Ed and Kathy Hoeksema
of Portage, Michigan and their daughter, Brenda Bonn of Winneconne, Wisconsin
Kathy’s first bout with cancer was in 1998. Shocking news and, as with most people, a surprise. Before you know it there are decisions to be made and surgical procedures looming ahead – lumpectomy, mastectomy, reconstruction and what form it would take. For Kathy it was a blessing to have her husband constantly by her side, giving support, and accompanying her to appointments so together they could seek wisdom from the doctors.
The prayers and love from her family gave Kathy peace in her decisions and the surgery. She asked for one very important prayer request, that it had not spread to her lymph nodes, and it was the “best news” in her life when the doctor shared the news of clean nodes, clean margins and a non-aggressive cancer. Kathy cried a river of joyful tears!! She was placed on five years of hormonal therapy in pill form. Her caregiver was her husband, Ed, and he shares that he “just did what was recommended and tried to do the best he knew how.” Of course, there was help, encouraging words, cards and prayer support from family and friends.
Kathy says, “The complete healing came from my Lord and Savior, ‘The Great Physician.'”
Kathy and Ed continued their journey in life having a greater appreciation for one another and each new day.
The second news of cancer came in 2006 when Ed was diagnosed with Large B-Cell Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. At the time, they were wintering in Florida and decided to have his surgery and consult with the oncologists at the renowned Cleveland Clinic there. It was a blessing to have friends and family visiting at the time of surgery, however, by the time his treatments began everyone had returned home. Ed received Retuxan one day and chemotherapy the next day, every three weeks for a total of six treatments.
As his caregiver Kathy realized it was very important to chart his condition each day and would record his temperature to be aware when his white counts were low so he would stay away from large crowds, (hence he never had a cold or flu the entire period of treatment). During the first 48 hours following chemo she became “the water police,” as it was very important to see that he had eight ounces of water every hour to ensure the chemo wouldn’t lodge in any main organs. She also encouraged exercise to maintain his strength and made sure he had the proper nutrition by preparing whatever healthy foods sounded good to him. Kathy tried to have a positive attitude and give extra TLC. She also kept in touch with family and friends via e-mail concerning his progress but she was alone in her daily care giving endeavors. An organization such as HOPE Cancer Connection would have been a welcomed support.
As a former greenhouse grower, Ed re-found his strength after treatment by planting and tending his flowerbeds of impatiens, begonias and geraniums. Ed has been cancer free for seven years, however, while the doctors continue to compare CT Scans, PET Scans, and lab reports, Ed and Kathy freely ask questions and partner with the doctors in his care.
Two years later came the third cancer surprise when after ten years of being cancer-free, Kathy’s breast cancer returned right above the incision of her trans-flap reconstruction. She found it, a very small lump, and after tests, etc., a lumpectomy was performed. It was the same type of cancer, clean margins, so she decided to have no follow-up treatment.
In 2009, the couple received their fourth cancer surprise. Kathy had another small lump right above the incision of the previous one. Once again, the surgeons performed a lumpectomy and it was the same type of cancer. She decided on follow-up treatment this time and received 37 radiation treatments as well as five years of hormonal therapy pills.
As the daughter of two cancer survivors, Brenda Bonn, executive director and co-founder of HOPE Cancer Connection, has a passion for those on the cancer journey. The branches of their family tree are heavily marked with cancer – four grandparents, five uncles and a cousin not much older than Brenda. As a long- distance family member trying to help her parents, Brenda saw the need for a clearinghouse for information, resources and programs benefiting the cancer survivor, their caregiver, and the family/friends who come along side them. She experienced the need for “Supporting the journey with HOPE.”
Ed and Kathy have been asked if they fear cancer’s return yet again. Their answer is “No, we have faith and live our lives each day enjoying one another, our priceless family, our friends and the abundant life the Lord has so graciously given us.”