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Sale of sweets benefits area cancer patient

December 30, 2002|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL/Staff Correspondent

Cookies and candy canes are helping a young mother fight for her life.

Shelley Leab of Mercersburg organized a cookie walk at the First United Methodist Church in Mercersburg to raise funds for the experimental cancer treatment Jill Sipes is receiving at the Oasis of Hope Clinic in Mexico.

Leab exceeded her goal of 150 dozen donated cookies; she had about 175 dozen when the doors opened at 10 a.m. Saturday. The event raised $530 for Sipes.

Sipes, 32, of Mercersburg, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer in July, the day after her daughter, Lexi, was born. A single mother, Sipes also has two older daughters, Mallory, 4, and Laken, 8.

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Sipes has clusters of tumors in the right side of her body, from the elbow to the shoulder, chest and collar bone, and down to her waist and hip. Doctors have told her that they are possibly the result of numerous chest X-rays she had in infancy to diagnose congenital heart problems.

Doctors at two Baltimore hospitals, Johns Hopkins and Mercy Hospital, told Sipes her condition was hopeless after three rounds of chemotherapy failed to shrink her tumors. She decided against surgery to remove the largest tumors, as doctors said they could not get them all and the smaller ones would continue to grow.

Sipes is receiving daily five- to six-hour intravenous treatments in Mexico to cleanse her system of the chemotherapy. Later, she will have injections of medication directly into her tumors. She is given a diet high in vitamins and protein, Leab said.

A former beauty shop owner in Mercersburg, Sipes taught cosmetology at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center until her diagnosis.

Laken Sipes has made a significant contribution towards her mother's medical expenses. Laken makes candy canes out of pipe cleaners and red and white beads, and sells them for 50 cents apiece, said her grandmother, Lois Lynch of Shimpstown. Her goal was to sell $1,000 worth; so far, she has brought in about $2,400 from sales and donations.

"She was determined to make them by herself," Lynch said. "That was OK in the beginning, but then people wanted them by the hundreds, and she couldn't keep up. Relatives started helping to make them," including her 81-year-old great-grandmother, who spent four hours working with Laken recently.

Laken recruited her grandfather, Richard Lynch, as her quality control inspector. "He makes sure the ends are bent properly so the beads don't fall off," Lois Lynch said.

A third-grader at Mountain View Elementary School, Laken sold about 900 candy canes there.

Lynch said Sipes' spirits are good, adding that the girls miss their mother but realize she is where she needs to be. The family plans to have Christmas when Sipes comes home, possibly the second week of January.

Many of the cookies for the Cookie Walk were baked by Jill's former beauty parlor customers, and many came from local cancer survivors, Leab said.

Mercersburg resident Carla Carbaugh put together cookbook as a fund-raiser for Sipes.

Titled "Gifts in a Jar," the book contains recipes for layering dry ingredients for muffins and breads, soups, cookies, bars and brownies in a quart jar. The book includes gift tags and recipes for the recipient to create the finished food item.

Cookbooks can be purchased from Carbaugh for $10. She can be contacted at 1-717-328-5723.

Donations can be mailed to Jill's Cancer Fund, c/o Corning Federal Credit Union, 677 S. Antrim Way, Greencastle, PA 17225.

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