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Lewis family gives thanks to community

By: Carol Feineman, News Messenger Editor
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Today’s Thanksgiving celebration is not what Sarah Lewis or her family ever imagined experiencing. The Lincoln mother of four must stay in a Bay Area rehab apartment for the next few months. Lewis, who was diagnosed with leukemia in March, had a bone-marrow transplant three weeks ago at Stanford University. Until she heard that diagnosis, Lewis believed her exhaustion was simply related to giving birth on Feb. 14. Now under doctor’s orders to stay 100 days in an apartment for cancer patients who need to rebuild their immune systems and receive chemo treatments, Lewis can’t return home for the Thanksgiving holidays. She moved last Friday into the apartment across the street from the Stanford hospital. That also means Lewis won’t be home for Christmas, which in healthier times would involve visiting family and friends, shopping at local stores for presents and decorating the house and tree with her 7-year-old twins Shelby and Rebeka, 3-year-old son C.J. and nine-month-old son, Dale. But Lewis is nonetheless excited about the holidays because her family will visit her at the apartment. This past Sunday was the first time in five weeks that doctors allowed her to see her children. Lewis and her family are looking forward to regular visits, just in Stanford. That doesn’t make it any easier, however, for Sarah Lewis or her four children, husband, Chris Lewis, a correctional officer at Folsom State Prison; her parents, Lanny and Starla Powell, or her grandmother, Margaret Willard, all from Lincoln. Chris Lewis has already used up his vacation and sick leave when he stayed five weeks at Stanford to be near his wife. Any time he takes off now to join her is unpaid time. Starla Powell also had to return to work at Creekside Oaks Elementary, after taking off two weeks, to take care of her grandchildren. And Lanny Powell, who is retired and can devote every day to his grandchildren, has learned how to change diapers and how to communicate better with a three year old who can’t comprehend why his mother is temporarily away. Living just a few minutes from the Lewis family, Lanny Powell can be there when his grandchildren go through what he calls the occasional meltdowns from being separated from their mother. How the public can help Besides never-ending concerns for their loved one’s health, Sarah Lewis’ parents and husband are facing extreme financial hardships in the coming months. For starters, the Stanford apartment costs $3,000 a month. Then there are the daily expenses for her young children, including food and clothing. When Sarah Lewis returns to Lincoln, the family has to leave their country home for a city residence, away from hay, swamp coolers, well water and her beloved horses. That’s to keep spores from everyday items from attacking Lewis’ immune system during a recuperation period of at least two years, her parents explained. They ask that anyone willing to rent the family a newer home with central heat and air to call them at 645-0507 or 517-0180 or to e-mail them at lannystarla@gmail.com. What both the parents and their daughter, a Lincoln High School 1998 graduate, said they first want, though, are prayers from community members. A different kind of holiday today Every year, the extended family celebrates the holiday season together. Today is a very different Thanksgiving for the family and Starla Powell stresses they “really have something to be thankful for this holiday.” Her husband pointed out that this health scare has taught him not to take the health of one’s children for granted. “Missing Thanksgiving and Christmas this year at home, hopefully, will enable Sarah to enjoy more holidays,” he said. With the help of Lincoln residents, the family will get through this rough period in Sarah Lewis’ life. “As bad as the economy is for people, community members are stepping up,” Lanny Powell said. To which his wife added, “People have been very wonderful. It’s very heartwarming how total strangers have helped.” And Sarah Lewis is also grateful for the community’s help, which includes participating in a garage sale in October and a Correctional Peace Officer Foundation raffle fundraiser in conjunction with her husband’s fellow employees at Folsom State Prison. The raffle fundraiser’s drawing will be at 2 p.m. Monday. Raffle tickets can be purchased at Kim’s Country Kitchen, 537 G St. between 5:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily or by calling Lanny Powell at 517-0180. First prize is a Sony Micro Home Theater System, second prize is a Sony Playstation 3, third prize is a $300 gas card and fourth prize is a $200 gas card. In the midst of her first visit Sunday in five weeks with her children, Sarah Lewis was gracious to take a call from the News Messenger to add, “I’d like to thank everybody who has already donated and who will donate. It helps keep me going. We had a huge yard sale and I’d like to thank everyone who came there. It was a huge success. We raised over $2,000. A lot of people I want to thank, once I get home.”