Family, friends key to cancer survival
October 05, 2011 - Last year, Clarkston resident Judy Loehne marched in the Relay for Life fund raiser to support her daughter Teresa Wynn's team.
Judy Loehne, left, with her daughter Teresa Wynn, is a breast cancer survivor. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
Last May, she marched in Clarkston Relay for Life as a cancer survivor.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would walk with my mother for the Survivors' Lap – it was very surreal," said Wynn, who organized the team in honor of her late father-in-law. "We're so happy for the people who survive, and sad for those who didn't make it."
With a history of cancer in both sides of her family, Loehne has been having annual mammogram for at least 20 years.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer Sept. 7, 2010, a day after her 67th birthday.
"It was like the wind knocked out of my sail – it's a word you don't ever want to hear," Loehne said. "I didn't hear anything beyond that."
Her husband Larry Loehne and their children Teresa Wynn, JoAnne Speaks, and Larry Loehne were with her when she was diagnosed.
"My sister and I knew it wasn't good when we heard how many biopsies they did, so we were somewhat prepared, we thought, until we heard those words," Wynn said. "It made the room spin, then seeing the look on her face and the color go. Then it was, OK, let's figure this out."
Judy chose to have a mastectomy, the removal of the breast, 10 days after diagnosis.
"The surgeon felt it was the best choice," she said.
"We found out it spread to her lymph nodes – that was next shock," Wynn said.
After surgery and in preparation for chemotherapy, Judy had her head shaved and went shopping for wigs, wraps, and turbans at Katie's Spa in Lapeer.
"I wanted to get ready – I didn't want to let it just fall out," she said.
"We all went with her to get her wigs," Wynn said.
An infection resulting from chemotherapy meant a week-long hospital stay last February.
Then in March, the chemo affected her heart. At that time, doctors decided the chemo treatment received so far was sufficient.
"There were definitely ups and downs," Wynn said.
Cardio rehabilitation at St. Joe's took three months. Treatment is complete, but she will probably not be able to completely return to normal.
"After her heart failure, we have to change our view of normal," Wynn said.
"I accept the changes – God gives only what you can deal with," Judy said. "A lot of getting through it was knowing people care."
They received letters of support and donations from around the community.
"It's really heartwarming to know people reach out," Judy said. "You never know when your family will hear the word, cancer."
She just celebrated her first birthday cancer free.
Kick-off committee meeting for the 2012 Clarkston Relay for Life is 6 p.m., Oct. 20, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Wynn is the event vice-chair.
"It's quite a commitment, but it's the right thing to do," she said. "We really need people from the community to come out. You won't have to make a commitment. Just see what it's about, and see if it's something you'd like to participate in."
"The Relay is wonderful," Judy said. "I didn't know impact until I had gotten into it. Now I'm so intimate with the event."
Teresa and her husband Dennis Wynn organized the team, called The Butterfly House. It was the top fund raiser at this year's Relay.
The team raised over $10,000 with a garage sale, jewelry presentation, and other fund raisers.
"My husband's family and my family got together," Wynn said. "We're very blessed. We're all really close, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, the whole family."
"We all proud we did so well in our first year," Judy said.
"It was a lot of fun," Wynn said.
The 2012 Clarkston Relay for Life is 10 a.m., May 19, to 10 a.m., May 20, at Clarkston Junior High School. For more information, check www.relayforlife.org.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.