When it comes to caring, postal workers deliver

Staff writer

It was a normal Monday for Brenda Casanova of Marion when she discovered she made a crucial mistake: she put the wrong zip code on a package.

“What an idiot,” she thought as she picked up her phone and started dialing the number for the local post office. Moments later, Casanova was pouring out her heart to postmaster Lori Kelsey, explaining how important it was for that very box to get to its proper destination.

In 2011, Casanova’s nephew, Kurtis Montgomery, went to the doctor just before his 50th birthday, thinking he had a serious sinus condition. When a 10-day round of antibiotics did not make the pain go away, he went to an ear, nose and throat doctor who gave him the grim diagnosis: He had throat cancer.

While it was treatable with chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Montgomery still cannot swallow or talk. He makes the most of the situation with a dry erase board and marker, but currently lives day to day not able to utter a sound.

Montgomery currently is on a liquid nutrition diet, which he consumes through a feeding tube surgically implanted in his stomach. Even though he can’t consume regular food, he still bakes regularly for his family and friends.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Casanova said. “If I made a batch of brownies, I’d want to eat them afterward.”

His doctors hope that, with intensive swallowing therapy, Montgomery will be able to consume food orally again — although they doubt that he’ll ever be able to talk again.

Meanwhile, while Montgomery is going through treatments, Casanova is pairing with family members and friends to raise funds for Kicking Cancer for Kurtis, and to spread awareness.

The idea was simple: sell wristbands. They enlisted the help of Jim Crofoot of Western Associates in creating the wristbands. They were imprinted with the words “e-race oral cancer” and delivered to Casanova, who was in charge of dividing the order and sending to family members across the country.

And that’s when it happened. In the midst of all the chaos, Casanova put the wrong zip code on her sister’s box, which said “Hutchinson, KS” but had the code for Albuquerque, N.M.

It took a few days, but Kelsey finally contacted the post office there, and talked with the postmaster. She said all she had to do was relay Montgomery’s story and the civil servant immediately went to the bin with all the lost mail items — and within moments had the box in hand. It was then correctly labeled and sent to Hutchinson, where it was received only a few days later.

Casanova wishes to give a hearty “thank you” to Kelsey — and everyone else who worked to get the package in the right hands.

“If it had not been for Lori, the box would more than likely be in limbo somewhere,” she said.

Now, Casanova looks forward to selling the wristbands and spreading awareness of throat cancer through the project.

“They’re maroon, because that’s what the color is for oral cancer,” she said. “It’s important to raise this awareness; people think that there won’t be any consequences when they smoke. They see the advertisements, and they say to themselves, ‘that will never happen to me,’ but it can. It can hit you without warning; it can change your life.”

To order a wristband or to donate to the cause, call Casanova at (620) 381-0891.

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