CRSS Race for Hope Profile Part 2: Meet Susan, Shannon Sitcer’s mom

“We all believe that miracles do happen.” Susan Brandt, mom of Shannon Sitcer

Name:  Susan Brandt (Shan’s mother)

Hometown: Hoosick Falls, NY

CRSS Race for Hope: This is my first year!

Who or what is the inspiration behind your story? My daughter, Shannon (Shan) Sitcer

Susan’s story 
How do you prepare yourself for the reality that you might have to say good-bye, forever, to one of your children?  Luckily, I don’t know.

December 5, 2011 started like most work days.  I woke up, rush through the morning and arrived at work for another day at the office.  I knew my daughter was having a CAT scan that morning so I called to see how it went.  No news. Probably would be a couple of days before we hear.  So, I went on with my day.  In the kitchen for a second cup of coffee the front office calls to tell me that my daughter Shannon needs to talk to me…it’s important.  And then my world stopped as my daughter tells me the “news”… a brain tumor and she needs to get to the hospital…no time to lose.

Although momentarily paralyzed with emotion you quickly realize that this is real and you need to help.  Every minute makes a difference.  First on the list is to gather your things to leave–for how long you don’t know.  Next is to run to pick up the CAT scan films taken earlier to bring to the hospital.  Then the hard part- calling the family. We were lucky, my son-in-law’s family lived close by and they were able to take care of her children, the house, and the dogs.  Without them we couldn’t have taken care of Shan.

Arriving at St. Peter’s Hospital and I can’t get in fast enough to see my daughter.  A friend from work drives me there and sits with my family while my daughter checks in. More tests, then finally in a little hospital room anxiously waiting for the surgeon, Dr. Scheid to enter the room.

Before long he is standing before us.  All eyes fixed with fear and hope we listen to his words, trying to comprehend what it means for our daughter and our family

A large tumor… anti-sezuire medication to get through the night… surgery first thing in the morning. 

We heard about the risks and the odds of it being cancer.  We learned what to expect and what we would need to do to help.  And then Dr. Scheid shared something else, he shared his compassion. He gave us hope.  He was kind.  He knew that my daughter and our family all needed to believe that she was in good hands. He was serious and didn’t hide his concern but he never took away the belief that this was just a bump in the road and our daughter would pull through.

Now it is morning, and we all have a chance to give Shannon a kiss for good luck…not good-bye.  She is wheeled off to the operating room and then I started to make deals with God.  Please God, I will be a better person, I will give more to others, anything , just make this okay.

Everyone at the hospital is doing their part.  Even the woman who sits at the desk in the waiting room gave us a kind smile and told us to try not to worry.  But she knew we would. Finally, we hear some news from the operating room.  They are in and beginning to remove the grapefruit-size tumor.  Two more hours pass and another call from the operating room.  Shannon is doing well, closing up.  Finally, she is resting in the recovery room.  The Dr. Scheid comes out to talk to us.  We hold our breath until we hear the words,

“We got it all– it was benign.”

We cheer, we cry, we hug.  We don’t leave out Dr. Scheid. When the cheers settle down I remember to thank God for his part.

We can finally go in to see her, two at a time for a brief moment.  We decide that her husband, Richie and I will go in first. They make an exception and let my husband, Marc go in with us. We lean over and whisper her name and she answers.  “It’s over Shan.  You did great. We love you, you need to rest.”

Long into the night we stay, taking turns going in.  Her husband, Richie, never leaves her side.  She wakes up and is restless.  She is afraid to sleep because she fears she will never wake up again.  She insists that her husband watch the monitors all night because she hears the different noises– bells, and dings…the kind of noises machines make in ICU and she is afraid something is wrong.  And he does, for hours and hours and hours.

Two days later she is out of ICU and in a room.  She hasn’t slept in days and neither has the family and friends who have tried to take shifts with her husband…but he doesn’t leave for long.  He is worried about the kids at home.  He knows they are in good hands with his family but they miss their mother and don’t understand what is wrong with mommy. They just know she is in the hospital and can’t come home. And, work is on his mind.  Being self-employed, time away is hard.  But he stays.

Day four, Shan is anxious to see her children. A room is made available down the hall for our family reunion.  Shan’s mother-in-law, Barb brings dinner.  It’s time to go in– and her children rush to see their mother. The older three kiss her, check out her bandages, ask her if it hurts.  Her seven year-old, John, is worried about the hospital bill and if they have enough money to pay the Dr.  He is reassured that everything is ok.  Then she finally gets to see her two-month old baby.  She can only hold him for a few seconds but it was long enough to kiss him and tell him she loves him. We take pictures, eat and let her return to her room to rest.

Finally home. 

Her husband’s family and friends help around the clock to care for the baby… she can’t lift him for several weeks.  They make sure the older kids get to school, to their sport games and tend to all the other things a family needs.  The community does their part too.  With the help of my daughter’s sister-in-law, Stephanie, an online dinner schedule is set up for people to offer to bring meals to the family.  Every night at 6:30pm for four weeks dinner arrives for the family and caregivers.

And the Dr.’s continued to do their part as well. Dr. Scheid and his PA, Alex Carangelo, see her often.  They not only take care of her physically, they take the time to answer her worried calls when she is concerned about a pain, or a strange feeling.  They reassure her that is all part of the healing process. We quickly learn to trust them.

So what will the CRSS Race for Hope mean to me? Hope, love, and life.

Today, thanks to the skilled and caring team of Dr. Scheid’s that we were so lucky to have, the wonderful, dedicated and caring nurses who cared for her, and our family and friends who made sure her family had support, my daughter is happy and healthy and with her family.  We all believe that miracles do happen.

So what will the CRSS Race for Hope mean to me?  Hope, love, and life. And at the finish line the best reward will be able to hug my daughter who is here because of the wonderful people who touched her life.

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About CRSS Race for Hope

Since 2009, the Capital Region Special Surgery Race for Hope events have raised over $200,000, of which all monies have been dedicated to fundraising, since overhead costs are underwritten by Capital Region Special Surgery. This year's 5K will be held on Saturday, September 30, 2017. The major goal of the Capital Region Special Surgery – Race for Hope Fund, in partnership with the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, is to make grants to not-for-profit organizations/programs serving uninsured and underinsured patients who are experiencing a financial hardship related to a brain, head, or neck cancer diagnosis in the Capital Region (Albany, Columbia, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren, Washington counties). Thus far, these proceeds have been allocated to the following local 501c3 organizations: Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Capital Region, Inc. C.R. Wood Cancer Center at Glens Falls Hospital, Ellis Hospital Foundation, Inc., Saratoga Hospital—Mollie Wilmot Radiation Oncology Center, and patient services at St. Peter’s Cancer Care Center.
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