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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Woman honors fiancÚ with charity walk

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This photo of Amy Barger and Kevin Newtown with their daughter Katie was taken on Christmas 2008. Newtown died this past May after battling acute lymphatic leukemia for three years.
GREENCASTLE -- When Amy Barger's fiancÚ, Kevin Newtown, passed away on May 10, she wasn't sure how she would go on.

But she has, and on Oct. 16 she plans to honor her late loved one in a very special way.

Newtown succumbed to acute lymphatic leukemia after battling the disease for three years.

"Ever since that moment, my 6-year-old daughter Katie and I have been trying to find a way to deal with our tremendous loss," Barger said.

Barger, who has lived in Greencastle for 13 years, began looking into ways to get involved with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and discovered a major fundraiser for the organization was slated for Oct. 16.

Barger has put together "Team Kevin" and plans to honor her late fiancÚ by taking part in LLS' "Light the Night" event.

"Light the Night," a 2-mile walk, will take place at Victory Field in Indianapolis.

Barger and Newtown were engaged for eight years. They met at Indiana University, where Barger was studying nursing and Newtown was studying electrical engineering.

They both graduated from college. Barger took a nursing job at Methodist Hospital, and Newtown was an electrician for GT Electric in Bloomington.

The couple's daughter Katie is now a student at Central Elementary in Greencastle.

Newtown became ill in 2007 -- several months before being diagnosed with ALL.

"He was sick for a year," Barger said. "They diagnosed him with gout in his back; they told him his illness was related to his diabetes."

Finally, an MRI revealed a tumor on Newtown's spine, and he was diagnosed in March 2008. He was in and out of hospitals throughout 2008 and 2009.

"The disease just ravaged him," Barger said.

Newtown's last round of traditional treatments took place in early 2010 -- nothing had worked to slow the progression of his disease.

In March of this year, Newtown found an oncologist who was willing to administer an experimental treatment, but before it could be done Newtown suffered a medical setback.

"His spleen ruptured," Barger said.

Doctors kept trying to convince Newtown to seek hospice care, but he refused.

His death was actually the result of fungal pneumonia.

"The infection just spread through his whole body," Barger said. "He had no immune system at all."

Newtown drew his last breath at 2:13 a.m. on May 10. He was 33.

Newtown was something of an anomaly -- 94 percent of individuals with ALL are struck with it before the age of 8. Most of the remaining cases that have been reported have been individuals over the age of 60.

"The survival rate for children is good -- it's 97 percent," Barger said. "The kids nearly always make it; the elderly almost never do. There was just no study for people (Newtown's) age."

Newtown did go into remission at one point.

"We thought his chances were good," Barger said.

Barger described Newtown as "a wonderful person."

"Everybody loved him," she said. "Right after we started dating, he jumped right in and offered to take my grandparents to doctor's appointments."

Newtown was a hard worker -- Barger said she couldn't remember a time when he hadn't held two jobs. When he was working at GT, he was also working at a pizza place in Bloomington.

His failing health forced Newtown to stop working in 2007. By the time he quit his jobs, Newtown needed crutches in order to walk.

"He hated that," Barger said. "He was always very active. He played lacrosse."

Having so many hospital and doctor's visits before Newtown was diagnosed was frustrating for him and for Barger.

"He was in a wheelchair by the time we found out what he had," Barger said. "People thought he was a drug seeker because he didn't have a diagnosis.

Newtown lost his health insurance in June of 2009 -- by the time he died he had racked up about $2 million in medical bills.

Barger's goal is to raise $5,000 for LLS.

"The money earned at this event will go directly to families in need, who are dealing with blood cancer and to the research behind finding a cure for the ravaging diseases that effect one new person every four minutes."

According to LLS statistics, a death from some form of blood cancer occurs once every 10 minutes.

Barger is asking the community for help in reaching her goal. Those who would like to donate may do so by going to http://pages.lightthenight.org/in/Indian...

Barger is hopeful about succeeding in her fundraising goal.

"Kevin and I weren't just a couple, we were really close friends," she said. "He was a great dad. When he died, so many people were affected."

Barger said she wants to give back to LLS because she got so much from the organization in the way of support and information.

"They just helped so much," she said. "This is kind of closure for my daughter and me. I'm at the point where I feel like reaching out to others."

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