–Order pickup set for 1-5 p.m. Sunday, March 16 at TUMC
By Colleen Lehmann
Colon cancer picked the wrong family and community to mess with when it entered Erica (Holmes) Kremitzki’s life.
The 38-year-old Tuscola resident received the unsettling diagnosis early last month, and has spent most days since then in medical appointments, but Kremitzki has taken the news, processed it, and made up her mind to fight the disease as much with a joyful and positive spirit as the many medical interventions she will also be facing.
Meanwhile, Donna Dietrich Williams–another Tuscola resident who has had a firsthand view of cancer in her own family–decided she was going to take on a project on Kremitzki’s behalf that would help bolster that approach. And thus was born Team Kika—a veritable knockout punch of support, love, laughter … all those intangibles that heal as surely as the chemotherapy Erica started this week.
“Kika is what my daddy, Chuck Holmes, has always called me, and that’s how my immediate family always refers to me. Kika means home to me; it is the love that I feel when I’m with my family, and there is nothing better than a reminder of the love I’m surrounded by as I fight this battle,” explained Kremitzki.
And she is certainly not fighting it alone by any means. Kremitzki has by her side her husband, Mike; daughters Sarah (12) and Sophie (10); parents Chuck and Sara Holmes; her siblings; and the Kremitzki family. Additionally, her work family at Riddle School in Mattoon where she is a second-grade teacher, Mike’s work family at Cabot in Tuscola, and a wide variety of community members have all come forward with any number of expressions of concern and support.
The initial project Dietrich came up with were blue rubber bracelets imprinted with the words Team Kika.
“Years ago when my dad (Denny Dietrich) was sick, he spent a total of a year in an isolation unit, with people unable to come into his room to see him. I never wanted anyone to have to go through that kind of isolation and loneliness,” said Dietrich. “When my cousin Jo Huber was diagnosed with cancer, she said the Team Huber bracelets that people wore really encouraged her and kept her spirits up, so I thought it might do the same for Erica—a visible sign of support she could see when she went to the grocery store or out on the street, wherever she might see people wearing them.”
After talking to Kremitzki about the project, Dietrich put in an order with a company in Texas for 100 bracelets. Her plan was to distribute them, free of charge, to anyone who wanted one. That made Kremitzki nervous—“I thought, ‘I don’t think I even know 100 people.’ I was afraid Donna would get stuck with a bunch of bracelets.”
That worry, it turns out, was quite unfounded. In the first hour after Dietrich posted on social media about the “bracelet blitz” she received 310 requests, which climbed to 400 shortly thereafter. Dietrich was forced to call the company—repeatedly—to up her orders as the requests continued to pour in.
Fast forward to Tuesday, March 4 … and Dietrich now has a total of 3,500 bracelets ordered and scheduled to be delivered to Tuscola for distribution on March 16. Granted, some of them are extras, but a majority of the bracelets are spoken for and will be going to all 50 United States and at least 13 different countries.
“I think that speaks volumes about Erica and her family, the kind of people they are, that we have had this kind of response,” says Dietrich.
But the Kremitzkis say it is another in a stream of much appreciated gestures of comfort and support they have received since diagnosis day on Feb. 3, 2014.
“We have been, quite literally, overwhelmed by what has come our way since my diagnosis. We have had the blessing of family, friends, community, and in some cases complete strangers, showing us we are not alone in getting through this. There have been cards, visits, phone calls, gifts, hugs and smiles—those are the things that can get you through anything. Riddle School and Cabot each have purchased bracelets for every employee as sign of support. People have been so great about bringing dinners to the house. We have honestly shed as many tears of joy as those of sorrow,” said Erica and Mike.
Another gesture of kindness, which came on the heels of a difficult day during which Kremitzki endured a painful lung biopsy procedure, was being honored by the East Prairie eighth-grade volleyball team, on which her niece Mia Phillips plays.
“I was absolutely speechless, which doesn’t happen often. After a very long and painful day, I attended my niece’s eighth-grade volleyball game. Each girl handed me a flower, along with being presented a special ribbon pin and matching ponytail holder. The girls each wore matching bows and wore blue socks during their game. The hugs and smiles, and yes, tears, were a wonderful way to end an otherwise difficult day. I am so fortunate to be a part of a community that rallies around those who need it. I’m so very blessed,” said Erica.
For her part, Erica says she is taking on the challenge with a can-do spirit and sense of humor as her best defenses.
“I’m not just a cancer patient—I’m a wife and mother, an aunt, a daughter. I’m not going to miss out on anything that’s going on. As long as my legs are still moving, I’m going to be at events and participating in life. Half the battle with the word cancer is the emotional one. All the goodness that has come our way, the love and support being shown our family, is truly a gift. It’s a tough way to be reminded of all the blessings you have in life, but that’s okay.”
And Kremitzki says she has a goal for her post–cancer life.
“I admit to questioning at first, why me? But it came to me, after a while what the answer is. I have a voice, and I’m passionate about children and others who may not have a voice or a strong support system like I have. I feel my role someday is going to help the process for other patients, so that when a cancer diagnosis is given, I can help ensure the right things are being done for them to be starting the treatment process in a timely fashion,” said Erica.
•Team Kika Day
The Team Kika bracelets will be available for pickup at Tuscola United Methodist Church on Sunday, March 16 from 1 to 5 p.m. There will also be Team Kika car stickers there, and a silent auction of donated “gently used” Coach purses will take place that day as well. Nine full-size bags, three cross body bags, one wristlet, three wallets and some accessories are up for auction, as well as a Dooney & Bourke bag—all courtesy of Deb Flock.
Dietrich also notes there has been a bank account set up for the Kremitzkis.
“The reality is that cancer, besides sucking, is a money eater. As you can imagine, this will be a financial burden for the Kremitzkis. A bank account for the Kremitzkis has been established at First State Bank of Tuscola, 801 South Main. Anyone wishing to make a donation may do so by dropping it off at or mailing to the bank.”
To keep up with Team Kika and/or follow Kremitzki’s cancer journey, look for Team Kika on Facebook.