Family survives double dose of pain

Family survives double dose of pain

There's bad luck.

And then there's what an Oregon City family is going through.

Last year, 17-year-old Brandon Freer was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin's Lymphoma. 

The Oregon City High School senior, a football player and marching band member, went through radiation and chemotherapy.

In January, his doctors gave him a clean bill of health.

"When I was first diagnosed, I made a bet with the doctors that I could be done with it in six months. I beat that by five days. That's a win," Brandon said from his mom's hospital room.

He's with her at the Legacy Emanuel Burn Center in Portland because just as he was beating cancer, she was attacked by a rare disease, Purpura Fulminans, an infection that cuts off blood circulation and eats away at tissue.

It took both her feet, her left hand, and a finger.

You can see where Brandon gets his positive attitude when you talk to Sylvia Soumokil.

"Just because I have no legs anymore. And half an arm. I'm not stopping. I'm still volunteering. I still have to go back to work." says Soumokil.

She volunteers with the Oregon City High School band, taking care of their uniforms. Additionally, she runs the concessions stand at football games and pitches in at the elementary schools.

From her hospital room Friday she was still on the phone organizing details of the next band fundraiser.

She works at the Oregon City Fred Meyer, where people say you haven't shopped until you've gone through her check stand.

On her lap at the hospital is a handmade quilt, a "blanket of love" Soumokil calls it, with names of Fred Meyer employees, neighbors, and OCHS marching band members.

Soumokil says "I know every one of those kids by name, and by their shoe size."

Friends in Oregon City have started a "meal train" as Brandon calls it, bringing dinners to the family while mom's in the hospital.

And they're organizing the first fundraiser for the family, a dinner and auction, on May 2.

Her husband's not surprised by the support that's coming from the community.

"Not surprised. Amazed, really. As a family we try to share when we can, and to see all these other people doing it, for us, that's incredible," Kevin Freer says.

Sylvia just tried out her new prosthetic legs for the first time Thursday.

"They were so heavy, it felt so strange, I had to take a step back and sit down. But it was so exciting, it was so cool," she said.

She'll go in for more serious rehab next week.

"I lived the last 50 years one way, now I get to live the next 50 years doing something different. It's an adventure."

In about five months, she'll get a prosthetic hand.

Sylvia says then it's back to her check stand at Fred Meyer, and volunteering, and taking care of her elderly mother, husband and son.

All in a day's work for Sylvia Soumokil.

"I have no more legs, but that's not going to stop me. I'll be running right behind everybody. Actually in front. They'll have to catch up with me."

To help the family with expenses, you can make a donation at any Wells Fargo Bank branch.

To find out more about the fundraiser on May 2, go to the Oregon City Chamber of commerce web site at www.oregoncity.org.