Faith and family help Rochester teen Sam Kell battle brain cancer

Faith and family help Rochester teen Sam Kell battle brain cancer

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Faith and family help Rochester teen Sam Kell battle brain cancer

Rochester Hills Stoney Creek's Sam Kell jumps in celebration of a basket next to his stepfather and head coach, Michael Spehn, right, during a game against Ferndale on Feb. 9, 2017, in Ferndale.

Rochester Hills Stoney Creek’s Sam Kell jumps in celebration of a basket next to his stepfather and head coach, Michael Spehn, right, during a game against Ferndale on Feb. 9, 2017, in Ferndale.

It’s a beautiful day.

Sam Kell is out on the basketball court at Rochester Stoney Creek High School, playing the game he loves, 15 months after having surgery to remove a rare tumor in his brain.

A scar curves over his right ear in the shape of a sickle. His basketball uniform hangs loose over his skinny frame and he tires easily, but Sam flashes through the lane, putting up his hand, expecting to get the ball.

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Sam lets out a smile. He has an inner energy that is unmistakable. His nickname is Opto because he exudes so much optimism and belief — it’s like his soul has been kissed by goodness and hope.

Sam’s mother, Gina Kell Spehn, sits halfway up the stands, holding her phone sideways, recording everything Sam does. It is early March and this would be Sam’s final time on the court, in his final game of his junior varsity season.

A ref blows a whistle, and the clock stops.

The game freezes in place.

If only life were like this. If only we could freeze time. If only this moment would never end.

Sam has been battling Grade IV giant-cell glioblastoma, a sneaky, deceptive, evil, unrelenting, fast-growing disease with a horrific natural tendency to spread.

Back in January, a few weeks before he turned 16 years old, doctors found mysterious dark spots on Sam’s brain. After multiple MRIs, the doctors still aren’t certain what to make of them.

Maybe the cancer has returned.

Or maybe, as the doctors have come to suspect, those specs might be nothing but harmless residual burns, a necrosis from the proton treatments he received a year ago in Chicago.

But why would the burns show up outside of the precise, targeted field? It doesn’t make sense.

Gina can’t quite bring herself to believe the cancer is gone, not after everything she has been through. Cancer has a way of hardening the spirit.

Gina looks across the court, first at her son and then at her husband, Michael Spehn, the Stoney Creek junior varsity basketball coach. Michael paces back and forth along the sideline, with both arms held behind his back, hands clasped, wearing a dark sweater vest over a dress shirt.

Gina Kell Spehn, left, watches her son play basketball with her husband Michael Spehn, on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, at Ferndale High School in Ferndale.

Gina Kell Spehn, left, watches her son play basketball with her husband Michael Spehn, on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, at Ferndale High School in Ferndale.

A Hallmark movie, “The Color of Rain,” has already been made about their lives — the first stage, the first round of tragedies, the part where Gina lost her first husband, Matt, to cancer just weeks before Michael lost his first wife, Cathy, to the same disease. Gina and Michael were pulled together through grief and a strong Christian faith. A friendship turned into love, uniting two sprawling families — “Brady Bunch”-style, five kids total, two boys for Gina and two boys and a girl for Michael.

But they took all of that pain and experience and tried to help others. Ten years ago, Gina and Michael created the New Day Foundation for Families, a Rochester-based nonprofit that has helped hundreds of people dealing with cancer. Over the last 15 months, they have continued to run their foundation, paying the bills of strangers while helping them navigate the economic horrors of this horrible disease, at the same time dealing with their own son, fighting the same thing.

Sam has cancer, just like his biological father, Matt, had cancer, just like his grandfather, and so on, each succeeding generation dying at an earlier age.

How can one family be tested this dramatically? How can genetics be so cruel?

It’s too unfathomable to comprehend.

But that clock is still ticking, and this game is still going, and Sam is out on that basketball court, living life. His life. Playing the game he loves.

And that makes this a beautiful day.

Sam Kell, 16, of Rochester, center, listens to his stepdad Michael Spehn, 53, of Rochester, and his mother Gina Kell Spehn, 47, of Rochester, at their home on Saturday, March 11, 2017.

Sam Kell, 16, of Rochester, center, listens to his stepdad Michael Spehn, 53, of Rochester, and his mother Gina Kell Spehn, 47, of Rochester, at their home on Saturday, March 11, 2017.

‘It was cancer’

Sam Kell came out of the anesthesia and opened his eyes in the pediatric intensive care unit at Detroit Children’s Hospital

“What was it?” Sam asked.

It was late at night on Nov.12, 2015.

Just one day earlier, Sam had gone to the doctor because he was having double vision, a lucky break. Most of the time, this disease offers no symptoms, not until it is too late. Doctors discovered a mass in Sam’s brain, but didn’t know what it was until an emergency surgery that lasted seven hours.

“I’m sorry, buddy,” Michael Spehn said to his son. “It was cancer.”

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Without thinking, without a pause, Sam asked, “Can I still play basketball?”

That might sound trite for anyone to ask that question after being told that he or she has cancer. But this is a basketball family. Sam grew up playing on a plastic, Fisher Price hoop in his basement. Sam, his brothers and his friends spend their winters in basketball gyms, their springs on the driveway shooting hoops, their summers playing in camps and their down time playing basketball video games in the basement.

Spehn leaned toward his son and placed his hand on his chest.

“I promise you,” Spehn said. “Yes.”

Sam closed his eyes and fell asleep.

“I just believed it,” Michael said. “I know Sam. I know his determination. In our family, we trust God and we trust the men and women of science. We knew we were in a good place with really talented doctors and scientists, and we trusted our God.”

Sam Kell, 16, of Rochester, photographed at home on Saturday March 11, 2017, in Rochester.

Sam Kell, 16, of Rochester, photographed at home on Saturday March 11, 2017, in Rochester.

Michael had an intimate knowledge and perspective about this rare disease.

In a twist that boggles the mind and defies all odds, Sam has glioblastoma multiforme, the same disease as Michael’s first wife, Cathy, even though they are not genetically related.

“My wife had crushing headaches and eventually semi-paralysis by the time anybody knew she was sick,” Michael said. “Hers was inoperable. It was so deep in her brain, by the time we discovered it. She was admitted into the emergency room and died 17 days later. Never came home from the hospital.”

A community responds

Instead of trying to fight this latest battle in silence, instead of trying to do this alone, the Spehns went public. Gina and Michael created a Facebook page titled “Pray for Sam Kell,” which has grown to include 6,200 followers.

Most of the posts are medical updates, photos and inspirational Bible verses. The overwhelming theme is hope and belief. “We ask you to pray fervently for his complete healing,” they posted. “Our hope and strength are found in Christ.”

The signature photo on the page shows Sam lying on a bed in the hospital, his head covered with bandages, his smile revealing braces, which have since been removed. Gina is leaning into him and they are both smiling brightly. It is a picture that embodies hope and love, not gloom and doom.

Sam Kell and his mother, Gina Kell Spehn

Sam Kell and his mother, Gina Kell Spehn

The response was immediate. Support came from around the country, as they tried to “storm the gates of heaven” with prayers. They received hundreds, probably thousands of notes and messages, filled with hope and encouragement. There was a prayer vigil at Trinity Lutheran Church in Utica, and several fund-raisers that included an SOS (Save Our Sam) 5K race at Stony Creek Metropark and a high school hockey game that brought together Stoney Creek, Rochester and Adams high schools.

They threw together a charity basketball game — the kids against the adults — a wonderful, trash-talking affair that proved to be Sam’s coaching debut.

And in December 2015, Sam and his brothers were invited to attend a Detroit Lions practice.

“It was amazing,” Sam said. “I got to go around the practice facility and talk to a few players.”

Calvin Johnson, now retired, gave him a pair of gloves. “Oh, they are huge,” Sam said. “And I have pretty big hands.”

The whole team gathered around Sam, and he broke them down. “Lions on three!” Sam yelled. “One, two, three!”

“Lions!” the team screamed.

Former Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, left with arms crossed, gave Sam Kell his gloves at practice in December 2015.

Former Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, left with arms crossed, gave Sam Kell his gloves at practice in December 2015.

The outpouring continued, a wave of cards and gifts and prayer and encouragement and posters.

“It was so far and so wide,” Gina said. “It was massive. High schools and individuals and church communities. It wasn’t just our high school, our community, our friends. It was this ripple effect. It went out and out and out. It was so fast and so much that I couldn’t write thank-you notes. I couldn’t keep up with the pace that things were coming to us and the gifts and the food and the blankets and trinkets and gifts for Sam. The cards. The prayers. The encouraging words. The posters. The cards from kids. It’s overwhelming.”

Childhood cancer is rare, according to the National Cancer Institute. About 15,000 children 19 or younger are diagnosed every year. The five-year survival rate for a child with glioblastoma is 20%.

When a child gets cancer, it can rock you to the core.

It can make an entire community feel helpless.

More often than not, people want to try to help but don’t know how other than writing a check.

“So many people want to give us money,” Gina said. “I’m like, no, you can’t. But you can write one to a foundation that’s going to help a family just like mine. They don’t have the outpouring of love and resources and finances …  that we do. Trying to communicate that to people has been the biggest struggle.”

The Spehns don’t need the money. Michael works as a financial planner and Gina works full time at the New Day Foundation, although she never took a salary until last year when her daughter went to college.

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They have made sure that all of the money raised in honor of Sam goes into their foundation, which helped 148 families in 2016, including 367 children.

More about the New Day Foundation For Families

“We take great pains to tell people, you are not raising money for the Spehns,” Gina said. “You are not raising money for Sam. We have been abundantly blessed, and God has taken care of us. Our lights are on. Our heat is working, but there are countless people who are going through what we are going through, the nightmare of cancer, and their lights are being turned off, and their refrigerator is empty and they can’t get themselves to treatment because their car is broken. To be able to share the message of the grace of God and raise some money to put some groceries on the table of people with cancer is a great blessing, a great privilege.”

Officially, they started the foundation in 2007, starting out small, working at their kitchen table.

“We’d find a story in the news or something and we’d say, ‘Maybe, we can connect with that family,’ ” she said.

But it continues to grow and become more sophisticated.

Now it is based at an office in Rochester.

The goal is to ease the financial burden of families who are dealing with cancer.

“People who are suffering, not only as a result of their cancer diagnosis, but as a result of the financial toxicity that comes with it,” Gina said. “When we say we are helping people by paying their bills, it sorta sounds like a little welfare, a little cushion to get them through. I’m like, no. You don’t understand. There are people who, under the stress of the financial stuff, some of them can’t go to treatment.”

Sometimes, people lose their jobs because of cancer, or the bills go through the roof, or they can’t get treatment because they don’t own a car.

“We buy people cars sometimes,” Gina said. “We have built a relationship with Buff Whelan Chevrolet. I call up and say, ‘I need a car. I need it to cost about $5,000. Nothing more. I need it to be in good working condition.’ ”

Now the New Day Foundation has relationships with social workers at local hospitals, who identify people in need and fill out the paperwork. “We can’t take cancer away,” Gina said. “We can’t change their diagnosis. But we can make their day a little softer, and that’s what we seek to do.”

Sam’s cancer put the Spehns in such a difficult position. They have been trying to stay strong and help others, keeping the New Day Foundation running. At the same time, they are dealing with the emotional strain of having a son with cancer.

“I’m angry, sad, determined, overwhelmed, grateful and humbled,” Gina posted in November. “I cry and my husband holds me. And he cries with me. We’re surrounded by people who have mobilized to create joyful, memorable experiences and events for Sam and our family. I’m constantly thinking about the hundreds, if not thousands, of others battling cancer and praying that each one is surrounded by the same love, prayer and generosity that we have been given.”

Sam and Reggie

A couple of weeks after surgery, the front door swung open.

“In walks Reggie Jackson,” Gina said.

Sam and his brothers were stunned when the Detroit Pistons point guard showed up at their Rochester home.

“The looks on their faces,” Gina said. “Shock, and it was like, oh, this is so cool.”

Somebody had given Jackson a book about the family, one that Gina and Michael wrote together, the basis for the movie.

“It was very touching,” Jackson said. “I was just trying to give him a chance to see what it’s like to be part of the organization, and I just hung out.”

It set up a surreal moment when Jackson was down in the Spehns’ basement, wearing Pistons sweats, a Pistons hoodie, wearing a Pistons hat, sitting on the couch.

And they were playing NBA 2K, a basketball video game.

Sam controlled the video game version’s Reggie Jackson, while sitting next to the real Reggie Jackson, who was controlling a different team.

“I was Reggie, playing against Reggie, and he beat me,” Sam said. “He’s really good at 2K. He beat me really bad.”

The best part?

The real Reggie Jackson wouldn’t stop talking trash about the video game version of Reggie Jackson.

“The announcers in the game would be talking about how great of a game Reggie Jackson was having and he’d be like, ‘Ah, no, he’s done better,’ ” Sam said.

Pistons guard Reggie Jackson plays an NBA video game with Sam Kell in Sam's basement.

Pistons guard Reggie Jackson plays an NBA video game with Sam Kell in Sam’s basement.

They went outside and played H-O-R-S-E on the driveway.

“Sam is a shooter,” Jackson said. “He’s very capable. He can go from deep range.”

One of Sam’s brothers knocked Jackson out of the game — a little home-court advantage — and Sam ended up winning, but he can’t remember the shot that clinched the victory. “I usually do an over-the-backboard shot,” Sam said. “I might have done that.”

Jackson stayed for a couple of hours, hanging out like one of the neighbor kids. “He has taught me to enjoy life, the glass is half full,” Jackson said about Sam. “Hearing about his battle is tremendous. He’s great.”

Jackson gave Sam a game jersey, a bunch of swag and tickets to a Pistons game against the L.A. Lakers, which would turn out to be Kobe Bryant’s last game at the Palace.

“Reggie Jackson has a heart of gold,” Gina said. “He’s a compassionate guy. He’s fearless, not just on a basketball court but in life. To come up to a family that is in a tough spot, to be able to walk in and walk with the kids and make everyone feel good, that guy’s heart is so good. He’s so kind. I think he’s just a great guy. He hasn’t let celebrity get to him. He’s fearless and he’s humble and he’s kind.”

Pistons guard Reggie Jackson and Sam Kell

Pistons guard Reggie Jackson and Sam Kell

Keeping the faith

Tests revealed that Sam has a genetic predisposition to get cancer, which complicated treatment options.

Doctors could not agree on a course of treatment, and Gina and Michael prayed for clarity, putting it in God’s hands.

“Friends, we are at peace tonight about the decisions we’ve made regarding Sam’s treatment plan,” Gina posted on Facebook. “Jesus was consulted. Doctors from every major institution responded. Confusion festered. Questions asked. Answers provided. Prayer offered. Clarity came. We have a plan.”

They decided to do proton therapy in Chicago.

Sam and his mother essentially moved to Chicago and lived at a Ronald McDonald House during the winter of 2016.

“The proton center waiting room is really quite homey,” Gina posted on Facebook. “A gas fire, stone wall, comfy furniture, coffee and snack bar, and Louie Armstrong playing on an iPod in the middle of the room. For real. And a bit surreal. Sam’s in having proton beams fired into his brain and I’m just sitting out here swingin’ to the beat?! It’s a peaceful environment. Kudos to the design staff. I’m just antsy sitting here, so I pray (in between big band horn sections on the iPod), and come to meet with you.”

Gina posted a photo of Sam getting his first treatment. He went into the machine wearing a Detroit Lions shirt. Under that photo, Gina posted on Facebook: “And so it begins. That’s my baby in his first proton treatment. Please pray the Lord will guide the proton beam to every creeping corner where this evil cancer is hiding. Life is precious. Science is a gift. God is in control. Much love from Chicago.”

Gina and Sam started doing daily devotionals together, which strengthened his faith. “I think this whole experience has,” he said.

Gina felt helpless, while marveling at her son’s strength. “Right now, I feel like a flailing idiot,” she wrote. “Arms swinging, teeth gnashing, legs kicking. I completely hate that cancer is attacking my son. Watching Sam stand face to face with a monster is a kind of twisted hell beyond my comprehension. We all know this monster. So many face this torment. Helplessness can be crippling. Sometimes it’s all we do to crawl into the arms of the Father to be held, because we cannot stand on our own two feet.”

Through it all, Sam has showed incredible resilience and trust. A couple of times, he became unglued, but for the most part, he has been nothing but optimistic.

Sam Kell, 16, of Rochester, rests on a coach in the living room of his home on Saturday March 11, 2017 in Rochester.

Sam Kell, 16, of Rochester, rests on a coach in the living room of his home on Saturday March 11, 2017 in Rochester.

“Since the day he was diagnosed, he has taught me so unexpectedly, the gift he has given to me,” Gina said. “One time, (his older brother) Drew said to Sam, “I think you are in denial. You don’t even know what’s happening. You don’t understand how serious this is.’”

“Sam looked at him and said, ‘I understand how serious this is. I want to be positive.’”

What was Sam’s way? It included plenty of basketball.

Sam tried to schedule treatments early on Friday mornings, so he could come home on the weekends and play basketball for Stoney Creek. He missed three quarters of the practices and about half the games, but he made it back for the others.

“It was like an overwhelming sense of relief and gratitude to see him on the court,” Gina said. “It was relief because I knew how badly he wanted to play. I wanted to see him get there. When you are told your son has brain cancer, you don’t know what is about to go down, what degree of suffering your child is about to endure. To see him get back on a basketball court and be smiling and playing the sport that he loves, yeah, there is a lot of gratitude. I literally want to get down on my knees and say, Thank you, Jesus. It was overwhelming. To see pure joy. To have that moment for your kid.”

The fight continues

On Jan. 29, 2016, Sam finished his proton therapy.

Four days later, he made a triumphant return to the basketball court, playing alongside his brother Dan.

The team wore Lacey’s Laces to raise awareness and support for pediatric cancers. The laces were designed in memory of Lacey Holsworth, who had a special bond with the members of the MSU basketball team before she died in 2014.

A group of mothers baked hundreds of Italian “S” cookies to benefit the foundation.

“JOY is oozing out of my pores right now people!” Gina posted on Facebook.

Sam started another form of treatment called Optune, a device that attaches to his head like a skull cap with what are called transducer arrays, wearing it nearly 20 hours a day, taking it off only to play sports or to shave his head.

Still, he continued to live a normal life, taking drivers training last summer. He was extremely active all summer, playing basketball, baseball and golf with his dad.

Everything seemed perfect.

But that all changed on Jan. 11, when Sam had a full-body MRI that showed what appeared to be a new tumor growth in his brain.

Gina said the doctors were using words like “confounding” and “contradictory.”

It didn’t make sense.

‘Game on!’

On Super Bowl Sunday in February, a charity basketball game was held for Sam at Oakland University.

“Oh, I don’t even know how to describe that,” Sam said. “I couldn’t even expect to do something like that. Let alone a D1 college? It was like a dream. I got all my best friends and played basketball on a D1 court on the same team. It’s just not something a lot of people get to do. It was amazing.”

Sam’s team was made up of his brothers and close friends. During introductions, the players ran out through a tunnel formed by cheerleaders from Lutheran Northwest and Stoney Creek high schools.

Reggie Jackson stood at the end of the tunnel, giving everybody high fives.

Sam treats Reggie like a friend. Not a superstar.

Gina walked to center court and welcomed everybody to the game.

“There are hundreds, if not thousands, who are dealing with the same things we are,” she said.

The purpose was to celebrate Sam, honor his fight, raise money for the foundation and give glory to God.

“Let’s celebrate Sam, and his siblings and his friends,” Gina said. “And let’s give greater hope to those who are battling cancer.”

As she walked off the court, she screamed: “Game on!”

It was a special day in February on the Oakland University basketball court for Sam Kell.

It was a special day in February on the Oakland University basketball court for Sam Kell.

Sam’s team played against a bunch of self-proclaimed Old Guys, old-schoolers in white tube socks, including his father, Michael.

“There were so many stories within that story,” Michael said. “On the court with me that day were two guys I played fifth-grade basketball with. Two of my oldest friends. The best man at my wedding. I hadn’t played basketball with them for 37 years.”

They celebrated basketball and Sam and hope.

“You had so many other groups,” Michael said. “There were families that we helped in the foundation that were sitting in the stands. There were cheerleaders from the high school I coach at. There were Detroit Pistons professional basketball players. It was the community. It was a cross-section of the community wrapping their arms around each other.”

It was fun and silly, closer to a Harlem Globetrotters event than a serious game.

“Let’s go, Sam!” the cheerleaders chanted. “Let’s go, Sam!”

Jackson stood on the sideline, cajoling the refs, smiling the whole time, signing autographs and coaching.

“The officiating is terrible,” Jackson said on the sideline. “But the right team is winning.”

Jackson brought along Stanley Johnson, one of his teammates. During a raffle, Jackson and Johnson got into a bidding war that Jackson won, dropping $3,000 on a ball signed by everybody involved, including himself.

“My mom died of breast cancer in August 2015,” Johnson said. “I just wanted to come out and support Sam and Reggie.”

Yes, cancer touches everyone.

In the end, Sam made the shot that won the game in overtime. Of course, he did.

“I think basketball keeps me going,” Sam said. “I hear my alarm go off, and I’m like, ah, I don’t want to go to school today. But I have a game tonight, so I get up. I think basketball is the best game in the world. It’s so much fun to play, so much fun to watch, too.”

Courage and strength

Sixteen years ago, in the delivery room at Beaumont Hospital, there was a TV turned to the Grammy Awards.

Gina remembers it distinctly. Sam was born as Bono sang the song, “Beautiful Day.”

“It’s a beautiful day

Don’t let it get away

It’s a beautiful day”

In many ways, that song sums up Sam’s attitude as he has dealt with cancer.

Over the summer, he got an MRI every three months. But he crammed all kinds of life between those tests. Trips Up North. Swimming. Hanging out with friends. And basketball, of course. There was countless joy between those tests.

“Every time we get an all clear, the feeling has been, all right, we have three more months,” Gina said. “We can go on for three more months. We are going to live. How are we going to live fully?”

But every time, when another test drew near, the anxiety started to rise.

“You can kind of feel it coming back,” Gina said. “It’s a week out, a few days out. There is a little more anxiety. You gotta keep breathing and kind of focusing on what is today.”

When Sam gets an MRI, Gina usually deals with the stress by sitting in the lobby, praying and writing posts on Facebook.

“There is always a concern, right, that this is going to be the time we see a tumor reoccur,” Gina said. “With glioblastoma, that’s what it is known for, for coming back. There is always that concern. That’s what we are praying for, keep him cancer free.”

In January, doctors found spots on Sam’s MRI. At one point, Gina was convinced the cancer was back. But more tests have lessened those fears, because the spots haven’t grown. “There is not a lot of blood flow to that area, which there would be if there was a tumor there,” she said. “Everything points to necrosis, but I still don’t trust cancer.”

Now, he gets an MRI every month, just to be sure.

His next one is Wednesday.

Gina expects the cancer to return, some day. So they are looking into other treatment options, including a clinical trial in California, but there are not a lot of options. Only 4% of federal government cancer research funding goes to children, according to the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer.

“The likelihood of this cancer reoccurring is so high, we think it makes sense to be proactive,” she said. “We would have to move to California. It would not be simple, but it could potentially be lifesaving.”

Sam’s strength is remarkable.

So is his courage.

In January, amid all of those MRIs and worries, he gave a speech to a church, sharing his deep faith, sharing his optimism. He thinks about heaven and can’t quite imagine it — a perfect world, with no pain — but the idea gives him comfort.

“He looks great, feels great,” Gina says.

And that makes this a beautiful day.

Focusing on anything else, worrying about what might happen in the future, would be a waste of this moment.

Contact Jeff Seidel: jseidel@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @seideljeff. To read his recent columns, go to freep.com/sports/jeff-seidel/.

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A prayer vigil was held for Sam Kell in 2015 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Utica.

A prayer vigil was held for Sam Kell in 2015 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Utica.

The Kell-Spehn family and friends are seen talking in the kitchen before preparing for a birthday party at their home on Saturday March 11, 2017 in Rochester, MI.

The Kell-Spehn family and friends are seen talking in the kitchen before preparing for a birthday party at their home on Saturday March 11, 2017 in Rochester, MI.

Gina Kell-Spehn, 47, of Rochester, MI, hugs her son, Sam Kell, 16, of Rochester, MI, in the living room of their home on Saturday March 11, 2017 in Rochester, MI. Kell is sophomore at Rochester Stoney Creek High School and is battling a form of brain cancer.

Gina Kell-Spehn, 47, of Rochester, MI, hugs her son, Sam Kell, 16, of Rochester, MI, in the living room of their home on Saturday March 11, 2017 in Rochester, MI. Kell is sophomore at Rochester Stoney Creek High School and is battling a form of brain cancer.

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