Man walking from Kansas City to St. Louis to raise awareness of childhood cancer
Most of the time, when someone says they are going for a walk, it means they might walk around the block or down the street and back, and return shortly. Not so for a man who is tackling the 248-mile distance between Kansas City and St. Louis to help raise awareness for a young girl tackling a bigger problem.
Former United States Marine Jim Hickey is making the walk for a two-year old named Adleigh, who currently is battling a rare type of brain cancer known as diffused intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). Hickey was in Concordia on Thursday, March 1, on his way to Sweet Springs and then on to Marshall for a couple of days before trekking the rest of the way across the state.
Hickey, who discovered Adleigh’s story after completing another walk to raise awareness for another young girl battling cancer, says the DIPG diagnosis can be a death sentence. According to Wikipedia, DIPG is a tumor located in the pons (middle) of the brain stem. The brain stem is the bottom-most portion of the brain, connecting the cerebrum with the spinal cord. The majority of brain stem tumors occur in the pons and grow amidst the nerves, and therefore cannot be surgically removed. Glioma is a general name for any tumor that arises from the supportive tissue called glia, which help keep the neurons in place and functioning well. The brain stem contains all of the afferent (incoming) neurons within the spinal cord, as well as important structures involved in eye movements and in face and throat muscle control and sensation.
“But hopefully, there will be a miracle here,” Hickey said. “Adleigh seems to be responding well to radiation.”
In November, Hickey completed a walk from Wrigley Field in Chicago to Busch Stadium in St. Louis to help a young girl named Lydia. He met Adleigh and her family because Lydia and Adleigh were being treated on the same day at the same hospital.
“I made a promise to Adleigh’s mother to walk from Kansas City to St. Louis to raise awareness for her story and her type of cancer,” he said.
According to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Adleigh and young children who also have DIPG face an extremely low survival rate.
Hickey is from Queens, N.Y., and said he started walking a few years back with the goal to eventually walk across America to honor his father and brother, who both died of cancer. He has seen delays along the way, including being hit by a car and suffering a broken leg a little over six years ago, which put him out of commission for a while.
“I started doing these shorter walks as tune-ups to get in shape to tackle the walk across the country again,” he said. “My short first walk, from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia, was for a young cancer patient named Brooke. She lost that battle before I could complete the walk. I felt bad for not being able to get that done before she passed, and then I found another young cancer patient named Lydia in Illinois. I walked from Wrigley Field in Chicago to Busch Stadium in St. Louis to raise awareness for Lydia.”
Hickey said after he completes the current walk for Adleigh, he will walk for a young cancer patient named Pauly in New Jersey, and then complete a similar walk for a young cancer victim named Daisy in Colorado.
“By the time I complete those walks, I hope to begin my sixth attempt at the long walk across the nation. I am aiming to begin that walk early in 2019.”
Hickey said he stops in towns along his walk and speaks with people just to raise awareness of childhood cancer. Though Hickey is trying to raise awareness of childhood cancer and its victims, he does not accept any money for the cause as he walks.
“I don’t accept donations,” he said. “I will send willing people to Facebook pages and ‘GoFundMe’ pages run by families of the children I represent. And I might suggest some organizations to give to, but I don’t collect any money along the way.”
Hickey said he hopes his walk also inspires others to help someone in their others communities.