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updated: 3/2/2017 8:43 AM

Cubs' Anthony Rizzo aids Arlington Heights woman's cancer battle

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  • Emily Kmiecik of Arlington Heights, newly engaged to Jason Orlando, got a big boost after the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo wrote her a personal check.

    Emily Kmiecik of Arlington Heights, newly engaged to Jason Orlando, got a big boost after the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo wrote her a personal check.
    Courtesy of Emily Kmiecik

  • Emily Kmiecik, 26, got to know Chicago Cub Anthony Rizzo and his mom, Laurie, during her first bout with leukemia. The Rizzos have been instrumental in supporting the Arlington Heights woman in her battle the second time around.

    Emily Kmiecik, 26, got to know Chicago Cub Anthony Rizzo and his mom, Laurie, during her first bout with leukemia. The Rizzos have been instrumental in supporting the Arlington Heights woman in her battle the second time around.
    Courtesy of Emily Kmiecik

 
 

It had been many months since Emily Kmiecik texted with Laurie Rizzo, the mom of Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo and an instrumental figure in her son's successful cancer fight against Hodgkin lymphoma.

The two had gotten close after meeting at an Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation event in 2013, when Kmiecik was fighting cancer. Still, Kmiecik, of Arlington Heights, says the last thing she wanted to do in recent months was be a bother to the family during the team's World Series run.

A perfect storm of sorts prompted Kmiecik to reach out again: The 26-year-old nursing student at Harper College -- and daughter of former Daily Herald human resources director Betsy Kmiecik -- was finishing clinicals at Lurie's Children's Hospital in Chicago last month as she learned her cancer had come back. The hospital, where Anthony Rizzo regularly volunteers, has its halls and visiting rooms decorated with Cubs gear.

"I was just thinking about the whole thing, and I wanted to let her know," Kmiecik says.

She was stunned to learn days later that that conversation would prompt Anthony Rizzo to donate $2,500 to Emily's GoFundMe quest to preserve her eggs, in the hopes of becoming a mother after beating cancer for the second time. "I felt almost unworthy, in a way," Kmiecik says. "It felt overwhelming. I was just taken aback."

Chicago Cub Anthony Rizzo beat Hodgkin lymphoma and has made fighting cancer a hallmark issue.
Chicago Cub Anthony Rizzo beat Hodgkin lymphoma and has made fighting cancer a hallmark issue. - Associated Press Photo
'Fighting for my life'

Kmiecik, newly engaged to Jason Orlando, is hoping to move as quickly as possible to freeze her eggs. The process is expected to cost about $20,000.

This week, doctors informed Kmiecik that there's still some cancer in her bone marrow, meaning she'll have to undergo more chemotherapy than initially expected before she undergoes a bone marrow transplant.

"I'm very positive, but the first time around it felt like a piece of cake. Now it feels like I'm fighting for my life," she says.

To learn more about Emily's battle, visit www.gofundme.com/emilys-fighting-luekemia (yes, with "luekemia" misspelled).

Des Plaines River Racers close

It's the end of an era for some Des Plaines swimmers, as the Des Plaines River Racers is disbanding because of low participation and the cost of renting Maine West High School's pool for practices and meets.

Mike Tuntland, whom I worked alongside as a teenage lifeguard, says kids' schedules are more packed than ever, leaving less time for a significant time commitment like swim team.

"We chose to close River Racers at a high point, knowing that if we moved further into the future with it, certain consequences would come around because we weren't achieving population requirements," Tuntland says.

The team's last meet was the Feb. 26 regional meet at Glenbrook North High School.

Amping up security

Jewish temples in the suburbs are amping up security, or at least considering it, after a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia was vandalized over the weekend, one of a rash of similar crimes around the country in recent weeks.

About two weeks ago Buffalo Grove-based Temple Chai began to keep its doors locked and "only open them when we know who's there," officials told me.

Wilmette-based Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah announced to congregants in an email that guards will monitor the grounds on weekends and its school will conduct lockdown drills and keep outside doors locked.

A spokesman at Congregation Beth Shalom in Northbrook told me temple leaders will be "trying to determine what to do" in the coming days.

Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi
Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi
Not even close

I caught up with Democratic U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg at a roundtable discussion about the St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates.

He is never short on stories about his three young sons, such as 11-year-old Vijay keeping count on his hands as he was sitting next to his dad for the vote for U.S. House speaker between Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California and Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

At one point, Krishnamoorthi noted, Vijay got quiet and hung his head, noting, "It wasn't even going to be close." With a strong Republican majority in the chamber, Ryan won by a landslide.

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