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The Families

By following the stories of Tim, Alex, Justin, Al and Jen, A LION IN THE HOUSE reveals the ways that pediatric cancer affects entire families, demanding courage and sacrifice from everyone involved. From financial hardships to emotional stress and professional losses, each parent, grandparent and sibling encounters challenges that would be insurmountable were it not for the inspiring resilience, humor, wit and wisdom of the most deeply affected of all the family members––the young Lions themselves.

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A smiling Tim Woods, a young African American teen

The Ashcrafts

“You do what you have to do. You can either ignore it and go about your life’s business, or you can get in the middle of it. I chose to get in the middle of it, and I would do it again.”
—Dale Ashcraft

The extended Ashcraft family live in and around Florence, Kentucky, just south of Cincinnati. Justin Ashcraft was just nine years old when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He has been fighting his leukemia for ten years, longer than almost any other kid in the country, and recently graduated from high school. Now Justin’s leukemia has relapsed again and the only treatments left open to him are highly experimental. Once again he and his divorced parents, Debbie and Dale, face a difficult decision. Justin’s entire adolescence has been marred by his continuing illness and relentless treatments. His sister Jennifer donated bone marrow to him. Justin’s brother Adam struggles with depression he feels was brought on by Justin’s long battle with cancer, as well as with feelings about Justin’s care that conflict with his parents’. Through it all, Justin's attitude is deeply optimistic, tough and resilient.

“I really don’t dwell on things. I just like to push ahead.”
—Justin Ashcraft
Side view of Justin, a lanky Caucasian teenager wearing a T-shirt, jeans and cap, standing outdoors
Justin Ashcraft

The Fields

“A whole hallway full of sick kids… I cried every night for all of ‘em. Not just for mine. I cried for all of ‘em.”
—Regina Fields

Al Fields is a clever boy who has just received life-saving radiation treatment for a tumor that was at first misdiagnosed as asthma and then discovered to be non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His mother, Regina, is a single mom who never leaves his side. They live in the Walnut Hills neighborhood of Cincinnati. Regina draws on all her emotional resources to keep her mercurial son on track, using humor, sympathy and tough love to sustain him. She is helped by her mother, Jeannette, and her sisters and brothers.

“The only thing that was so hard to me is that I had to learn [to not] worry about what other people think because even though I look different, I know I wasn’t different. I was the same old person.”
––Al Fields
Al, an African American boy, holds a movie camera, dressed in hip-hop attire
Al Fields

The Lougheeds

“At Christmas time they told us that she would not live ‘til the end of the year and we should go make funeral arrangements, so we did. I did. They didn’t tell my husband and I didn’t tell him either.” 
—Judy Lougheed

Alexandra Lougheed is seven years old, with a younger sister, Jackie and an older sister, Brittany. She goes by Alex. Bright-eyed, brave and playfully irreverent, Alex is the daughter of comfortably middle-class parents, Scott and Judy. They live north of Cincinnati. Alex, who loves to sing, has enjoyed six good months after two years of treatment. But she relapsed again and began receiving hospice care. The family met Dr. Paul Jubinsky, who proposed to them one more experimental treatment for Alex. The family said yes, Alex began taking the drug, and she immediately responded well. Three months later, Alex was in remission, and back in school.

“I wasn’t used to seeing her without any hair… Sometimes it would be so sad because it’s like, why did it happen to Alex? But it’s just things that happen.”
—Alex’s classmate
Judy, a Caucasian woman and her daughter Jackie embrace warmly and smile at the camera
Judy and Jackie Lougheed

The Moones

“When the doctor originally diagnosed [Jen], there was no question that I was not going to be working for a while… and in about a month I wouldn’t have a paycheck…. I’ll go to Starbucks and see women that are dressed up in suits and I think, ‘Gosh, that used to be me.’”
—Beth Moone

Jen Moone is an athletic and determined daughter of professional parents, Frank and Beth, and she is just beginning a two-year treatment regimen for leukemia. The Moones live in Mariemont, just outside of Cincinnati. Beth quit her job as an investigator in the U.S. Attorney General’s office to care full-time for Jen as she begins chemo to battle her leukemia. No longer a career woman, Beth feels her identity radically changed by her new role. As Frank takes on the role of the family’s sole breadwinner, Jen and her mom learn to navigate the medical routine together, with weekly chemo, daily cleaning of her c-line and painful blood tests requiring all of Jen’s courage.

“It hurts. You have to curl up and then they put a needle in your back, so then they can take your blood.”
—Jen Moone
Beth, a Caucasian woman, with her two daughters, dressed casually posing and smiling
Jen center, with mom Beth and sister Natalie

The Woods

“They finally said, ‘It looks like Hodgkin’s lymphoma,’ and I said, “What in the world is that?’”
—Marietha Woods

Tim Woods is a gentle but rebellious teen being raised by his single, working-class mother, Marietha, in Cincinnati, Ohio. At first, Tim enjoys the special attention his disease brings him, though he resists the discipline of the treatment, throwing his medicine away and cheating on the scale when his weight doesn’t measure up. Non-compliant, Tim presents special challenges to his doctors as they try to manage his Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Marietha, who worked before Tim got sick, is now living on welfare and must spend money she can’t afford on cab fares to visit Tim in the hospital.

“You know what I’m saying––you shouldn’t treat people like they less than you just cause you got money and they don’t. Everybody is created to be equal. Nobody is different. Nobody in this world is different.”
—Tim Woods
African American teen Tim and his mother Marietha, with her arm around his shoulder. She is slightly out of focus. They are looking out and away with serious expressions on their faces.
Tim and Marietha Woods

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