EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 12, 2012

City rallies for recent grad battling cancer

By Douglas Moser dmoser@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — METHUEN — Allison Hawkes is no stranger to adversity, having faced off against cancer three times since she was a toddler. She won each time.

But just before the 2012 Methuen High School graduate was to start classes at Wheelock College in Boston, she found out she would have to take up the fight once again. This time, she said she was diagnosed with a bone cancer called osteosarcoma found in her right tibia.

Now the community is rallying for Allie, raising money to help her and her family during the nearly eight-month treatment.

The survivor won a lot of admiration over the years as she continued swimming and other sports along with her studies in between diagnoses and was a co-chair of the Methuen Relay for Life event last spring.

Hawkes said in an email that she began a harsh regimen of treatment that includes six high-dose rounds of chemotherapy, each administered during an inpatient stay, over 10 weeks. After that, she will undergo surgery to remove the tumor, followed by another 20 weeks of chemo. In between all that will be frequent appointments for scans, transfusions, blood draws and surgical consultations.

The School Department organized a fundraiser to help Hawkes and her family while they fight the cancer, and on Sept. 28, faculty and staff at all the schools and the administrative offices wore jeans to work for a $5 donation.

Superintendent Judith Scannell said the fundraiser brought in $3,629. The Fire Department also donated $500, she said.

Current and former students are organizing a mat ball tournament – mat ball is an indoor game similar to kickball – and community cookout and raffle sponsored by the SADD club at the high school on Nov. 3 at 9 a.m., said parent Jill Stackelin.

“We hope to have at least 20 teams of 10 people enter,” she said. “The entry fee is $10 a person. The tourney will be run in bracket format and a random selection of teams will decide the starting lineups.”

The cookout will be outside the school, and mat ball will be inside. Several teams have already organized, and anyone who wanted to start a team, or to join a team, can email MethuenMatball@gmail.com. There will be an entrance fee for spectators. All the proceeds will be for Hawkes’ recovery fund.

Residents who would like to contribute to the fund, which has been set up in her name, can send them to Allison Hawkes, c/o Methuen Cooperative Bank, 243 Broadway, PO Box 657, Methuen, MA 01844.

The Methuen Police Patrolmen’s Association contributed $250, Police Chief Joseph Solomon said.

Carol Guselli, a high school teacher who has been an adviser to the student Relay for Life organizers for several years, said people involved in the Relay have gotten together to contribute to the fund, and students on the swim team collected some money.

“We were contacted by numerous people who wanted to help,” Guselli. “The whole community, not just the schools, has contributed.”

Hawkes first was diagnosed in kindergarten with a neuroblastoma tumor, a recurring cancer that grows on nerve cells and usually affects infants and children, according to the National Institutes of Health. The tumor grew to stage four by the time it was discovered, meaning it was spreading to other organs, and had pressed into her kidney, which had to be removed. After nine hours of surgery, she endured a harsh round of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

When she was 10, doctors found another tumor, though that time the cancer went into remission without surgery.

After swimming season in late 2010, Hawkes was diagnosed a third time, and began another round, though the advanced treatments were somewhat easier on her body, she said.