making sure I got my meds and tube feeding on time. It was a blessing to have my sister come help for a few days. After she left, my mom came again. I can't say enough how thankful I am to all the help from family and friends through all of this. People from church brought food. Friends even helped Jeff and the kids paint the living room while I was in the hospital so I would have a cheery yellow living room to recover in.
“I was able to go out for short walks. It was nice to be able to be outside and not just looking out a window. I still could not have anything to eat or drink, but right before Thanksgiving I was bumped up to clear liquids. I enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws sipping on iced tea.
“It was nice when I was able to do a few things like fold laundry and unload the dishwasher. (Who would have thought I would look forward to doing those things?) The kids have been incredible with their attitudes and helpfulness around the house. At this point, I was able to have liquids including things like yogurt, cream of wheat and broth.
“A few days before Christmas we went back to the doctor and I was bumped up to soft solid food. This meant I could have some of my brother-in-law's famous squash, mashed potatoes, chocolate cream pie and pumpkin pie! What a nice Christmas present.
“Each day I am getting better and stronger. I still have to rest a lot, but I can do laundry and a little cooking and cleaning. I started part-time back to work. It feels good to get out. Now I am not using the feeding tube for food, only medicine. I have had my esophagus stretched once and go back to have it stretched again. The scar tissue made it very tiny so I have to have tiny bites and chew a lot. I noticed a difference in the ease of swallowing after the first stretch and look forward to more improvement after more stretches. I know this is a process and it will take time to heal completely.”
Tibbetts urges everyone to be part of Salon at 616's Pay-it-Forward campaign to sponsor the Meserve Family through their business for any donation amount, or mail a personal donation made payable to Julie Meserve Benefit c/o Moss Brook Community Church, 41 Western Avenue, South Paris, ME 04281.
“All donations and prayers are greatly appreciated,” said Tibbetts. For more information or questions, please call (207)655-3506. If you prefer to sponsor the family by paying a particular household/medical expense, please indicate on your check memo.
A Silent and Chinese Auction will be held on Monday, April 4 from 5-8pm at Pat's Pizza in Windham, said Tibbetts. “Pat's Pizza has generously agreed to donate $2 for every pizza ordered in or taken-out during the benefit auction.”
“Please come by the restaurant to see auction items, she continued, “and bid, eat and win! All auction items are posted on the Julie Meserve Facebook Page. New items are posted daily. Please 'like' the page.”
Auction items may be donated at 616 Roosevelt Trail, Casco, ME 04015.
The auction date, time and location is on the website at www.salonat616.com and on the Julie Meserve Benefit Facebook Page. All businesses who donate will be immediately recognized via all media locations.
To date, generous benefit sponsorship has been received from the following:
Salon at 616, Time4Printing, Straight Line Construction, Prudential Agent Natalya Robbins, Baur & Associates, Sydney's Restaurant, Advanced Dental Concepts, Pre-Paid Legal Agent Paul Watson, North Atlantic Insurance Associates, Royal Technology Management, Abbie Morrison Photography, Send Out Cards, Dirfy Constructors, Party Insanity, Sebago Storage, Auburn V.I.P. Eyes, Pat's Pizza, Grady?s West Shore Motel, Blossoms of Windham, Maine Morning Micro Roasters, and Raymond Village Florist.