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    Going gold to battle childhood cancer

    Norwell-09/13/17- Nicole Schindler, 13 of Norwell has a sixty percent chance of surviving after she was diagnosed with pediatric cancer over two and a half years ago. She underwent extreme radiation therapy at Mass General Hospital for the tumor in her head. Her father Gerald helps her after she placed a sign by Wicked Good Cause in their front yard to help raise awareness to pediatric cancer. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff(south)
    John Tlumacki / Boston Globe Staff
    Nicole Schindler, 13, of Norwell, and her father, Jerry, placed a Wicked Good Cause sign in their front yard to help raise awareness of pediatric cancer.

    NORWELL — On a skiing trip to North Conway, N.H., three years ago, a never-ending headache told 10-year-old Nicole Schindler that something was terribly wrong. A trip to her pediatrician was soon followed by an MRI at South Shore Hospital.

    The diagnosis was brutal: medulloblastoma, a brain tumor that spreads from the base of the skull and advances toward the spinal cord. Doctors gave Nicole only a 60 percent chance of survival.

    Whisked to Boston Children’s Hospital, Nicole underwent surgery to remove and biopsy her tumor. Following the operation, she received daily proton radiation treatment for six straight weeks at Massachusetts General Hospital.

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    “We made a decision as a family to look cancer in the eye and fight it,” said Jerry Schindler, Nicole’s father. “No parent should be told their child is going to die. It’s 2017.”

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    On the Schindlers’ Norwell street, neighbors rallied to the family’s support. One would come to the home and cut Nicole’s hair every few days. Another, whose son had battled leukemia, helped the family with paperwork. After particularly stressful days, said Schindler, neighbors would drop by.

    They began sending text messages to Jerry — P4N, or Prayers for Nicole — when Nicole was in the hospital. Signs bearing the same message popped up outside neighbors’ houses, many of them still on display today.

    Treating cancers like Nicole’s, which involved radiating her entire spine, can bring on a host of other problems. Doctors told the Schindlers that Nicole would need to take growth hormone treatments, in the form of an injection, every day. At $4,200 per month, or $50,400 per year, that’s a hefty price tag. Schindler, a sales director with the Craft Brewers Guild, and his wife, Maureen, a South Shore Hospital nurse, worry about what will happen after they both retire and Nicole is no longer on their insurance plan.

    Already, though, the Schindlers have benefited from the intercession of Wicked Good Cause, a Duxbury nonprofit with a stated mission of offering “support to families that have been affected by unforeseen illness, accident, or tragedy.” Since its founding in 2013, the nonprofit has provided nearly $300,000 statewide to families, much of it in communities south of Boston.

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    “They get it,” said Jerry Schindler of the group. “The expenses kept going up, especially when one adult isn’t making any income with missing work. The money helped with our mortgage and bills.”

    Nicole is 13 now, showing no evidence of cancer. An eighth-grader at Norwell Middle School, she is tutored after school four times a week by Alicia Johnston, her seventh-grade teacher.

    Committed to raising consciousness about pediatric cancer and making its signature color, gold, as recognizable as breast cancer’s pink, the Schindlers have enthusiastically partnered with Wicked Good Cause’s drive to raise funds for families impacted by pediatric cancer and to back organizations doing childhood cancer research.

    The Schindlers are hardly alone in that effort: Schools and businesses south of Boston have signed on. The nonprofit’s officers, all volunteers, raise funds by selling gold-colored merchandise to schools and their athletic teams, residents, and businesses. Boots, spray-painted in gold, have been placed in every school across the Plymouth school district. On playing fields, athletes and cheerleaders from Carver, Duxbury, Hanover, Hingham, and Plymouth have worn gold socks, shirts, bows, and rubber bracelets to raise awareness.

    The monthlong drive, with a goal to raise $60,000, climaxes in a “Light Up the Night” event Saturday, Sept. 30, at which candles are lighted to honor children affected by cancer. The event starts at 6 p.m. at various sites, including town centers and businesses.

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    “Gold is a precious metal and we can’t afford to lose it,” said Jerry Schindler. “Just like our kids.”

    For more about Wicked Good Cause and the Sept. 30 event, go to www.wickedgoodcause.org.

    Jonathan Ng can be reached at Jonathan.Ng@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanNgBOS.