We're still tallying our numbers, but we do know the 2015 Walks for Cancer were a huge success because of you!
Whether you walked in Mukwonago, Oconomowoc or Waukesha, you made a difference in the lives of patients right here in our community. Thank you!
Stay tuned for more details on how much we raised, top fundraising teams and individual walkers, as well as how to order incentive prizes.
We will continue to accept donations over the coming weeks, however, in order to qualify for incentive prizes we must receive your donations by May 15.
Did you snap a great photo of your team? Find the perfect photo for next year's promotional materials? We'd love to see them! Please share them with us by emailing your photos to our Walks for Cancer mailbox.
Tami Schlosser, ambassador for the LakeWalk for Cancer in Oconomowoc, is a fitness trainer and the mother of three children, ages 7, 10 and 11.
She was experiencing some bouts of bleeding that she thought were related to the endometriosis she had been living with for the past 5 years.
“After some pretty severe symptoms of bleeding I finally decided to go in for the colonoscopy in May, five months after my doctor recommended it,” she says. “I couldn’t believe that at 41 I needed a colonoscopy.”
In fact, she and the friend who took her to the appointment were joking about being so young and yet having to have the procedure.
During the colonoscopy she became somewhat alert and aware of a large blue ball on the monitor, and asked, “why is it so blue.”
She went back to sleep and when she woke up later in recovery her friend was at her side, holding her hand. She had a sense the news wouldn’t be good.
“The doctor came in and told me I had colon cancer,” she says. “A whirlwind of thoughts went through my head. Immediately I thought, ‘how am I going to make this OK for my kids? I have to make this OK’.”
A CT scan at ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital determined it was Stage 3, that it was contained and that it hadn’t spread to other organs.
“We were thankful for that,” Schlosser says.
The tumor was removed during a three-hour surgical procedure during which cancer was found in two of the 21 lymph nodes that were tested. A port was installed and 24 weeks of chemotherapy was started 10 days later. Treatment was completed Nov. 19 and Schlosser is considered to be in remission. She has her blood checked monthly and scans are done every three months for the first year. The scans and blood work will continue, though less frequently, for a total of five years.
“Every Monday when I would go up the stairs to the treatment center, I would say a couple of things to myself: ‘OK, Tami, this is just something I have to go through. I’m going to get through it and God is going to make this struggle into something good.’ And every single Monday, I’d walk those 12 steps and I say those same words.,” she says.
“And I did get through it and God is making this struggle into something good.”
Shelley Hyde, ambassador for the RiverWalk for Cancer in Waukesha, noticed a lump in her right armpit while in the shower in July 2014.
At the time she was nursing her 6-month-old daughter, but she knew it wasn’t a clogged milk duct. “I knew right away what it was,” says Hyde, who is a licensed practical nurse for the ProHealth Care cancer program.
Her physician referred her to her obstetrician, who ordered an ultrasound and decided immediately to do a biopsy. Radiologist Jen Bergen called Hyde the next morning to inform her the lymph node that Hyde had discovered was cancerous.
A mammogram was ordered to determine where the actual tumor was, but when Hyde and her husband went back to the hospital for the mammogram, nothing showed up because she was nursing. Another ultrasound, however, showed the location and the size: 9 millimeters right above the chest wall muscle.
Surgeon Christopher Fox came in over the Fourth of July weekend to review the slides of the biopsy with pathologist Katherine Bayliss. The tumor also was positive and matched the same type of malignancy in the lymph node. Her case was presented at ProHealth Care’s multidisciplinary tumor board, which reviews cases and makes recommendations. Dr. Fox installed a mediport the next day and chemotherapy began that Thursday.
Chemotherapy was completed in November and in December Hyde underwent a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, again with Dr. Fox as her surgeon. The final phase, which included radiation, began in January and was completed April 9.
"I have to thank Dr. Hamid Saadati, my medical oncologist," Hyde said. "He was there for me since I first found the lump. He was there for all of the treatments — even during my radiation treatments. He basically never left me or my family alone," explained Hyde.
“I actually work as an LPN in the cancer program where I was treated, which makes it even more interesting,” Hyde says. “I continued to care for cancer patients while I was going through my own treatment. I can only hope that when I tell patients I know what it’s like that it makes a difference.
“I’d tell them, ‘it’s hard, it sucks, but you’re almost done. There will be good days and bad days and you get to choose.”
In her own case, “I chose to have good days on all of them. Even when I was feeling like I could barely move, I would choose to make it a good day. We would joke and we would laugh and we would do everything we could. I wasn’t going to let it break me.”
Hyde thinks of her own cancer as a learning experience that makes her better able to relate to her patients and family members. “I’m able to say, ‘I feel your pain, but you know we’re here for you’,” she says.
She calls her experience “humbling.”
"My husband was with me the whole journey. He shaved his head when I shaved mine. He fought for me when I was too tired. He never left my side," said Hyde.
“I hate asking for help. Having to rely on other people to do things and to take care of my kids was the worst. Not being able to be a mom was just horrendous,” she says. But she is thankful she could rely on friends, family and her co-workers.
Hyde has participated in the RiverWalk for the past six years and says she is honored to be its ambassador this year.
“I can only hope that my story will make people realize you don’t have to raise money, but by coming down and offering your support means a lot and helps raise awareness about cancer.”
Hyde is in remission, with no traces of cancer at all. With everything she has gone through, she says, she knows firsthand that cancer can affect anyone of any age at any time.
“I hope that my story will let people see that I had a baby and was diagnosed six months later with cancer and I’m here,” she says.
“I wouldn’t be here without all the people at Waukesha Memorial Hospital and the cancer program team that took care of me.”
Sheila Meinecke, ambassador for the ParkWalk for Cancer in Mukwonago, is a teacher in New Berlin and the mother of three children, 7, 3 and 2. The day she was diagnosed with cancer, which also was her middle child’s third birthday, is “a day I will never forget.”
Still breastfeeding her youngest child, she found a lump high in the breast, but didn’t think it could be cancer. She went in for a mammogram and ultrasound and was sent immediately to have a biopsy. The conclusion: Stage 3 breast cancer.
“All my doctors were wonderful and they reassured me that together we had a good plan,” says Meinecke.
The plan included 20 weeks of chemotherapy, a mastectomy in January and reconstruction surgery in February that included fat-grafting, which is a relatively new procedure. She is currently undergoing 36 radiation treatments that will be finished this month.
She credits her family for their unwavering support.
“Through all of this my husband has been fighting right alongside me,” says Meinecke. “He has been there for all of the days of being sick and being barely able to walk.”
When her hair started falling out from the cancer treatment, the entire family got shorter ‘dos.
“They helped me cut my hair and we did haircuts for the whole family that day,” she says. “It made it easier for them and I don’t think I shed a tear that day.”
During her weeks of chemotherapy her children were shuffled around for others to watch.
“My one son said, ‘Mom, who’s going to watch us today since you can’t do it?’ That’s just something you never want to hear,” she says. He also said he wished he had a magic wand to make the bad stuff disappear.
Meinecke created a blog about her treatment to help chronicle her thoughts and inform others where she is in her treatment plan. (It can be found at werehereforyousheila.blogspot.com)
“It’s been very therapeutic for me,” she says. “It’s amazing how people just step up and help. We had meals coming like crazy, we had people who were willing to take the kids and help with the yard. We had a lot, a lot of support.”
She also grew close to RiverWalk ambassador Shelley Hyde, who was one of her nurses at ProHealth. “Shelley was just finishing up her treatment for breast cancer and was about two weeks ahead of me. It was so nice to have her know exactly what you’re going through,” Meinecke says.
Meinecke took a one-year medical leave from her teaching job in New Berlin, but hopes to return in fall. She says she was honored to be asked to be the ParkWalk ambassador.
“I want to be able to help anybody else who is going through something like this,” she says. “I actually had a co-worker who went through this a year before me and she’s been just an amazing help to me. I hope that I’ll be able to do that for others.”
Looking back at her diagnosis at age 34, Meinecke says:
“Don’t think that you’re too young to have cancer. I still can’t believe my life changed in an instant. I don’t think I will ever take for granted the days that I have with my family and friends.”