McHENRY – Brittani Navarre-Shoemaker was coping with the intractable seizure disorder. She was living with the cystic fibrosis. And the hydrocephalus, or swelling of the brain, was manageable.
Last fall, though, she was dealt some cruel news: The 20-year-old was diagnosed with myeloid leukemia. The prognosis is terminal.
“She was doing really good. Everything was under control,” said her mom, Shawna Navarre-Shoemaker. “[But] the leukemia. My jaw dropped when I heard that. That was just awful.”
Brittani Navarre-Shoemaker, who’s a student in a special program at McHenry West High School, faces particularly tough odds against the cancer because she has a deletion of chromosome 7. That means a bone marrow transplant wouldn’t help her. It also means that the medicine she’s taking to fight the leukemia eventually will stop working.
“We can only hope that she won’t resist the drug and pray to God that something will come up,” her mom said.
Brittani spends most of her time navigating multiple doctor visits while fighting nausea and headaches from the chemotherapy.
“It’s hard because I can’t make it go away,” her mother said. “That’s what’s driving me insane the most. I can’t make it go away, and that drives me crazy.”
Brittani’s hardships aren’t the only challenges the family is facing. Her mom has been in and out of the hospital for the past three years because of health issues that started with an ovarian tumor.
Shawna Navarre-Shoemaker and her husband, Kevin Shoemaker, a mail carrier, have three other children, John Navarre-Shoemaker, 23, Carli Navarre-Shoemaker, 12, and Nicholas Navarre-Shoemaker, 11.
That makes it hard to find a family balance.
“I feel terrible,” Shawna Navarre-Shoemaker said. “You try to stay happy all the time because I don’t want them to notice how stressed out I am, ... but you’re dying inside. It’s awful.”
Even though insurance covers much of Brittani’s health care costs, the family still has mounting medical bills. Her co-workers at Advanced Allergy and Asthma are planning a fundraiser Friday to help out.
“I don’t know what their bills are, I just know that they are stacking up and stacking up and stacking up,” said Gwen Reddersdorf, the practice manager where Shawna Navarre-Shoemaker works.
Shawna Navarre-Shoemaker said she genuinely appreciated the support that the staff had given her, including working around her schedule. Now, she just hopes her daughter, who is scheduled to have surgery Wednesday, will be able to make it to the event.
“Everybody loves her. She’s always friendly with everybody,” she said. “It really depends on how well her surgery goes.
“She’s so excited, and she knows that it’s a party for her.”
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How to help
A spaghetti dinner and dessert fundraiser is scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Holy Apostles Church, 5211 Bull Valley Road, McHenry.
Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children 12 and younger. They can be bought in the church bookstore, Advanced Allergy & Asthma Associates, 690 E. Terra Cotta Ave., Suite C, Crystal Lake, or by calling 847-888-8802.
There also will be raffles at the event.
Monetary donations can be sent the Brittani Navarre-Shoemaker Leukemia Fund at McHenry Savings Bank, 353 Bank Drive, McHenry.