Garden Gate Rallying Around Toddler Room Teacher With Cancer
Garage sale to benefit Erin Mead, 32, is Saturday.
Six weeks ago, Erin Mead, 32, was a hardworking mother of two who loved her job as a toddler room teacher at Garden Gate Montessori in Hartland.
Then, one day this summer, her whole world changed when she was diagnosed with cancer.
“It was probably about six weeks ago, when she came into work and said that she felt like she couldn’t breathe,” said Garden Gate director Ellen Cramer. “She went to the emergency room that day and they found a mass the size of a grapefruit.”
Although Mead had never complained of any other symptoms, the mass, in her lungs, turned out to be synovial-cell sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that Mead explained to coworkers was hard to treat since little is known about sarcomas.
“She was telling me it was 0.1 percent of all cancers is a sarcoma,” Cramer said. “And even less then that is the synovial cells.”
Three weeks after her diagnosis, the single-mother decided to leave her position at Garden Gate to begin chemotherapy treatments at the University of Michigan.
Now her family, co-workers and friends are rallying around Mead with a fundraiser — a garage sale — this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Great Escape, 2630 Grand River Ave., in Genoa Township just outside of Howell.
Deborah Kellogg-Lewis, Mead’s mother and owner of the Total Pool Supply store in Howell, is helping to organize the fundraiser, says that the community support and donations have been “great.”
“We got probably four to five truckloads, we got a trailer full here another trailer loading, a couple more trucks loads, plus whatever people are bringing Saturday morning,” said Kellogg-Lewis of the donations that have mainly come from friends and family as well as parents of the children Mead taught at Garden Gate.
“We’re just so amazed and thankful for the support of the whole community. People that don’t even know her have contributed.”
More help planned
Garden Gate is planning a fundraiser, too, possibly a spaghetti dinner in late September or early October. Details are still being worked out, Cramer said.
“It was heartbreaking to see so quickly that someone’s life could change,” Cramer said. “To coming to work everyday and making money for your kids to going to chemo and having to quit your job.
“She’s a single mom, trying to do it all. … And when you see her with these kids (on the job), you can just see that she really loves it.”
After her diagnosis, Mead, however, remained focused on her family, mainly the well-being of her mother and children, according to Cramer, and her attitude was upbeat and positive during her last few weeks at Garden Gate. Her children are Nick, 11, and Peyton, 1. Nick has been attending Charyl Stockwell Academy.
“In the three weeks she was still here before she had to quit, she was laughing and joking about it,” Cramer said. “Helping us, making it easier for us to help support her. That’s what she needed to do and so we felt like we could joke with her.”
Mead also didn’t allow chemotherapy to get in the way of her enjoying some of her favorite things this summer, either. When three days into her treatment Kid Rock tickets went on sale, Mead’s friends encouraged her to still go to the concert
“We just kept telling her ‘just go, we’ll get you tickets, let’s just go,’” Cramer said. “So she did go. She was very excited about that.”
Kellogg-Lewis said that her daughter is starting to feel better after her first round of chemotherapy and is hoping to be able to make it to Saturday’s event, depending on her energy levels that morning.
“Erin is an amazing woman,” Kellogg-Lewis said, “very strong and positive with everything that’s going on.”