Shady backyard spot shields Michigan City area cancer patient

2013-06-15T17:48:00Z 2013-06-15T23:19:23Z Shady backyard spot shields Michigan City area cancer patientStan Maddux Times Correspondent
June 15, 2013 5:48 pm  • 

MICHIGAN CITY | Tricia Dow was pregnant two years ago when diagnosed with skin cancer.

She'll now be able to spend time with her husband and two children in her backyard protected from the skin-damaging ultraviolet rays of the sun.

''I am just overly excited,'' said the 35-year old Michigan City area woman.

The Women Survivors Alliance helped rebuild her deck on Saturday and landscaped her backyard with help from the Kelly Cares Foundation created by Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly.

The deck, along with the swing set and slide, also were outfitted with a sail to allow Dow to sit underneath the cover shaded from the sun while enjoying outdoor time with her family.

Volunteers laid flat rocks forming a trail from her deck to the swing set and slide. Flowers and shrubbery also were planted.

Dow along with her husband, Jason, and children Alex, 6, and Evelyn, 2, spent the day away from home while the 10-member volunteer crew worked during what the cancer survivor group calls a ''mini backyard makeover.''

The Women Survivors Alliance was having a contest where the entrants were instructed to reveal the type of work they wanted done that would make life after their cancer diagnosis easier and why.

Judy Pearson, who helped found the organization two-years ago, said Dow's story about her cancer diagnosis while pregnant and need to stay out of the sun couldn't be overlooked.

''She submitted a story that really touched our hearts,'' said Pearson, who works for the group's headquarters in Nashville, Tenn. There's also a branch in Chicago.

Dow said she had an umbrella to sit under but the work to provide a sail over the entire deck and swing set area was not within her family's reach  financially.

''I was completely surprised when they chose me,'' said Dow, who first discovered the skin cancer underneath her arm.

She was clear of her Stage 4 melanoma until a recurrence in the fall. Two weeks ago, she learned the cancer had spread to her brain.

Doctors at the University of Chicago are optimistic they will clear up the cancer spread with radiation treatments, said Dow.

''They seem to think the ones in the brain are treatable,'' said Dow.

Greg Szbala, owner of Chester Companies, a building firm out of La Porte, led the construction effort.

''I love doing this stuff. Being a builder, this is what I know how to do and this is how I can pay back the community and give a little back to the folks who need it,'' he said.

''It's a great cause,'' said David Bradley, 54, who made the trip from Nashville with his son, Phillip, 21, to help with the build.

It was the first build for the cancer support group which has helped three other cancer patients improve their lifestyle through exercise and nutrition, said Pearson, who is a breast cancer survivor.

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