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Henry Keating Scheck

March 07, 2009|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back -- through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others -- at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Henry Keating Scheck, who died Feb. 25 at the age of 4. His obituary was published in the Feb. 28 edition of The Herald-Mail.

Four-year-old Henry Keating Scheck died Feb. 25 with his family at his bedside.

Also nearby was an uninvited companion that had been with the boy for 16 months of his short life -- cancer.

Instead of anger and fury over the unfairness of his death, Tara and Bryan Scheck and their two daughters, Anna, 10, and Sophie, 7, are channeling their energy elsewhere.

"We've tried to take it forward -- to see how this experience can be positive," Bryan said. To that end, Henry's extended family is seeking memorial contributions to several foundations dedicated to finding cures for childhood cancers.

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Tara said more than $3,000 has been collected, and hopes are the stream of financial support will continue.

"It would be hard to walk away without feeling some good is coming from this," Bryan said.

The treatment for Henry's brain tumor -- a medulloblastoma -- was the result of research and testing that was supported by similar money and energy dedicated to finding cures. Tara, who is a doctor, said the dream is that someday, children no longer have to die of such diseases.

"One problem with childhood cancers is that they are not common," Bryan said. "It is so difficult to get funding."

Born healthy in July 2004, Henry seemed to have a permanent smile on his face. The first clue of what was to come appeared in October 2007, when Henry began vomiting.

"We all had it," Tara said. But as the rest of the family got over the illness, Henry was slower to recover. When his balance became affected, he was rushed to Washington County Hospital.

Within an hour, the diagnosis of a brain tumor was made and Henry began what became a series of long rides in an ambulance to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

The first time, Bryan followed with both girls in time for Henry's surgery, which was performed two days later. For the next six months, Henry underwent chemotherapy as well as eight weeks of radiation, responding positively to both.

He responded so well, in fact, there was no sign of any tumor through the summer of 2008. But Tara knew the odds for relapse in the first year are high.

"Henry had an MRI every three months," Bryan said.

Just before the family's October 2008 Make-A-Wish trip to Walt Disney World, the tumor was back.

"We didn't tell him," Tara said. "The doctors were clear there was no cure the second time around."

Placed on a regimen of steroids because of the tumor, Henry packed on the pounds in November and December 2008, but still was feeling great.

"We even took a trip to Wichita, Kan., in January" to visit with Bryan's family, Tara said.

Once they were back in Hagerstown, a steady decline began as the tumor grew and spread, causing Henry to sometimes sleep 20 hours a day.

In a detailed blog, Bryan and Tara journaled Henry's final days, then hours. "We were grateful he went the way he did ... it could have been so much worse."

Both of Henry's sisters were home when he died Feb. 25 at 10:30 a.m.

"They were here every step of the way," Bryan said.

In the ultimate gift to research and the search for a cure, the Scheck family donated Henry's body to Johns Hopkins. They were inspired to do that by a family they met who lost a daughter in a similar manner.

"It's the only way ... so much was done for us," Bryan said.

Sitting around the family table two days after Henry's memorial service, Tara and Bryan had time to remember and reflect on the short life of a boy who had such an impact on all who knew him.

Mature beyond his years, Henry had spent so much of his life in the company of adults that he was quite adept at conversation on a variety of subjects.

"Henry was an older soul than he should have been," Tara said.

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