CLASS

Cecil Whig - - LO­CAL -

Chemo­ther­apy and ra­di­a­tion treat­ment aren’t op­tions with this type of cancer.

Be­cause the cancer can spread rapidly, Pick­eral un­der­goes PET scans, MRIs and a bat­tery of other med­i­cal screen­ings ev­ery three months at the Cancer Treat­ment Cen­ter of Amer­ica in Philadel­phia, which he praises for the high-level of care it pro­vides.

Pick­eral, 51, re­ceives emo­tional and other types of sup­port from an ob­vi­ous source, his fam­ily, start­ing with his wife, Teresa, 42, and their four sons, ages 8 through 15, as he bat­tles his cancer.

Teresa, who is now the fi­nan­cially strained fam­ily’s sole bread win­ner, tends to Pick­eral when she isn’t at her nurs­ing home job.

A trained chef em­ployed at a Delaware as­sisted liv­ing com­mu­nity for the past 22 years, Pick­eral hasn’t been able to work since June — when he un­der­went a 19-hour surgery that put him in the in­ten­sive care unit for the first two weeks of his three­week stay and left him with a feed­ing tube. Pick­eral, a culi­nary afi­cionado, hasn’t eaten solid food in four months.

Sup­port for Pick­eral, how­ever, also has come from a less ob­vi­ous source — his fel­low Elk­ton High School Class of 1984 class­mates.

Some 32 years af­ter re­ceiv­ing their high school diplo­mas to­gether and then venturing out into the world in var­i­ous di­rec­tions, Pick­eral’s for­mer class­mates have come to­gether to rally around him since learn­ing of his cancer on so­cial me­dia.

Sev­eral EHS Class of ‘ 84 mem­bers have or­ga­nized a ben­e­fit for Pick­eral, which will be held at the Nauti Goose restau­rant in North East from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 22. Tick­ets cost $20 and can be pur­chased at the door. More than 100 peo­ple have al­ready pur­chased Tim Pick­eral hugs one of his for­mer class­mates, Kathy Heath, in front of their alma mater, Elk­ton High School, dur­ing a re­cent meet­ing there.

tick­ets, plan­ners re­ported.

In ad­di­tion to danc­ing, heavy hors d’oeu­vres and live gratis mu­sic by EHS Class of ‘84 alumni Richard Durkin and his Durkin & Mal­let Acous­tic duo, there will be a silent auc­tion, a live auc­tion, raf­fle bas­kets, a 50/50 draw­ing, a bach­e­lor and bach­e­lorette auc­tion and a small bake sale.

All pro­ceeds will ben­e­fit the guest of honor: Pick­eral.

“I will be there, but I hope they have a big box of tis­sues be­cause I get emo­tional ev­ery time I think about what they’re do­ing for me and my fam­ily,” Pick­eral said. “I’m just in awe, just so grate­ful.”

The lat­est ef­fort It all started sev­eral weeks ago with a ques­tion that EHS Class of ‘84 mem­ber Shelly Fears Nau­ton asked her for­mer class­mates on Face­book, af­ter learn­ing about Pick­eral’s re­cent set­back — more tu­mors had been dis­cov­ered — and the ma­jor June surgery he un­der­went to bat­tle back.

It sim­ply read, “What kind of fundraiser can we do for Tim?”

Sugges­tions started pour­ing in, a con­sen­sus was reached and EHS Class of ‘84 mem­bers vol­un­teered for jobs, such as find­ing a place to hold the af­fair and so­lic­it­ing do­na­tions from

busi­nesses and peo­ple for the auc­tions, raf­fle bas­kets and other gifts.

The team­work re­flects the post-grad­u­a­tion close­ness of EHS Class of ‘84, ac­cord­ing to Elk­ton-area res­i­dent Kathy Heath, one of the plan­ners. She noted that dis­tance and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties pre­clude most mem­bers from hang­ing out, but there is plenty of in­ter­ac­tion on Face­book.

As a re­sult, EHS Class of ‘84 re­unions are epic events.

“It’s not just one night. We do a lot of dif­fer­ent things over a week­end and about 150 peo­ple turn out,” Heath said, not­ing that an EHS Class of ‘84 blowout has in­cluded a happy hour, a ban­quet night, a hayride or some other fam­ily-ori­ented event and a golf out­ing.

Be­yond those class re­unions, so­cial me­dia in­ter­ac­tions and oc­ca­sional get-to­geth­ers, there is a bond among EHS Class of ‘84 mem­bers, a con­nec­tion that is felt more than three decades af­ter grad­u­a­tion. The plan­ners re­mem­ber Pick­eral as a re­spon­si­ble, fam­ily-ori­ented guy who was al­ways nice, although they didn’t nec­es­sar­ily hang out with him on a daily ba­sis.

“It could have been any one of us. It just hap­pened to be Tim,” ex­plained Cindy Biggs Thomas, one of the over­all or­ga­niz­ers, re­fer­ring to Pick­eral’s cancer and his need for help.

Pre­par­ing for this fundraiser has in­spired Thomas, who so­licited con­tri­bu­tions for the prizes from the North East area.

“I am a glass-half-empty kind of per­son, but this has changed my out­look. I didn’t think peo­ple would want to do­nate, but ev­ery­one was so gen­er­ous. It has re­ally changed my per­spec­tive on peo­ple,” she said.

EHS Class of ‘84 mem­ber Lisa Wyse also was im­pressed with the thought­ful­ness of peo­ple, as well as their gen­eros­ity, while so­lic­it­ing con­tri­bu­tions in Elk­ton.

“When I picked up do­na­tions, they would wish Tim well, even though they didn’t know him,” she re­called.

The first ef­fort This marks the sec­ond time that EHS Class of ‘84 has ral­lied around Pick­eral.

About two years ago, af­ter Pick­eral had un­der­gone his first surgery in 2013, his for­mer class­mates held a bake sale in down­town Elk­ton to ben­e­fit him.

Pick­eral, how­ever, was un­aware un­til af­ter the fact.

“A cou­ple of women that I had grad­u­ated with came to my house with pa­per bags full of cash. They said they had a bake sale to help me. I fell to my knees. I was so amazed,” Pick­eral said.

Dorothy Boyle Kirk re­mem­bers how that bake sale fell into place. Sev­eral for­mer class­mates had baked good­ies. Trouble was, a lot of the peo­ple were un­able to at­tend the ac­tual event be­cause they lived far away or had other com­mit­ments.

“We told our par­ents to go down there and buy some­thing, lots of things,” Kirk re­called. “It was just amaz­ing be­cause it got to the point where some­one would say, ‘I’ll give you $30 for that cake,’ well over the ask­ing price, and they would buy it for that.”

The bake sale raised $4,000 for Pick­eral.

Pick­eral is hap­pily sur­prised by all of the help he has re­ceived from his for­mer class­mates, con­sid­er­ing that, in his opin­ion, he wasn’t an EHS stand­out.

He played line­man po­si­tions on the Golden Elks foot­ball teams and was friendly with all of his class­mates.

But Pick­eral didn’t hang out much. Most of his time was spent work­ing at an area restau­rant and help­ing his three brothers take care of their mother, who was bat­tling breast cancer. Their father, Matthew Pick­eral, died when Tim Pick­eral was 13. Their mother, Suzanna Pick­eral, died in 1990 at age 54, af­ter bat­tling her breast cancer for 12 years.

“There were other more popular peo­ple in high school. I al­ways thought of my­self as just a medium guy,” Pick­eral opined.

That self-de­scribed “medium guy” would have been more in­volved with his class­mates, had he been able.

“I re­mem­ber leav­ing prac­tice with my foot­ball uni­form on, rid­ing my mo­tor­cy­cle home, chang­ing and tak­ing my mom to doc­tor ap­point­ments or for tests,” he said, quickly not­ing that his brothers — Mark, now 59, Bruce, now 55, and Bob, now 49 — cared for their mother too.

Pick­eral re­marked, “I only felt a quar­ter of the pain be­cause I had my three brothers.”

Although two now live in Florida, his three brothers also have been sup­port­ive as Pick­eral bat­tles cancer.

Kirk, one of the over­all or­ga­niz­ers, is not sur­prised by the EHS Class of ‘84 ral­ly­ing around Pick­eral. She re­mem­bers her class as be­ing a close-knit bunch. Stu­dents typ­i­cally were ami­able, even if they hung out in var­i­ous groups.

“I think we had our groups based on in­ter­ests and ac­tiv­i­ties. There were jocks, cheer­lead­ers, band mem­bers and so forth,” Kirk said. “But over the years, any cliques that ex­isted have dis­solved. You have jobs and kids now, so we all have some­thing in com­mon. Now you’re just happy to hear that some­one is hav­ing a good life.”

Deep grat­i­tude Pick­eral is quick to note that he has never smoked or used any type of tobacco prod­uct in his life.

His cancer was dis­cov­ered in 2011 dur­ing a fol­lowup visit with his den­tist, who had taken oral X-rays — show­ing noth­ing out of the or­di­nary — some six weeks ear­lier in prepa­ra­tion to fill a cav­ity.

Dur­ing that sec­ond visit, Pick­eral in­formed his den­tist that he had been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing some pain on the bot­tom right side of his mouth.

“He pushed the tool down and it dis­ap­peared. The bone was gone. It had dis­solved,” Pick­eral said.

Pick­eral was re­ferred to an oral surgeon, who put him un­der for an in­ves­tiga­tive pro­ce­dure.

“The doc­tor goes in and re­moves a mo­lar on the bot­tom right side, and he finds a tu­mor the size of a quar­ter. When I came to, he told me he had never seen any­thing like it be­fore,” Pick­eral said. “The tu­mor had de­vel­oped in about six weeks. That’s how ag­gres­sive it is.”

Pick­eral im­me­di­ately was placed in the care of en­docri­nol­o­gists and un­der­went his first ma­jor surgery two years later, af­ter tu­mors had re­turned.

Since that first surgery, Pick­eral has ex­pe­ri­enced var­ied lev­els of pain ev­ery day.

“‘Why me?’ I ask my­self that ques­tion all the time. There must be a rea­son I got this very rare cancer. I’m not a real re­li­gious per­son. Be­cause of my cancer, I know there is a higher power that has a hand on me. I know I’ve been called to do some­thing to help some­one in some way,” Pick­eral said.

But for now, he is over­joyed to be the re­cip­i­ent of help.

“High school is a huge part of your life. I was blessed to be a part of the Class of ‘84,” Pick­eral said, adding, “What my class­mates are do­ing for me is just amaz­ing. I love them dearly.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY CARL HAMIL­TON

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