- News Releases
Mike Woellert had heard people talk about colonoscopies. He didn’t hesitate, and it may have saved his life. Friday, March 27, marked the one-year anniversary of Michael Woellert’s colorectal cancer diagnosis. It’s a day he and his wife, Malissa, remember all too well. “I was one of the last people to be called from the waiting room after Mike’s colonoscopy,” Malissa recalls. “I sensed something was wrong.” A nurse brought Malissa to Mike’s room, and the two of them, while viewing the ultrasound video in which a mass could clearly be seen, were told it was colorectal cancer. The conversation was anything but clinical, however. “The doctor who had done the procedure, was tearing up while informing us of the results,” Malissa says. “I felt compassion all around me at that moment.” Mike tried to lighten the mood with a joke. But Malissa says that even so, after hearing the diagnosis, she felt as if she had been kicked in the chest. She tried to contain her emotions, but felt the need to step out of the room momentarily to regain composure, knowing she wanted to return and provide support to Mike.
Gail and Bob Boehmer recall driving through Lake City, Minnesota, many times on their way to northern Wisconsin, where they first met. Neither of them ever imagined the town on Lake Pepin would become a home away from home. The Waterloo, Iowa, couple recently spent six weeks in Lake City. It wasn’t something they’d planned. But then life happened. And after three helicopter rides and multiple surgeries at Mayo Clinic, Bob found himself in need of just the kind of healing environment Mayo Clinic Health System in Lake City offers through the Mayo Transitional Care program. The program provides patients recovering from major illness or surgery with transitional nursing care and therapy until they’re ready to go back home. Although uncertain at first, the Boehmers say Lake City’s connection with Mayo Clinic not only helped Bob heal but also eased their minds and lifted their spirits.
In her early 30s and with “a wonderful child, wonderful husband and a great career,” Dawn DeCook-Gibson says the last thing she expected was a breast cancer diagnosis. Following the initial shock of the news, Dawn, from Chandler, Arizona, sought out doctors at Mayo Clinic and was guided through her treatment and recovery by Donald Northfelt, M.D., her oncologist, and Barbara Pockaj, M.D., her surgeon. “I was diagnosed with stage 2b lobular carcinoma breast cancer last year,” she says. “I was in shock … everything just seemed like it was perfect, and then the diagnosis came in. Honestly, it stopped me in my tracks.” One of her family members had received care at Mayo’s Arizona campus and recommended that Dawn do the same. “She was adamant that I go to Mayo Clinic,” Dawn says.
The majority of people diagnosed with colon cancer are older than 50. Kelly Barnard was just 19 years old when she got an unwelcome Valentine’s Day surprise. Her stomach pain turned out to be something much more serious. Among cancer's many negative qualities is the seemingly indiscriminate way the disease manifests itself. Cancer doesn’t care what your race, gender or ethnicity is. It doesn't care about your profession where you live or your family situation. And it doesn't necessarily care about your age. Just ask Kelly Barnard. Kelly's cancer story began when she was just 19 years old. Then a freshman at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota, she began feeling intense stomach pain one day in her dorm room. And while she tells the Duluth Tribune she'd "felt some little twinges of pain" in her stomach before, those were nothing like the pain she felt just before Valentine's Day 2013. "It was horrendous," she tells the newspaper. "I couldn't walk. I couldn't move."
After brain surgery at Mayo Clinic, Xander Torres is a healthy, happy kid "My hand is wiggly." When 4-year-old Xander Torres said these words to his mother, Sarah, she had no idea the long journey they would begin. "To be honest, I didn't think much about it at first," she says. Several weeks went by when Xander's hand was occasionally "wiggly." Then during a stint as ring-bearer in a family wedding, he had what looked to his parents like a seizure. Frightened and confused, they took Xander to several physicians in their hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Unable to learn what was causing the problem, and with his seizures growing more frequent and severe, the Torres family decided to travel to Mayo Clinic’s campus in Rochester, Minnesota, in hope of finding answers. After evaluation and several months of other therapies, young Xander eventually underwent brain surgery to relieve his seizures. The results have been life-changing. Today, with his seizures well-controlled, Xander is a little-league baseball player who loves science and intends to be a brain surgeon when he grows up.
Twelve years after her diagnosis, Jane Jacobs knows the value of finding and treating colon cancer early and is participating in Fight Colorectal Cancer's #StrongArmSelfie campaign. Jane Jacobs understands the squeamishness some people have as they consider going through tests to check for colon cancer. "No one wants to think about or talk about their colon," she says. "You don't see it. Its job is hardly glamorous. It tends to be part of the body people would rather forget about." But after being diagnosed and successfully treated for early-stage colon cancer at age 40, Jane, who works in Media Support Services at Mayo Clinic, strongly encourages others to get past their hesitancy and get a colonoscopy. "The bottom line is that the colon cancer screening process is not as bad as people make it out to be," she says. "It's a fairly straightforward test that can make the difference between an early diagnosis, when the disease can often be more easily treated, and a severe, sometimes life-threatening, illness."