Family heartbreak

By IAN THOMSON

newsroom@dailyexaminer.com.au

AN impassioned plea has gone out from friends and relatives of a Brushgrove family hit with health problems of unimaginable proportions.

The story concerns Mark and Cindy Stoker and their four daughters, aged between six and 14, a family of battlers trying to make ends meet.

Mark Stoker, who's now 35, was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive form of brain cancer in 2002. He was given a 30 to 40 per cent chance of surviving another two years.

The diagnosis meant that Mark could no longer work as a landscaper and machine operator.

But life went on.

Mark, who lost his power tools and other equipment in the 2001 flood, continued working around the house and on cars when he felt well enough.

The girls continued with their sport and school, while wife Cindy looked after the house and her brood. It was tough, but they coped.

That was up until a month ago when Cindy started feeling ill.

Tests revealed the unthinkable.

The 35-year-old mother of four, battling to come to grips with her husband's brain disease, had countless secondary tumours.

From a primary tumour on one lung, the insidious disease had spread to her bones, her brain, the sternum and lymph glands. Her life expectancy was put at two to three months.

The cold, hard fact is that four girls Leticia, 14, Jacynta, 13, Krystal, 9, and Jody-Kate, 6, are on the verge of losing their mother.

Mark Stoker is having ongoing treatment and will be operated on in Sydney next Friday.

His mother, Maureen McKeown, has relocated from Brisbane to Brushgrove.

She's living in a caravan at Brushgrove to support the youngsters in any way she can.

A close family friend, Val Wheatley of Brisbane, has written to The Daily Examiner, pleading for help.

"I'm hoping beyond hope that the family can move out of their rented home in an isolated area of Brushgrove, because it's too hard for the kids out there under the circumstances," she said.

"Cindy and Mark are very worried about what will happen to the girls once they go.

"I'm hoping that there's someone out there who could provide a home somewhere on the outskirts of, say, Maclean or Lawrence."

The older girls attend Maclean High School, the six and nine-year-olds go to Cowper Public.

Val Wheatley and grandmother Maureen McKeown said they wanted the family to be together in a better environment while waiting for the inevitable to happen.

"I know it's a big ask, but I can't stand back and let the parents disappear without trying to do something that will help them in their last days together," Mrs Wheatley said.

"Two of the children suffer from asthma, so it would be beneficial to their health as well if they moved away from a cane-growing area.

"If a simple home on a bit of land could be found for them to give the family peace of mind, security and something that will be there for the daughters in the future, that would just be miraculous."

Mrs Wheatley's reference to a bit of land refers to the children's two outside dogs.

While some people would say get rid of the dogs, Maureen McKeown says it's not as simple as that.

"The children love the dogs, and the dogs love them," she said.

"It's vital that they stay together because the kids have been through enough without losing their pets as well."

If anyone is interested in helping out, please contact David Bancroft at The Daily Examiner on 66430500.



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