Caring comes full circle

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Two families connected by cancer and kindness

Jack Hoeger was just five years old when he was diagnosed with a rare brain cancer in 2005. Cedar Rapids software technician Julie Kuehnle was 61 when she discovered a lump in her breast in 2016. Yet Hoeger and Kuehnle are connected in more ways than they could have guessed.

Jack beat the odds when he became the first known survivor of his type of cancer. “But even in remission, the cancer’s not through with you,” says his mother, Jen Hoeger. Jack has battled seizures, brain damage and more. Despite that, Jack and his family are determined to help others. Since forming the I Know Jack Foundation, the Hoegers have raised over $125,000 to benefit patients and families impacted by cancer.

Julie Kuehnle didn’t know any of that when she got her I Know Jack Pack from the Nassif Community Cancer Center. The I Know Jack Pack Foundation provides backpacks, filled with comfort items to support patients on their cancer journey, to every patient who comes to the Center. Kuehnle remembers, “I received it on my first chemo day. At that point, I didn’t even want to admit I had cancer. And then I got this Jack Pack full of fun things!” “When Mom got the pack, it came with a story about Jack,” adds Kuehnle’s daughter Jill Gallet. “I saw his picture and said ‘wait, I know him!’”

Gallet’s summer job in college was with the ARC of East Central Iowa, an agency that supports individuals with disabilities. Among other things, she worked as a lifeguard when the ARC took kids to the Kennedy High School pool. “It was a really chilly pool and Jack didn’t like to get in,” she recalls. Instead of swimming, Jack and Gallet spent time talking about his love of baseball. “I didn’t know he had cancer,” she says. “I just knew he was a kid who needed some extra care.”
Kuehnle loves little connections like that. “Isn’t it amazing?!” she says. “Here’s a child with so many needs, but he’s looking out for me”—just as her daughter once looked out for Jack.

Today, Jill Gallet helps other kids as a special education teacher in South Carolina. Jack Hoeger and his family continue to raise money to support cancer patients from diagnosis through survivorship. And Julie Kuehnle? As she moves ahead with her treatment, she proudly wears her hat from the I Know Jack Pack. “They even let me wear it when I had my surgery,” says Kuehnle. “It’s a real comfort to me.”

To learn more about the resources available for cancer patients, click here.

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