Annual Benefit Supports Patients and Families Touched by Cancer

"Cancer chooses randomly" is a phrase that struck me during a recent conversation and reminded me how cancer touches us all.

Margie OldehoeftI recently ran into Margie Oldehoeft, former Director of Volunteer Services at Mary Greeley Medical Center and member of the Auxiliary Art Committee. As we were catching up, she shared that she has been traveling to Montana frequently over the last few months to visit her daughter, Gretchen, who is battling breast cancer. At only 40 years old with a husband, four children and an active and healthy lifestyle, Gretchen's diagnosis was an unexpected blow to the family.

When Gretchen was first diagnosed, Margie wanted to know everything she could about breast cancer. She had so many questions but didn't want to burden her daughter with them. So Margie turned to the Cancer Resource Center where Mary Ellen Carano, the center's coordinator, helped her research Gretchen's specific cancer and treatments, prepare for the long battle ahead, and deal with the many emotions she was experiencing.

The Cancer Resource Center provides comprehensive resources and support for cancer patients, families and the community. The center is filled with books, pamphlets and computers with access to the most up-to-date research available. As Margie can attest, arming yourself with knowledge can help you get through the battle, and the center offers the tools to make it possible.

The center also offers genetic consultations, support groups, one-on-one survivorship meetings to create post-treatment care plans, and a boutique that provides wigs, hats and other specialty products. The Cancer Resource Center is just one part of the William R. Bliss Cancer Center, which also includes an inpatient oncology unit, radiation oncology services in both Ames and Webster City, and access to clinical trials.

Margie was on staff at Mary Greeley Medical Center when the Cancer Resource Center first opened in July 2003. She helped with Auxiliary fundraising efforts, installing uplifting art and coordinating the many volunteers who help staff the center. Six years later, Margie is utilizing the resources herself, an experience that has truly come full circle.

When Margie talks about Gretchen's fight, she beams with pride for the positive outlook her daughter has shown since day one. Her theme is to keep looking forward towards the horizon-words of wisdom we can all live by. With the help of a CaringBridge Web site (a free, personalized site to help connect family and friends during a serious health event), Gretchen's husband Steve has shared her story and kept everyone informed of her progress. Margie is comforted knowing that even though no family is nearby, Gretchen's friends and neighbors have rallied around her. From making meals and cleaning house for the family, to wearing Team Gretchen tshirts and visiting during chemo treatments, the community of Missoula has truly gotten behind Gretchen's fight for life.

In central Iowa, we are fortunate to have so many resources available in our own backyard. That is why the Mary Greeley Medical Center Auxiliary and Foundation are partnering once again to host the 2010 Annual Benefit on Saturday, May 1, with all proceeds going to the William R. Bliss Cancer Center.

Cancer chooses randomly; we never know when or where it will strike next. But, just like Gretchen, we can choose to live and face cancer head on. And just like Margie, we can choose to arm ourselves with the knowledge about the battle. And just like the Missoula community, if we see a friend or neighbor in need, we can choose to step up and offer support. As we gather at this year's benefit in support of all those affected by cancer, I will think not only of Gretchen and Margie, but also of my sister, Sherri, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 29. Cancer touches all of us in different ways, and we never know when we might need the services of the Cancer Resource Center. But through the community's continued support, we know that Mary Greeley Medical Center will always provide the best cancer care available, close to home.