In 1998, Sykesville resident Linda Dore was diagnosed with spinal ependymoma, a very rare form of cancer. She has fought this battle for the last 15 years, during which she has had four surgical procedures, the last one leaving her needing a wheelchair.
Through it all, Dore has kept her focus on her life and her children.
She had her first daughter, Hannah, in April 2001, exactly three years after her cancer had been removed. It was while she was pregnant with her second daughter, Olivia, in 2003, that she was told her cancer had returned.
Dore decided to wait until after the pregnancy and her recovery from it before having surgery. It wasn't until August of the following year that the procedure took place.
"The doctors got most of it but they couldn't get all of it," Dore said.
For the next five years, she underwent a number of treatments, including spinal radiation which caused her tremendous pain so she had an intrathecal morphine pump inserted into her body to help ease her pain.
"I still have it actually," she said. "It's time managed so I don't have to worry about it."
One of Dore's close friends, Barbara Beere, said she is constantly amazed by her friend's perseverance.
"Her strength and courage makes you realize that life is good," Beere said. "She takes a situation that would make most people fall apart and she encourages strength and laughter."
In 2009, Dore had developed three tumors in her brain. Her doctors told her that gamma knife radiation was the best way of eliminating them.
"It's basically a knife made of radiation that removed the tumors in my brain without cutting open my head, which was nice," Dore said.
"At one point, Linda threw herself a party right before she started gamma-knife-radiation treatments," Beere said. "She actually greeted you at the door wearing a knife head band, like the kind you would wear for Halloween making it appear that you have a knife going through your skull."
It was after the procedure that she decided to get back into shape. She became a member of Strive for Five Studios, a fitness center located in Eldersburg. It was here that she met Robin Jeng.
"I am constantly amazed by her strength," Jeng said. "In just over a year she lost 45 pounds."
Dore continued her treatments, which included both oral and IV chemotherapy, until last November, when it started to affect her kidneys and she had to stop treatment. Seven or eight tumors had developed in her spine, she said, and in July 2013, she underwent surgery to reduce the size of one of the more dangerous tumors.
The surgery did not go as planned and when she woke, Dore couldn't feel her legs. She remained in the hospital for a week then was sent to Kernan Hospital, a rehabilitation facility which is part of the University of Maryland.
"She had to re-teach her body just to do a lot of simple things," Jeng said. "She's making progress, she's more self-sufficient but not out of the water."
As for her two daughters, Dore said they are handling it well.
"It's been difficult for them but they are adapting," she said. "Hannah told me, 'You can do everything you used to, you just do it sitting down.'"
An unexpected burden of her spinal surgery has been the total remodeling of her house.
"You don't realize how expensive it is, but once you're in a chair, you need stair glides, ramps and a special vehicle just to get around," Dore said.
After hearing about her financial needs, Jeng decided to organize a fundraiser to help.
"Originally I wanted to have it at Strive for Five Studio but soon realized that I was going to need a bigger space," Jeng said. "I then contacted the leaders at my church, Wesley Freedom, and they agreed to host the fundraiser."
When Jeng told Dore about her idea, she was more than a little surprised.
"When I confronted Linda about the benefit, she was embarrassed a little almost," Jeng said.
Beere is also helping with the fundraiser along with another friend of Dore's, Pamela Graham.
"It's wonderful to be able to be a small part of trying to help Linda with this fundraiser," Graham said. "She is an amazing, strong, smart, remarkable, grounded, humble and funny lady."
Jeng said there will be 15 merchants, a bake sale, door prizes and a silent auction, which includes a dinner for two at Baldwin's Station in downtown Sykesville.
Dore has also participated in Relay For Life cancer fundraising events for the past eight years and it was at one of these events held last June at Liberty High School that Beere realized the depth of her friend's resolve.
At these events, everyone involved lights a luminaria - a paper lamp - and sets it around the track before they walk, she said.
Beere said it was while they were walking that Dore said to her, "My biggest goal in life is not to be an in-memory-of luminaria."