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Published September 02, 2010, 12:00 AM

Shaving for the brave: Rugby mom cutting hair for cancer fundraiser

Randi Heisler knows courage when she sees it. All she has to do is look at her 19-month-old son, Aspen.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

Randi Heisler knows courage when she sees it.

All she has to do is look at her 19-month-old son, Aspen.

Aspen was diagnosed with cancer, a stage III neuroblastoma, in February. Doctors say the Rugby, N.D., boy may also have a rare genetic disorder called mucopolysaccaridosis, or MPS.

He’s had two surgeries to remove tumors, and another is scheduled to remove a tumor on his spine. He’s also had seven weeklong rounds of chemotherapy, Heisler said.

Aspen’s lost his hair a couple times due to the chemo. In solidarity with her son and 45 other moms with kids battling cancer, Heisler said she’s giving up her locks, too.

She’ll take part in the “46 Mommas Shave for the Brave” event Tuesday in Los Angeles, she said.

Money raised by the women, just over $125,000 so far, will go to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for childhood cancer research, Heisler said.

The National Childhood Cancer Foundation says every weekday, 46 children are diagnosed with cancer. The women used that statistic for the group name.

Heisler’s plane arrives at 2 p.m., and she’s to be shaved at 4 p.m., she said.

“I think it’s amazing to raise this much money for childhood cancer and awareness, so I decided to do it,” Heisler said.

The women are also to appear on the Sept. 10 live broadcast of “Stand Up to Cancer,” a cancer research fundraising event being broadcast on major television networks starting at 7 p.m. Central time.

Aspen showed no symptoms of disease, but Heisler recognized that he wasn’t developing right.

After initial testing, the family was sent to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, then referred to the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, in Minneapolis.

Since then, the family, with father Levi and brother Macen, 5, have been to the Twin Cities many times, Heisler said, regularly staying at a Ronald McDonald House.

The chemotherapy hasn’t shrunk the tumors, but keeps the cancer in check, Heisler said.

Doctors are still working to confirm the diagnosis of MPS, Heisler said. Aspen tests positive for the disease, but it is possible the cancer is causing a false positive on tests, she said.

According to Medicine

Net.org, MPS is a genetic disorder that prevents the breakdown of a complex carbohydrate called a mucopolysaccharide. The carbohydrate is deposited in body tissues because the person lacks the specific enzyme to metabolize it.

MPS damages and distorts tissues, stunts growth and development, limits joint movement, and some types of MPS cause mental retardation.

The disorder is progressive and chronic, Heisler said, and children don’t usually live beyond age 10.

Doctors have decided to beat the cancer first, and take on the MPS if the diagnosis is confirmed, she said.

“It is a roller coaster, I guess. Our family and friends have been so supportive,” Heisler said.

“You have to give up your control” and go with what happens, she said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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