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Friends, family rally with support for cancer victim

GRANDVIEW - When Krista Artz returned to her Grandview home from Grace College in Indiana for Thanksgiving, she made a few plans, visit with friends and family, get her wisdom teeth pulled, things like that. The last thing Artz and her family expected was that she'd find out she had cancer the day before Thanksgiving.

This situation has brought more than one surprise, including the fact that the community is going all out to help the family get through this.

"We are so humbled and so grateful (for the community response)," said Krista's mom, Millie. "The outpouring of love, concern and prayer for our daughter has been tremendous."

As soon as friends learned about Krista's condition, they swiftly went to work. Shelby Hall, Anne Concienne and Michele Swearingen began arranging a dinner and silent auction to help the family with anything they might need.

"We're doing it to help out with not necessarily the medical expense, but going back and forth to (where they need to go)," said Hall.

Hall is Grandview High School's cheerleading coach and Krista, a 2004 GHS graduate, was a member of her team. Hall says that when she found out about Krista's illness, she had a feeling of helplessness and simply not knowing what to do. Helping plan a fundraising dinner and auction slated for this coming Sunday has been one way of putting aside that helplessness.

"Our goal is to rally behind her," says Hall, simply. "The family has only asked for prayers."

And it's that show of prayer support that has been a boon for the Artz family.

In fact, when one of Krista's churchmates stationed in Iraq, Joe Ramirez, found out he and the platoon got busy. Busy in prayer.

The soldiers gathered around each other, bowing their heads, while a fellow soldier took a picture. Then the soldiers looked at the camera, holding up a sign that said, "We're praying for you Krista!"

Millie was touched when she learned that Ramirez shared a photo spread of Iraq when he came home on leave with his church family at Grace Brethren in Mabton, and that the photo display ended with the soldiers bowed in prayer.

"Here they are, they risk their lives and they're lifting my daughter up in prayer," says Millie, in awe.

The prayers have been lifted up in Germany, where some of Krista's fiance's family resides.

One of Krista's hurdles is that she just announced her engagement to Jared DeJong. The wedding was set to take place June 23. That date has been moved to August 18. "It upset her but she's knows she's got to be 100 percent at her wedding," said Millie.

When Krista found out about her cancer, her father Derek Artz drove back to Indiana to pick up her things. She was denied the chance to say good-bye to her college classmates and roommates.

Her fiance had a plan. He secretly planned for her roommates to come to town for a weekend so they'd all be given the chance to say goodbye for this school year.

Krista's looking at six to eight months of treatment, Millie said. It's expected that she'll receive chemotherapy and radiation through North Star Lodge in Yakima.

Until this past Monday, there was anxiety as to what level of staging Krista's at in her Hodgkin's disease, which is a cancer that attacks the lymph nodes.

Millie's pleased to report she's at stage 1B. "This is very good news," she says.

What does the staging terminology mean? The 1 means that it's contained to one area (in this case, the pelvic area). The B means Krista had symptoms, which, oftentimes, lymphoma patients don't experience. She had night sweats, lost weight, was lethargic and anemic. Krista went to Dr. Karen Easton on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving because of the night sweats, and the doctor called her at home that evening to share with her what she thought was possible, the Hodgkin's disease. Krista went back for a CAT scan on Wednesday, which revealed a mass.

Making the determination to stage a fundraising dinner came easily to family friend Anne Concienne. While their kids were growing up Millie, Anne and Leslie Charvet would whip up their famous Three-Mom Chili at Grid Kid Football banquets over the years.

Says Concienne, "We started it in Grid Kids and have just kept going with it as tradition." Although the older the kids got, like Krista's brother Brandon who graduated high school in 2006, it's now become Team Mom Chili. Concienne felt that a chili feed was more than appropriate to help provide support for the Artz family.

Support appears to be the ongoing theme. Krista's brother Brandon will finish out winter quarter at college in Southern Oregon, but will come home for spring quarter to be with his sister. Support between the siblings has been ongoing. Krista frequently traveled home from Indiana last year for visits to watch Brandon play in his senior year of football.

Millie said Brandon will start applying at Washington universities, adding that right now, he wants to support his sister.

Also planned for Sunday is a silent auction, which so far has racked up a whopping 35 items, including auto detail work, athletic jerseys, a Smile Package from Whistlin' Jack's, a Simple Will, Seahawks items, Phoenix Sun items, carpet cleaning, teeth whitening and Yakima Bears tickets. Swearingen, who's in charge of the auction, said there are numerous smaller items as well and she's expecting up to 50 items in time for the auction.

So how are her spirits? Says Millie, "People have rallied around us with love. And Krista is amazing.

"I'm her mother. But aside from that, she's a strong, loving and passionate person. When she sees something--she challenges it head on.

"So many people care and love her and are praying for her. She's thankful and she's hopeful."

The fundraising event for Krista takes place this Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Grandview. Cost for the dinner is $5 per person.

Those interested in donating items to the auction are encouraged to call Swearingen at 882-3990.

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