YOU'RE 39 YEARS old, on top of the world.
You have a successful business, a wife and three wonderful children. You're active in your community and church and you think you have it all.
That was the world of Jim Stein of New Windsor, which began to collapse during the Thanksgiving holiday last year. Shortly thereafter, Stein was diagnosed with Philadelphia Chromosome Positive Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL).
"My initial reaction was, 'My gosh, I couldn't believe it,' " Stein recalled. "You always hear of someone else getting cancer."
Reflecting on Thanksgiving, Stein's wife, Stephanie, said she remembers having a bad cold.
"We thought he was getting my cold," she said. "But by Thanksgiving Day, we knew something was wrong, but we didn't know what. We went to the emergency room at Carroll County General Hospital."
Stephanie Stein said the hospital staff couldn't know what was wrong with him without further tests. He lost 25 pounds in two weeks.
"He was in so much pain," she said. "Then we went to Johns Hopkins Hospital emergency room where they diagnosed him with ALL."
"Nobody wants to be told they have cancer, especially cancer of the blood. At that point, they couldn't tell him what his prognosis was," she said.
Eventually, Stein could no longer maintain his business, Dent Magic (which removes small dents from automobiles). Out went the income the family had. But in its place kicked in an outpouring of community support that has left the Steins stunned.
"It has been phenomenal," Stephanie Stein said. "Support has come from all across the country. I know we're looking at at least a year and half of no income. I just know God is going to take care of us.
"It may seem naive to some. But I would not allow myself to think about those things. I'm more worried about trying to keep my kids going and help my husband beat this," she said.
"We definitely don't have to worry about the money right now," she said. "The support does take a burden off you. That's where Christians come together. And not just Christians. We've learned a lot of big lessons over the past four months."
The community outpouring has been impressive, from magic shows put on by a PTO, to yard sales to spaghetti dinners. Then there is the Jim Stein Foundation.
Behind the foundation is a diminutive woman named Mildred Doehrer.
"My husband had bladder cancer and had it removed at Hopkins," Doehrer began. "We got to know [the Steins] at Hopkins. We had known them from our church but they were in their 30s and we were in our 70s, so we didn't run in the same circles."
But Doehrer realized the Steins were going to need support. The first fund-raiser was a potluck dinner at Keysville Evangelical Lutheran Church, where $635 was raised and the church's Lutheran Aid Society matched that amount. Doehrer said she set up an account at Union National Bank to deposit donations.
"I wanted someplace where people could make donations," she said.
Then she found out that National Heritage Foundation, which helps groups set up foundations, had a local office in the old fire hall in Westminster. On March 10, she set up the Jim Stein Foundation -- donations are tax-deductible.
"Since then, we have been paying the family's living expenses through the foundation," she said.
Most recently, the PTO at Elmer Wolfe Elementary School held a magic show to raise funds.
"I had heard about the Steins," said Jeanne Cooney, head of the PTO. "Their daughter, Blaire, attends school at Elmer Wolfe. I had been trying to do a magic show anyway."
Cooney said she thought the magic show could be a fund-raiser. The magicians offered to donate their services. The show, held March 18 at the school, brought out more than 400 people and raised more than $900.
The magicians included John Swomley of Martinsburg, W.Va., as master of ceremonies; Roger Lindsay of New Windsor; Khan Du and Company from Frederick; Magic Louie of Westminster; Dean Burkett of Williamsport; and Jesse McCarley of Taneytown.
Tomorrow night, a spaghetti dinner will be put on by the Union Bridge, Sulphur Springs and New Windsor Lions Clubs, said Edie Pfoutz, who is organizing the event.
The dinner will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Elmer Wolfe Elementary in Union Bridge. Cost is $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 3 to 10.
"The school is providing some entertainment," Pfoutz said. "Pizza Hut in Taneytown has been fantastic. They are donating all the lettuce and the spaghetti sauce and Elmer Wolfe teachers and students are donating 30 pounds of spaghetti. The Lions Clubs will take care of all the other expenses."
Pfoutz said the Lions Clubs are glad to help.
"It could be any one of us," she said.
Jim Stein has undergone most of his chemotherapy treatment, and is in remission. However, without a bone marrow transplant, his leukemia has almost a 100 percent chance of returning.
The family is working with the National Marrow Donor Program to locate a suitable donor for a bone marrow transplant.
"We thought we had a match. But with subsequent testing it didn't work out," Stephanie Stein said.
Jim Stein is unsure about his plans.
"It depends on how quick I recover," he said. "If it's a quick recovery, I want to go to Bible college. If it's a slow recovery, well I am so thankful for what everyone has done for my family and me. The good Lord has gotten me through."
The Steins have three children, Jacob, 7, Blaire, 9, and Jimmy, 14. Information: 410-861-8025 or www.jimsteinfoundation.com.
Jean Marie Beall's Northwest neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.