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Dan and Colin Dougherty have cancer, and the community is being asked to send cards and letters of encouragement to the family.

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RIO GRANDE - A customer service manager at a local grocery store is asking people to send get-well cards and words of encouragement to a family whose father and 14-year-old son have cancer. 

Mimi Cruz, of Wildwood, works at ShopRite, in Rio Grande, where Dan Dougherty, a meat cutter there, has renal carcinoma. Dougherty had part of a kidney removed last year, and while nodules are again growing on his kidney, he is waiting to see how fast the cancer progresses.  

He has a follow-up appointment in November, where doctors will determine the next actions: Removal of the kidney, chemotherapy or something else. 

In the meantime, his son, Colin, was diagnosed this past spring with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a cancer that most often occurs in and around the bones and typically occurs in children and young adults. It often begins in the legs, bones of the pelvis, and arms. It is considered extremely rare, as there are fewer than 1,000 cases diagnosed in the U.S. annually. 

Cruz is asking "to get the community together and let the Dougherty family know that they are not alone. We take care of our neighbors. We will even be their cane when they need us most. We are Cape May County strong and present.  

I would like the community to stand by this family and send get-well cards to Colin and words of encouragement to the family,” Cruz wrote to the Herald. Colin can hold those cards with his hands and know that there is a community standing by him. 

“Here in ShopRite, we will start writing letters, as well,” Cruz added. “I would like the community to know who this family is and reach out with kind words that give hope, love and support.” 

The cards can be left at ShopRite’s customer service courtesy desk. 

According to Dougherty, of North Cape May, his son came home one day after turning 14, complaining of chest pain. He started running a fever, and the chest pains worsened over several days, and the fever continued. Tests at a local hospital showed a mass on his lungs, but the staff wasn’t sure what it was, so they presented hospital options for further treatment. 

Dougherty’s now 5-year-old child was born prematurely and treated at A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital, which was one of the options presented. He recalled how caring the staff was, and the family decided that was the place for Colin, his father said. 

“They did some tests and came back and told us he had Ewing’s Sarcoma,” Dougherty said. It had metastasized to his lungs, and Colin began the first of 14 rounds of chemotherapy May 7. Colin May 28 had a pulmonary embolism removed and heart bypass.  

“His hair is falling out, but he is in good spirits,” Dougherty said. 

Colin was able to participate in the eighth-grade graduation ceremonies June 17, at Richard M. Teitelman Middle School, in Erma. 

The family has been shuttling back and forth to Wilmington, Delaware, for treatment, made harder because of Covid restrictions still in place.  

“Only his caregivers are allowed in, so his mom and I are trading places,” Dougherty said. He is on family and medical leave from ShopRite. 

While at the hospital, the family has been staying in a nearby hotel because they have two other children, who have been there to show support for their brother.  

Dougherty said his son would be home for a week before returning for a week’s worth of treatments, going back and forth for future treatments. A GoFundMe page (https://gofund.me/01b3a830) was started to help offset the family’s travel and medical costs. A benefit is planned July 31, from 2-6 p.m., at the Moose Lodge, on Seashore Road, in Erma. 

“This is a scary and sad time,” Cruz said, noting she is “blessed” with three children and two grandchildren. “I hope the cards and words of encouragement will show hope to this family.” 

To contact Karen Knight, email kknight@cmcherald.com. 

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