Granddaughter of former SLU employee battles cancer

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At six-year-old Lydia Boyer’s house, the lawn is always mowed, the meals are delivered straight to the door and the money keeps pouring in.

“It’s just crazy,” said Carole Sharp, Lydia’s grandmother and a former longtime employee at SLU. “People stop by everyday — little kids bring their piggy banks, full of pennies.” Sharp worked at SLU for 26 years, including 10 years as a secretary in the Department of Communication, before leaving last September for another job. (Her husband, Jeff Kapp, still works at SLU as a director of ITS in the Wool center).

The reason for all the fuss is both uplifting and heartbreaking: Lydia was diagnosed with stage IV medulloblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer, in June 2016. She immediately began emergency radiation treatment, followed by six months of chemotherapy and brain surgery.

Though they were able to remove most of the cancer from her brain, it lingered on her spine, and soon returned to the brain, giving her a seizure just days after her treatment was over. At this point, doctors told the family that there was little more they could do, as there is no known cure for medulloblastoma once it has recurred.

Still, the Boyers refused to give up. After a Facebook post by her father — a youth pastor at Hope Christian Church — went viral, and what started as a church community helping one of its members quickly spiraled into a rally of support from the community, local businesses and online donors. A GoFundMe account set up for Lydia has raised over $54,507. At least two “Lemonade for Lydia” stands have popped up in the neighborhood. One woman approached the Boyers as they were leaving a fundraising event and, without even revealing her name, handed them a check for $10,000.

To Sharp, the most surprising thing about this whole ordeal is how the entire town of Waterloo came through for Lydia. On March 25, the Stubborn German, a local brewery, held a “Hope for Lydia” day, offering to donate 50 percent of its profits to help the family to pay for her treatment. Lydia — who has always been a bit shy, according to her grandmother — was somewhat overwhelmed by all the attention. A photo posted by Monroe County Independent shows Lydia looking up at her mother with a finger pointed at herself. The caption reads, “Momma, are all these people here for me?” This event netted over $13,000 alone.

Sharp estimates the family has raised over $150,000 in total with more on the way, including a profit share with Pizza Hut franchises on April 6 and a benefit Trivia Night slated for April 8.

The disease has taken its toll on Lydia. She is often tired, and has difficulty walking on her own. Her face is partially paralyzed and she is entirely deaf in her left ear. Unable to enroll in school this year due to her condition, she is now working with a private tutor.

Still, Lydia is much the same as she ever was: “Just a normal girl,” according to Sharp. She loves playing with her baby dolls and watching TV.

Originally, the plan was for Lydia to undergo a clinical treatment at the University of California San Francisco that used a modified measles vaccine to target cancer cells. However, Lydia is not eligible to enter the trial, because her T-cell count, an indicator of immune system strength, is too low. The family is still looking into other options, including a similar trial in Chicago.

“It’s a bit of a waiting game,” said Sharp. “We’re just taking it one day at a time.”

Still, the influx of money and support from friends, family and strangers is a much-needed comfort to the family. They are putting the funds toward Lydia’s medical expenses, which can top $10,000 per round of chemo. Any excess funds will be donated to help families in similar situations.

Individuals can also donate via Lydia’s GoFundMe page at https://www.gofundme.com/vge4u-lydiasmedical-fund. To keep up with Lydia’s progress, visit https://www.facebook.com/ Hopeforlydia.