Two Years Later

Posted by Steve Wolgemuth on September 16, 2013 in Journal

So much has happened in the last two years. Whenever I run into people, they ask sympathetically, “how are you?” I know what they’re really asking. “Are you free of cancer?”

Fortunately, I am cancer free. This Spring has been a roller coaster ride for me. A blood test came back with an alarming report, causing doctors to strongly suspect that the cancer had moved into my bones. Fortunately, I was able to get a PET scan and learn I was cancer free. Yes, cancer free, how glorious that sound – except they did see something around my left breast that “they weren’t worried about.”

Of course when I grew two distinct lumps on the side of that breast, everyone got worried. And we had to take that worry along with us on our vacation. There were many quiet moments on that trip, but my family has learned to fight for the moment and fight for each day, and not let worry steal the only thing God has given us – the present.

It was emotional and almost overwhelming when the biopsy came back “benign.” Benign, my new favorite word. The joy of that week in late Summer was cut off by the news I received from my friend Aimee, and that’s really what I’m writing about.

Aimee, a 38 year old single mom of two awesome (school age) kids, was diagnosed the same time as me with the same type of cancer. She is genetically positive for BRCA1 as I am, and she had triple negative breast cancer. She went through similar treatments and surgeries as I did, but recently in a routine scan, they found cancer in her lungs. Sadly, it is stage 4 and the doctors say a typical outcome would be an 18 to 24 month survival.

We’re not accepting that just yet!! I’m asking for my friends to help. We’d like to cure her with kindness.

Aimee has specific needs. First, her car has 240K miles. She doesn’t have the cash to buy another one, and financing one doesn’t make sense with her prognosis. She’s going to need reliable transportation to get to her treatments. Does anyone reading this have any ideas?

Aimee is afraid she’ll loose her home while she is really sick and won’t be able to work. We’d like to raise some more money for her. I’ll be posting more information about that in the future, but meanwhile, feel free to get a hold of me at swol@ptd.net if you want to help out. Thanks everyone!



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Back to Almost Normal

Posted by Steve Wolgemuth on May 26, 2012 in Journal

I’m not sure how I’d be if I went through this and prior surgeries that Lori has had, but I do know I wouldn’t be up early the next morning making breakfast for everyone. Lori just isn’t happy unless she’s serving others, and she has the most remarkable healing and recovery powers. I’ve never seen anything like it. When countless people tell me that they are praying that everything would go really well and that she would recover really fast – I have to say, that’s exactly how God heard your prayers.

For starters, we drove down to Philadelphia yesterday morning (Memorial Day weekend) during rush hour and had no traffic. It seemed we just slid through without our brake lights. For all familiar with the Schuylkill Expressway at rush hour on a holiday weekend you understand why this is worth mentioning. We arrived and there was one parking (roomy) parking space right next to the elevator that took us directly to the surgical center. This was perfect for bringing her out when she was discharged.

Lori wasn’t nauseous from anesthesia – first time ever. Her pain was very manageable (according to her) right from the start. We didn’t have any traffic on the way home at 4 pm on the Schuylkill or the Turnpike on Friday evening of Memorial Day weekend. (Weird, right?)

We came home and my mom had a large pot of chicken corn soup ready for us. We had a nice family evening together (my friend George and his foster son Brandon are house guests) playing games. This morning we’re having a great breakfast together with amazing food and baked goods from our mothers. We are doing so well and feel almost spoiled – thanks to God and friends.

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Home Stretch!

Posted by Steve Wolgemuth on May 21, 2012 in Journal

This Friday I have my final surgery.  I will be heading to the University of Pa. to my plastic surgeon and having my last major surgery, with only two more smaller ones to go. While this reconstruction procedure will only take one day, the recovery restrictions are simply impossible for me. AAAAh!

No bending, lifting, reaching, no exercise!  Obviously these instructions weren’t made up by a mother – but rather someone who thinks the laundry just carries itself down the steps and dinner just magically comes out of the refrigerator while I watch TV. This isn’t going to be easy. I’ve never sat around for a week of my life, let alone 3 weeks. I’m not even allowed to bend over. (Fortunately, my shoe collection has some shoes that are slip-ons). Hey ladies, anyone want to join me for a pedicure?

I’ve been warned that if I’m not good, things will not be pretty. In other words, the reconstruction will “move” around and I’ll have to go back to have it fixed. Then I’ll have to sit around for another 3 weeks.

May marked the 1 1/2 year date of D – day ( diagnosis day ).  Thank you friends and family for all your support!  I am still overwhelmed by the kindnesses shown to me and my family!  I would not have made it through this without you!  My heart is filled with gratitude! Hopefully, during this recovery period I’ll get caught up in emails and calls to many of you.

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Posted by Steve Wolgemuth on January 23, 2012 in Journal

Everyone has been calling and texting and emailing asking for an update. Sorry I haven’t communicated quite as much, but my days have been busy with the commute to Philadelphia hospital each day – taking care of the boys – keeping the house together and taking care of Lori.

We found out Thursday night that Lori’s surgery was scheduled for 5:45 the next morning (sigh), so we loaded the car, drove to PHL and stayed at the hotel that connects to the hospital. The next morning as Lori sat in her gown waiting to be transported to surgery, we got a text that our nephew and wife had a beautiful baby boy. I’m sure Lori went under anesthesia with a smile, and I had tears of joy and noted anxiety to manage as I kissed Lori goodbye.

Flowers from Annebeth and Eugene Reesink

Thanks for the flowers Eugene and Annebeth

The surgery went well. The doctor used the word “excellent.” I was in the waiting corral (word used intentionally to indicate how I feel about the PHL hospital experience) from 6:45 am to 2:30 pm during which time I got two calls from her doctors saying everything went fine. (At LGH they come to see you and look you in the eye to convey this info).

I met Lori back at her room on Friday and she was really out of it – but pleasant when she was awake. On Saturday Lori’s parents braved the snow and visited her in the morning, and I brought the boys down after lunch and we did 2nd shift. We set up a projector in the room and watched Netflix as a family – it was fun. Lori clicked on her morphine pump every 10 minutes and enjoyed the movie with us.

The room smelled great from the fresh flowers we received including this bouquet from our dear friends in the Netherlands, Annebeth and Eugene Reesink. The card said “congratulations” which isn’t what you normally hear after a mastectomy. (We had a good laugh about that!) Note to self, if you send flowers overseas, manage the message carefully.
Sunday morning Lori woke up feeling pretty punk and said to herself, there is NO way she’ll be able to come home that day. But like Lori, she made an almost miraculous recovery around mid-day and climbed out of bed and said, “I’m feeling so much better now.” They took off her IV and got her on oral painkillers – loaded her on a wheelchair and sent her on her way.

Philadelphia hospital - Lori Wolgemuth

Lori had lots of help to come home

She is so very glad to be home, the dogs are thrilled and won’t leave her side.
For all of you who posted, please know that she read your comments again and again and it was a huge encouragement to her. Thanks SO much for all the love and encouragement we have received through this ordeal.

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Another Round

Posted by Steve Wolgemuth on January 19, 2012 in Journal

Some things get easier the more you do them, but some things get much harder. I think surgery and medical procedures are in the latter category, at least that’s the case with Lori and what she’ll be facing tomorrow.
I’m really proud of her for doing her research and selecting a top-notch surgeon in Philadelphia to conduct her surgery. The purpose of this many hour procedure will be to remove all tissue that is at high risk for breast cancer re-occurrence (for those obtuse guys reading this, it means basically “everything in front of the rib cage that bounces when you ride a horse”). The surgeon will then pull skin from around the left side of her back and anywhere else they can stretch it from Lori’s skinny body to prepare her for reconstruction.
God willing, Lori will come home Sunday night or Monday with three drains, two on the left side and one on the right. I guess she’ll sleep standing up for the first two weeks.
Lori attacked her first surgery last Thanksgiving, plowed through her chemo better than anyone could have, endured her radiation better than the average patient, then blew through her hysterectomy better than I endure a head-cold. But this surgery has her backed down. I think even Lori is emotionally tired and is worried about the long painful recovery that others have described.
I’m calling on everyone for another round of support for Lori. No prayers for her and our family will be turned away.
Thanks everyone for you love and ongoing care!

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D-Day: One Year Later

Posted by Steve Wolgemuth on November 9, 2011 in Journal

(Note: This blog entry authored by Lori)

WOW D – day (diagnosis day), one year later! How your life can change in a year! For the better? Absolutely! I remember walking out of the hospital Nov. 9th 2010 in a daze after getting the “cancer” diagnosis and telling Steve “ this will not take me down”! Has it? No way – thanks to my family and friends! I admit to many low points along the way but the outpouring of love shown to me and my family picked me right back up!
Thank you all so much for all the prayers, gifts, acts of kindness, meals, encouraging words and support along the way! My heart is so full from the generosity of everyone this past year! I could not have made it without you!
God has taught me many things along the way – especially how precious each day is and not to take a moment for granted (in this hectic paced life is not easy to slow down and savor the moment-but I am learning!) He continues to show me what a wonderful and special family I have (the best there is!!) and what amazing friends I have! Words cannot describe how grateful I am for all of you!
So, I have made it to the one year mark – considered ‘disease free’ at this point! Time to celebrate! As triple negative breast cancer is a very aggressive cancer this is indeed a reason to celebrate!
I am looking forward to a great Christmas with my family! In the beginning of January, Steve and I are going to California for a couple of days to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary!
January 20th I am scheduled for my final surgery (There are fewer and fewer body part left of me to remove) – a second mastectomy with reconstruction. This will be my toughest procedures as it will be over four to six months, during which time I’ll have two surgeries and many trips to the doctor’s office at The University Of Pennsylvania (two hrs away) if all goes well. Part of me is dreading it and part of me is ready to attack this final stage!
I am ready to get back in the saddle again (literally) and hoping that by next summer there will be a special horse for me to ride!
Thank you all again for supporting me on this journey! I am truly blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life!

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Thanks For Loving Us Through It

Posted by Steve Wolgemuth on October 29, 2011 in Journal

It’s a snowy October morning (did I just say that?) and I just found this video (because it was shared by one of Lori’s “cancer friends.”) I can’t think of any way to express how we feel about how much we’ve been loved through our journey in the last year.
Short summary – we are post surgery and treatment, but still have some more surgeries to go this winter. No signs of cancer – YEAH! As Lori’s type of cancer is quite aggressive, reaching the one year mark is significant and brings hope.
This year has changed us permanently. I would say that we’re much better people with scars. Our view of our community of friends will never be the same. It was the most humbling experience – ever – to be overwhelmed with every type of kindness in such great measure. At our one year anniversary month – also breast cancer awareness month – we’d like to tell everyone, “thanks for loving us through it.”

(Warning – tissues needed to watch this)

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Been a long time

Posted by Steve Wolgemuth on October 26, 2011 in Journal

Apologies to everyone for not blogging after we got a loyal following. The complaints have been pouring in!

So, how are we doing. Well, Lori’s got a smart hairdo. She gets compliments everywhere she goes. Last week she went to Phoenix with me on a business trip. Walking through the airport a traveler randomly walked up to us and said to Lori, “I love your hair. My wife wears her hair like that.” It was fun.

What’s next? As many of you know, it’s been a tough year. Jan , Feb, March, April was chemo time. May and June were radiation months. July included another major surgery removing other organs that are at high risk for cancer because of Lori’s genetic testing. Starting August we starting working on our new normal.

What’s a new normal? Lori is starting to do some more teaching again. She’s growing hair. She’s taking time to fix up the house. She’s taking care of everyone that took care of her. She’s working at YDOP more and more (I’m liking that!). And she’s living with the new perspective that cancer gives you: to live each day as though it is important, because each day is a gift.

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Lori “Cancer Free” Wolgemuth

Posted by Steve Wolgemuth on October 26, 2011 in Journal

We got some great news today. It was the result of a biopsy, post-surgery. Now, it’s not that we’re not interested in the details, but the doctors words “everything looked good” was perhaps the best news we’ve heard in a long time. Had they found any trace of cancer cells in Lori’s ovaries or uterus, it would have meant more treatments and at best a hope for remission. The word cure wouldn’t have been used. As it stands, we are standing on “best we’ve heard yet” odds that Lori is beating breast cancer. YEAH!

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Coming Home

Posted by Steve Wolgemuth on July 7, 2011 in Journal

Don’t faint – two blogs back to back after a long period of silence. First, I want all of you who took the time to post on the last blog – it meant so much to Lori. She carefully reads and re-reads and re-re-reads the comments and finds tremendous encouragement from them.

The doctor told me yesterday that the surgery went well. In fact, it only took 2 hours and was supposed to take 3 1/2 hours. All tissue removed showed no visible indication of disease. While Lori was potentially going to be in the hospital until tomorrow (fri), the doctor released her this morning!  Yeah! I’ll be leaving shortly to pick her up.

Prior to surgery yesterday, a friend from my childhood came in the room, knelt between Lori and me, took our hands and said, “I requested to be your nurse for today’s procedure.” She assured Lori that “the best nurse on the floor” would be assisting them as well, the nurse that she had used for her own C-section years back. She went on to tell us about each team member giving care to Lori and how each one was absolutely the best. We had orchestrated none of this. This wonderful friend had done this for us. It was a huge encouragement to Lori just before beginning her procedure.

Lori is in good spirits and misses her home, family and of course the dogs! We could really feel the prayers of friends and family through this. Thank you everyone!

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