The Artisan, The Compassionate, and The Conqueror
With these empowering nicknames, the Dismuke family helped their three children face down cancer.
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Heart problem brings family together
Ironically, Ingram’s health crisis wasn’t the family’s first battle with serious illness. In 2007, Craig had been diagnosed with a severely enlarged heart, a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, which required open-heart surgery. He was only expected to live two more years. That’s when Craig came up with nicknames describing the qualities he cherished in his children. He called Lindsey, The Artisan. “With Craig’s heart problems, we decided to make changes and focus more on our family rather than try to do sports and everything under the sun,” says Ashley.
Several years later, when facing their son’s trial, they leaned on many friends in the community. “Hundreds of people from school, church, and the neighborhood brought meals and took Madison and Lindsey to their after-school activities. At the end of the day, we didn’t have to figure out, ‘How are we going to make tomorrow happen?’” says Ashley, still grateful.
Yet worry and stress shadowed the couple. “Craig didn’t know what I needed emotionally, and I didn’t know if I could give him everything he needed.”
At the hospital, a child life specialist spent time with the girls, giving them a chance to share their fears and concerns. In the next months, prayer, exercise, and their community ties strengthened them. Even on Ingram’s bad days, the Dismukes exercised together to relieve stress.
Finally, a reason to celebrate
After six months of treatments for Ingram, the family at last had reason to celebrate. In October 2012 came the No Mo’ Chemo party. Though still weak, Ingram tossed confetti as Dr. Gajjar, nurses, and his family sang. His dad called him
The Conqueror, the right nickname for a boy who bravely fought cancer.
Another celebration followed last year, during the 2012 St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend in December. Madison ran the 5K, hard, never stopping, her friends and sister by her side. Crossing the finish line, she marveled that with help of 300 donors, her team raised more than $230,000. “Madison has already been guaranteed a job in fundraising with A.L.S.A.C.,” her mom proudly says.
The real high point of the day turned out to be Ingram’s race adventure. He had just finished treatment, but he joined his dad and ran a quarter-mile.
Says Madison, now 11, “Dad says that not many 10-year-olds can do what I did. But I couldn’t have done it without Lindsey. I had help from people all over the country, and my friends asked relatives for help. That helped majorly and kept up my confidence. We’re trying [this year] to raise as much money, or more, than we did last year.” The 2013 Team Ingram video, online at ingramdismuke.com, stars the three siblings and captures their gratitude for the care received at St. Jude.
At bedtime, the children still pray together. “They thank God for taking the cancer away and ask, ‘Please don’t let it come back,’” Ashley says. The good news is that both their brother and dad’s prognosis have changed for the better. Now 5, Ingram gets brain and spine scans every three months, and “At age 10, they’ll declare him free of cancer,” says Ashley.
The Dismukes savor the spontaneity of life once again. They’ll slip into their pajamas, and delay bedtime by dashing out for ice cream. Craig launches Tickle Monster games that send the kids racing through the house. And Ingram, who is thriving as a pre-school student at Germantown Baptist Church, brags on his big sis, Madison, the No. 00 team goalie on her soccer team, claiming, “She is my bestest nothing ever.”