CASS CITY — The Cass City community and surrounding area are gathering Saturday (today) to show their ‘Love for Lexi.” A benefit dinner and auction is planned, beginning at 2 p.m. at the Cass City High School to benefit the family of Lexi Smith, a six-year-old diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.
“We’re just very grateful and very appreciative for what everyone has done,” said Heidi Smith, Lexi’s mother. “We’ve just been overwhelmed with gratefulness.” Heidi and her husband Randy have stepped away from their jobs, Heidi’s in the office at Erla’s Foods and Randy’s at Axly Production Machining in Bad Axe so the pair can spend more time with their daughter.
“We decided to stay home and spend as much time with her as possible,” she said. “We have a lifetime of memories to make in a short amount of time.” Lexi was diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma (DIPG) in early December 2011. DIPG is a tumor located in the middle of the brain stem that connects the cerebrum with the spinal cord.
The tumor is extremely rare, affecting only 150 to 200 children each year.
According to Reflections of Grace, a foundation supporting families of children diagnosed with DIPG, over 90 percent of children diagnosed with the tumor aren’t expected to live longer than 18 months.
Heidi Smith said her daughter initially came to her one morning, unable to put three fingers up together. Concerned, they took Lexi to the hospital, where a cat scan came back clear.
Heidi said she still had a bad feeling about it, and they took her to a hospital in Saginaw where she talked with their pediatric neurologist.
“We had an MRI scheduled for the following Wednesday, but by Thursday her symptoms had worsened and we went back in for an emergency MRI,” Smith said.
That is when doctors were able to diagnose Lexi’s condition and she was sent to U of M Mott Children’s Hospital to begin radiation.
After six weeks of aggressive radiation, Lexi is now home with her family and her symptoms have decreased.
“She had weakness on her left side, it was difficult for her to walk and she had difficulty seeing on her left side,” Smith said. “All these symptoms have decreased, she’s able to walk and her sight is back.”
Unfortunately, Smith said this type of tumor is very aggressive and could come back even worse within months.
“When it comes back it comes back hard and very aggressive,” she said. “In her case they think it will recur in three months.”
Smith said that is why it is so important for them to spend as much time now as they can with their daughter.
To help the family with costs, the spaghetti dinner benefit will be a $7 donation per adult and $3 per child 12 years of age and under.
The benefit will include live music and there will be a silent auction from 2-6 p.m. A live auction will begin at 6 p.m. while the movies “Dolphin Tale” and, if time permits, The Smurfs will be played for kids. Popcorn and juice will be offered during the movie.
“There’s quite a bit going on,” said Shari Bock, coordinator of the event. “Lexi is a Girl Scout member, so the Girl Scouts will be having a bake sale.
“We’re going to have arts and crafts set up so the kids can make Valentine’s Day cards for Lexi.”
The Cass City Schools superintendent Jeff Hartel will be selling 50/50 tickets with a drawing at 5:45 p.m., and Johnny Burke from 96.1 WHNN donated a flat screen TV that will be raffled off.
The event is sponsored by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Women’s Life Chapters 848 and 877, Cass City Lions Club, Cass City Public Schools and Erla’s Foods.