One year into his cancer treatments, Minooka Intermediate student Preston Klug decided to help other children battling the disease and included his school to broaden his reach.
“It was a lot better if my whole school did it. If it was just my class, It would not be as fun, I feel, and it shows that the whole school cares,” Klug, who is 11, said.
Klug's fifth-grade teacher Renee Heide said he started the year nervous, as he was undergoing treatments and had lost his hair. Heide said she always noticed a passion to help others in him, but Klug never spoke of his cancer until a few months ago. So when he had the idea to give back and open up about his condition, the two worked together and launched a project.
“He said, ‘I think I’m ready to give back. I think I will be OK, and I know people can’t afford the things I had in treatment,’” Heide said. “So, Preston, his mom and I came up with a list of things to collect, and we also sold bracelets.”
Klug said he chose to ask the school to donate items that helped him when he was in the hospital. He said lip balm was necessary because once his lips cracked, viruses could enter, and he said families should not have that worry. Next, he asked for Biotene mouthwash because during his treatments, Klug said mouth sores were common.
“The Biotene keeps your mouth from getting dry, keeps it clean. I have had mouth sores before, but these are worse,” he said.
Last, the students brought in Press'n Seal plastic wrap, which is normally used to cover food. In the case of a cancer patient, it helps keep clothes clean after Lidocaine is applied to numb the skin over a port, a device used to draw blood and give treatments.
“We want to give this to families so they don’t have to pay for it,” Klug said.
He said they will also put labels on all of the plastic wrap boxes to say "Preston Seal," because when his mother Lori Klug told Preston’s aunt about the product, she thought Lori said Preston Seal, and it has become a family joke.
Preston said he will take the donations from the bracelet sales and donated items to Keyser Family Pediatric Cancer Center at Advocate Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn, where he was treated.
Preston’s father, Ken, said in March of 2018 his son was treated twice for a sinus infection, and after both rounds of antibiotics failed and his eyes were swollen, his doctor ordered a CT scan. On April 9, 2018, the scan showed something behind Preston’s eye in the orbital bone.
“Preston had a biopsy where they drilled a hole in the skull, pulled a piece out. It would be terrifying for any parent. Some medical professionals say it’s a form of cancer, and some say it’s neurological, either way, it’s treated the same,” Ken said.
Preston was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, and began chemotherapy treatments. Preston said the worst part was the life change.
“When I started chemo, my hair fell out. I knew I was going into surgery, and I was nervous. The side effects — my stomach would kill me, and I would be huddled up on the couch. I didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “June 13 is my last chemo treatment. I am feeling normal now.”
But Preston appreciated his classmates' and teacher's support throughout the process.
"This (the drive) makes me feel good. It’s good to know that people support me and care about me," Preston said. “Mrs. Heide is the best teacher I could ask for. She always gives me hugs, and in my class everyone is nice.”
Heide said she strives to help her students reach their goals, whether they're academic or social.
"I feel really good about this one — what a success, not only for Preston but for all of us here at MIS. We collected 1,249 items and sold over 1,500 wristbands to help Preston reach his goal of paying it forward,” Heide said.