Friday, January 7, 2011

Lake in the Hills Cancer Survivor Wins 2010 VW Beetle

Stephanie Flood thought long and hard before coming up with the perfect name for her brand-new 2010 Volkswagen Beetle.

In the end, “Felicity” seemed appropriate, she said.

“This car makes me smile every time I look at it,” said Flood, 23, of Lake in the Hills. “I wanted to find a name that’s representative of this whole experience. This whole process has been joy, which also happens to be my middle name. There is still good in the world."

Flood won the car, valued at $20,390, on Dec. 18 through the Fox Valley Volkswagen’s “LoveBug2 Contest.” The winning announcement ceremony was held at the dealership's West Chicago location.

The five-month contest asked Chicagoland residents to nominate someone whose good deeds have been inspirational or helpful to others.

LOVEbug2 Winner Stephanie Flood

Since June, the dealership accepted monthly nomination stories, and each month the public voted for their favorite nominee. Flood’s aunt, Jennifer Dzierozynski, of Libertyville, nominated her in June, and Flood won the most votes that month, she said.

Dzierozynski wrote in her nomination letter: “Most of us go through our lives not realizing what a gift each day is. My nominee, Stephanie Flood, lives each day knowing how truly precious life is. At age 9, she was diagnosed with an aggressive and deadly brain cancer, ependymoma. She’s battled this four times, but continues to give back and fight cancer.”

Flood’s cancer fight began when, in the fourth-grade, she experienced flu-like symptoms for three weeks which included dizziness and nausea. An eye exam and CATscan revealed a growth on her brain. Her first treatment involved surgery to remove the tumor and six weeks of radiation.

The treatment was successful, and the tumor disappeared for three years.

“We thought we had it beat,” said Flood, adding that her mother, Ursula and father, Kevin, supported her throughout her battle.

“But then in 2000, I had the same symptoms again. We thought, 'uh-oh, it’s back.' But we were just hopeful again that I’d have the surgery, and it would go away.”

The second treatment involved surgery and an experimental form of chemotherapy, she said. A year later, the tumor returned, and Flood endured a third sugery and Gamma Knife radiation, a procedure that killed both good and bad cells, she explained.

That treatment shrunk the tumor, but it wasn’t gone for good. In 2002, Flood went through a fourth surgery and received another experimental treatment at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Intrabeam radiation.

“That treatment only kills bad cells,” she said. “And I’ve been cancer-free for eight years.”

Since then, Flood graduated from Jacobs High School in 2005, and from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, in August with a communications degree.

She recently completed an internship at Children’s Memorial and said she hopes to find a public relations job in fund-raising or marketing in a position where she can help others.

She’s also been instrumental in the fight to raise cancer awareness and research funds. She has served on the leadership board for the American Cancer Society, she said. She appears in the Children’s Memorial commercial “One Day,” where she shares the message of new cancer treatments.

She’s also helped chair and co-chair several “Relay For Life” fund-raising events at Elgin Community College and at NIU, she said.

Flood said her new wheels are much appreciated. Her old car, a '95 Toyota Camry, broke down permanently a year ago. She had a good feeling about the contest because she knew her family and friends were rallying votes on her behalf.

“I know I had a lot of people in my corner,” Flood said. “My supporters went above and beyond the norm to get more votes. My uncle Tom (Dzierozynski) had friends calling in from Puerto Rico.”

The top three monthly winners in the "LoveBug2 Contest" won smaller prizes, such as Apple I-pods, Garmen GPS systems and video cameras, said Fox Valley Operations Manager Christina Wickersheim.

The 15 monthly winners were entered into the December Grand Prize contest for the 2010 Limited Edition Volkswagen Beetle, which is the final build of the current body style, Wickersheim said.

More than three million people visited the contest website, LoveBugContest.com, according to the contest organizer Desert Rose Design

“We had people from 48 states and 9 countries casting votes,” Wickersheim said.

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