At the intersection of struggle and kindness, Ivy Sanchez met Shane Jewell.
The road for Sanchez, 33, is rocky right now. Four months ago, she moved with her five children, ages 11 months to 11 years, from Colorado Springs to Raton, N.M., to care for her mother, who has Stage 4 COPD.
In mid-August, without explanation, Sanchez’s blood pressure plummeted. She went to a hospital for a week, had all kinds of tests done and one showed she had an 8-centimeter tumor in her breast. Breast cancer.
“I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I didn’t want to believe it, it was so hard,’’ Sanchez said.
In no time, Sanchez was making weekly trips to UCHealth Memorial Hospital North to receive chemotherapy. The sessions, which go on for six months, last five hours and are aimed at eliminating the tumor, which has shrunk by nearly two-thirds after four sessions.
On her first day of chemo, Ivy was afraid. The last thing she expected that day was for a 15-year-old Boy Scout to bring her comfort. Jewell, a sophomore at Liberty High School and member of Scouts BSA Troop 246 out of St. Gabriel the Archangel parish, was delivering on his Eagle Scout project.
After his grandmother, Catherine Tsuma, died in April 2018 of pancreatic cancer, Jewell had no doubt that his Eagle Scout project would be aimed at helping people with cancer.
“I wanted to help and give back to that community,’’ he said. “I knew that I would try to do anything that I possibly could to ease someone’s pain.’’
Jewell submitted the idea for his project, which was to fill bags with items that would bring comfort: a blanket, crossword puzzles, word search booklets, pencils, fuzzy socks, Jolly Ranchers (Ivy’s favorite candy), ChapStick , stress ball, notebook– and a handwritten note from a Scout.
Jewell raised $1,200 for the items by spreading the word on social media. He then shopped at a fabric store and dollar stores, filling up shopping carts with enough to fill 50 bags with goodies for cancer patients. He gathered a crew of Scouts to help him fill the bags. He asked his father, Dustin Jewell, a retired Marine, to color images on the hand-written notes that were included in the bags. When the bags were filled, Shane and family, delivered them to Memorial Hospital North.
That’s when Ivy Sanchez’s first day of chemotherapy turned for the better, when Shane handed her a pink bag of goodness.
“It was my first day of chemo and I was scared out of my mind. I didn’t know it was going to be freezing in there and thank God, I got a bag with a blanket in there,’’ Sanchez said. “I was very thankful for that and it lifted my spirits so much on the first day.’’
She’s had three more appointments since and for each one, she’s carried the bag that Shane and the crew of Scouts put together. She does word searches and crossword puzzles during the five-hour infusion treatments.
“Thank God it has not spread to my internal organs or my bone marrow,’’ she said. “My body is reacting really well with it (the chemo).’’
A self-described jack-of-all-trades, Sanchez has worked a variety of jobs, including nine years for the National Rifle Association, as a manager at Wendy’s and as a housekeeper. Since her diagnosis Aug. 23, 2021, her children have been enrolled in online school so they can travel with her to Colorado Springs for treatments.
Sanchez advises all women ages 40 and older to get a yearly mammogram and, if there is a history of breast cancer in the family, to get regular mammograms before the age of 40. Her tumor was discovered through imaging scans while she was in the hospital. At the time, she was breastfeeding her youngest child and noticed that her breast had become hard, but she thought it was a result of breastfeeding.
“Your breasts get hard when you breast feed, and I thought it would go away,’’ she said.
Shane Jewell has been in Scouts since the first grade, and he is thrilled to be an Eagle Scout and he’ll forever know that his work mattered.
“Going into my project, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I was hoping for this result, to help someone’s life. I’m happy that I can help,’’ he said. “I’m glad that I could do something.’’
Sanchez said cancer has made her see life differently.
“You appreciate life way more. You don’t realize how much stuff you take for granted. I’m taking care of my mom and it’s hard. I’ve got my five kids. “I’m trying to stay positive and look at all the positive and just keep trucking.’’
Along her journey, she’ll carry a pink bag filled with goodwill, a gift from an Eagle Scout who made a difference.