Cancer victim battles for life

Jill Sipes, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in July, is hoping to start experimental treatments at a Mexican clinic that

Jill Sipes, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in July, is hoping to start experimental treatments at a Mexican clinic that

December 18, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

MERCERSBURG - In the hope of saving her mother's life, eight-year-old Laken Sipes spends her spare time threading pipe cleaners through small plastic beads to make little candy canes that she's selling in the hopes of saving her mother's life.

Laken sells them for 50 cents. In the last three weeks, she's taken in more than $1,000 from sales and donations, she said.

Her mother, Jill Sipes, 32, a single mother of three little girls, was diagnosed with terminal cancer in July, the day after her daughter, Lexi, was born. Mallory, her middle child, is 4.


Dr. George Manger of Hagerstown, Sipes' gynecologist, was in on the cancer diagnosis. He said Tuesday that Sipes has a very aggressive form of the disease.

A theory among some of her doctors is that Sipes' tumors were caused by radiation from numerous X-rays she had as a child because of a heart condition diagnosed at birth.

Sipes needs about $20,000 to start experimental cancer treatments at a Mexican clinic that she believes could save her life.

Doctors at Johns Hopkins and Mercy hospitals in Baltimore have told her her condition is hopeless.

"The doctor at Johns Hopkins told me to go home after three bouts of chemotherapy didn't shrink my tumors," she said.

A doctor at Mercy Hospital wants to operate to remove the largest tumors before Christmas, she said.

There were so many tumors that doctors said they couldn't get them all, she said.

"I had mixed feelings about the surgery and decided against it. He said I was fighting for my life, but removing the large tumors will still leave the small ones and they'll grow," she said.

Sipes said she learned of the Oasis of Hope Clinic in Mexico through a minister in Antrim Township who had gone there for treatment for a brain tumor. "He was cured," Sipes said.

Hopkins mailed her medical records to the Mexican clinic at her request.

Sipes said the Mexican treatments were controversial among doctors, but she has faith that they will cure her. "I believe in miracles. I had a hole in my heart when I was young and I got better."

Her treatment in Mexico would include injecting each tumor with medication plus blood cleansing procedures. "That kills the cancer cells," Sipes said.

She said she's ready to accept whatever God has in store for her.

"I've never deviated from that," she said. "I believe we all have a certain amount of time that God gives us. I'm praying for more time. I don't want to leave my little girls behind, but I can accept God's plan."

Laken, whose name was taken from a child's story her mother heard when she was a child, has not given up hope. "She said, 'Mommy, we need to have more faith. The devil's doing this and we're not going to give in to him.'"

Laken started making candy canes three weeks ago. She made 500 on Thanksgiving weekend. She sold more than $400 worth the first week in school, church, to friends, neighbors, even strangers. "I never thought she would sell that many," Sipes said.

Laken tells people she is selling the candy canes "for mommy's cancer fund."

As more people learned of Sipes' illness, bigger checks started to come in. One person gave Laken a check for $500. "I was happy about that," she said.

The clinic in Mexico requires a $20,000 down payment. Sipes has arranged to pay $5,000 a month.

She taught hairdressing at the Franklin County Vocational Technical School for four years before she became sick. Before that she owned her own beauty shop in Mercersburg.

An account for Sipes has been set up at the Corning Federal Credit Union in Greencastle, a spokeswoman there said. Donations may be mailed to Jill's Cancer Fund, c/o Corning Federal Credit Union, 677 S. Antrim Way, Greencastle, PA 17225.

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