One autumn night, the Kitchens gathered for a family lunch at Eddie George’s Grille 27, but the occasion wasn’t a purely happy one.
Mitzi Kitchen, the mother of the family, was diagnosed with angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects the inner lining of blood vessels. It spreads quickly because it’s in constant contact with the blood supply, her son Stewart Kitchen said.
Stewart Kitchen added that although the diagnosis was initially hard to accept, his mother is responding well approximately three months into treatment.
“There’s not a lot of research on prognosis and treatment because it is such a rare thing, but the positive thing is that she’s been responding pretty positively to chemo,” Stewart Kitchen said.
Chemotherapy treatments usually last between five and six hours, said Alyssa Kitchen, one of Mitzi’s daughters and a graduate student working at the Office of Human Resources.
In response to hearing his mother’s diagnosis at that family lunch, Stewart Kitchen, a drum major for the Ohio State marching band in 2006 and 2007 and the first OSU drum major instructor, decided to sell some of his old gear on eBay.
The role of drum major has been a part of the marching band at OSU since 1878. The drum major accompanies the band during performances, and each drum major uniform is custom-made.
“I was really surprised at first because it was a huge part of his life,” said Alyssa Kitchen.“I just think it’s really great that he was willing to do that for Mom.”
He put his drum major breastplate and a marching band hat up for auction, and a cheerleader friend of his, Zac Nixon, who graduated from OSU in 2008, contributed a cheerleading sweater to the auction, which ended Feb. 23.
“I wanted to do something, not just to help my mother out with her fight, but also to spread awareness,” Stewart Kitchen said. “Angiosarcoma is such a rare cancer. It would be nice to have more research, it would be nice to have more awareness about it.”
Stewart Kitchen’s breastplate made $1,550, which will directly aid medical expenses for his mother, who is now an outpatient at the James Cancer Hospital. Mitzi Kitchen still has two more chemotherapy sessions to go, and Alyssa Kitchen said the family is just taking it one step at a time from there.
The $620 made from the hat will go to the Urban and Shelley Meyer Fund for Cancer Research.
The sweater’s proceeds — $200 — will be split evenly between the medical expenses and the Meyer Fund.
Mitzi Kitchen has done six rounds of chemotherapy, and Alyssa Kitchen has gone with her mother to every doctor’s appointment and chemotherapy session.
“She is really outgoing and bubbly, and she doesn’t know a stranger,” Alyssa Kitchen said. “Even at chemo, she calls them her ‘chemo parties,’ and she knows every nurse that comes in.”
Mitzi Kitchen works for OSU in Upper Sandusky. The Kitchen family has a deeply rooted history with OSU, and Alyssa and Stewart Kitchen are third-generation Buckeyes.
“(The family) sees the band start taking the field and they get teary-eyed when they hear ‘Carmen Ohio,’ and that’s the kind of family I grew up in,” Stewart Kitchen said. “My mother has always been such a proud Ohio State alumna. She’s just the most proud Buckeye ever.”
Stewart Kitchen said the marching band provided him with a lot of positive support after hearing about his mother’s cancer.
“It truly shows the real culture and character of our marching band,” he said. “They’ve really helped me through this.”