PUBLISHED: 4:10 PM on Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Juneau man fighting cancer finds support from community
The room is tranquil, sun streaking through the blinds while one-year-old Alana patiently accepts spoonfuls of applesauce from her father, Sean Cropley.

The 24-year-old has lived in Juneau all his life and was diagnosed in stage two of Hodgkin's Lymphoma this August by Dr. Raster, of Family Practice.

"I did not know what to think; it hit me like a pile of bricks because I didn't think it was cancer," he said.

Life has taken a wayward turn for Cropley, 24, and his wife, Alexis.

"It changed a lot about me and my outlook on life," he said. "I'm in the Army National Guard, and I was supposed to get deployed to Iraq this year. I couldn't because I was diagnosed."

"(Dr. Raster) told I would have to go through chemotherapy; my first reaction was scared," he said.

"The most difficult process was having to tell my wife and my family. My dad is a pretty tough guy and it was hard for him to sit and watch my whole family cry. It was pretty hard that day," Cropley said.

Shortly after being diagnosed, he went to Anchorage to get a portacap placed in his body to assist with chemotherapy.

Photo by Abby LaForce
  Sean Cropley, 24, holds his daughter Alana, 1. Cropley, a Juneau residents, was diagnosed in stage two of Hodgkin's Lymphoma in August.
Since then, Cropley has been receiving treatment at Bartlett Regional Hospital and working with oncology nurse Tamara Simone since September.

With a generous heart, Simone has put together a fundraising event and effort for Cropley and his immediate family.

The Spaghetti Feed Silent Auction Community Fundraiser to benefit Sean Cropley takes place, Friday December 7 at 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at ANB Hall, which was donated free for the event.

The dinner including spaghetti, French bread and salad is to be prepared by David McGivany, of Pizza Verona, who is donating his time. Entertainment includes a children's choir and a native dance group performance by Children of All Nations.

A silent auctions as well as dessert auction will take place. Fry bread will be sold separately during the fundraiser.

How to help

To send a donation, mail to: Sean Cropley Fund Wells Fargo Bank 9150 Glacier Hwy Juneau, AK 99801. For information, call 463-5526 or 796-5696.

"Sean and Alexis are both being very positive and hopeful regarding (his) condition. They just want to complete this chapter in their lives and move on, but financial hardships are making it difficult," she said.

She's hoping they will raise enough money to help with living expenses and a decent used car for transportation.

"We hope to help them relieve some of the pressure Sean is feeling to take care of his family at a time when he can not work to support them," she said.

Simone describes Sean as being very responsible and meek. He has had complications with treatment," she said.

She has been an oncology nurse in Juneau since 1998, and has organized fundraisers in the past.

The community has always come forth to help struggling families in need, especially cancer patients, Simone said.

Local Peter Metcalfe set up an interview with Jeff Brown at KTOO; Copy Express has donated posters for the event.

"I went to Public Market and with Peter's help on the intercom I was able to get several items from vendors for the silent auction. In the same token, when Mendenhall Mall and Nugget Mail had their craft fair, those vendors were more than generous," she said.

Several volunteers including cancer survivors and patients have contributed their efforts.

"I deeply appreciate the support that this community provides to people in need. You would not believe the support other cancer patients give to other cancer patients," she said.

Recovering cancer patient Olivia Nelson, 29, is also volunteering her time to help Cropley. Diagnosed with Adult Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia last October, Nelson received chemotherapy treatment in Seattle for several long months. She returned to Juneau in April, and is glad to be home.

"It was great to be with my children-great to be back," she said.

"I had just finished six rounds of really intense chemo. The chemo given to me was the most aggressive without killing you. I still didn't have hair and still sick," she said.

"I'm a wife, a mom and a daughter at the same time and still have to get through chemo, so that was a bit of a challenge," Nelson said.

Nelson was undergoing four different chemos, but in October went down to three, which includes a monthly visit to the hospital, a pill and then morning/night chemo every day.

She has 18 cycles left to complete, which is another year of chemo, she said.

While receiving treatment at the hospital, her nurse Simone, related the story of Cropley and her efforts to launch a fundraiser.

And I said, 'yes, I can help!' Nelson said.

She has been in charge of designing flyers, recruiting auction items and aiding with organization.

Auction items include Mount Robert's tram passes, Alaska Perfume Company gift basket, Pavitt's Health & Fitness Center pass as well as gift certificates from Olivia's Mexican Restaurant, Grandma's Feather Bed, El Sombrero and more.

Fundraiser's were held for Nelson, so she understands how important they are to the Cropley family.

Sean stated he was denied by Medicaid, and is working to get medical financial assistance. The bills sitting on the counter are piling up in the meantime.

"They're not in the best financial situation right now, and I know a little bit of extra money will really help with their daily living expenses and raise enough money for a car. In the future, Sean may need to go to Anchorage and that's going to be expensive," Nelson said.

She said the financial impact was so amazing and a lot of people helped and contributed. "I want to give back to the community," she said. "I'm hoping people make it to the fundraiser."

Hodgkin's lymphoma, characterized by the spread of disease from one lymph node group to another and the development of systemic symptoms with advanced disease, was one of the first cancers to be cured by radiation, sources state. Later it was one of the first to be cured by combination chemotherapy.

An uplifting note is the cure rate is about 93 percent, making it one of the most curable forms of cancer.

"Cancer is something that you just don't get picked for-it just happens," Nelson said.

Cropley still needs two more cycles of chemotherapy and is currently on his fourth cycle.

"I get side effect of my hands getting swollen and bumps on my hands; it gets me really down around chemo time," he said.

"I'm not able to pretty much go anywhere except be at home, and can't be around people who are sick," Cropley said. His immune system is not functioning at full force, which is another side effect of the chemotherapy.

I can return back to working and go to active duty depending on if the Hodgkin's Lymphoma went away, putting me in remission, and do checkups", he said.

Time with his family has helped him cope in the situation and has been very supportive.

His wife, who has been a stay-at-home mom, is currently working on her GED.

"Tamara is doing a lot of work and helping out a lot; I'm really grateful for that," he said.

"I'm looking forward to getting back on my feet and to serve my country," Cropley said.