Despite cancer, diabetes, bereavement and muscular dystrophy, St. Francois County residents are finding ways of not only surviving their challenges, but thriving.
USA Drug will host “Live Life like your Life depends on it: Thriving, not just Surviving illnesses and challenges.”
The free event, featuring several speakers, will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Wednesday at the Centene Center in Farmington. RSVP suggested, but not required to Kathy Grogan at 573-631-1628.
Scheduled guest speakers include Dr. Stephen Forsythe who has lost close family members; Margaret Cannell, American Cancer Society Hero of Hope; Danielle Redecker, 20 plus year diabetes patient; Rev. Charles (Chuck) Lotz, multiple time cancer survivor; Kathy Grogan who suffers with muscular dystrophy; Kathryn Lewis, diabetes educator.
There will be a special guest speaker, who will not be announced until the day of the event. The unique speaker does not usually do interviews.
There will be a question and answer session afterward.
Kelly Barnes, USA Drug Executive Vice President of Southeast Missouri, helped Kathy Grogan organize the event. Grogan works for USA Drug as a community care coordinator.
“Kathy came to us with the idea,” Barnes said. “We do everything we can to support our community,” she said.
Dr. Steven Forsythe
Dr. Steven Forsythe works in a profession where he not only helps heal and treat patients, but helps them find happiness, hope and encouragement as well.
Forsythe and his wife know what it is like to lose a loved one. The couple have struggled through the loss of a child and grandchild.
“My wife and I are going through a challenge right now,” Forsythe said.
Their youngest daughter, now in her late 20s, is beginning treatment for thyroid cancer.
“I hope to speak about happiness, hope and encouragement,” he said of his speech during the “Live Life like your Life depends on it” seminar.
“I have had a heart condition since I was 18,” Forsythe said.
Forsythe said it is something he has learned to live with.
By December 2005, Kathy Grogan knew something was wrong. She was falling for no reason. She had blurred vision and slurred speech. After seeing numerous doctors, she went to a neurologist.
“I told him I wasn’t here to hear nothing was wrong,” she said. “I was there to know what was wrong.”
After years of misdiagnosis, Grogan was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, or MG, a form of muscular dystrophy.
Approximately 20 out of 100,000 individuals in the U.S. have been diagnosed with MG. However, MG is considered under-diagnosed and the prevalence is thought to be much higher according to the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America, Inc.
“My disease has to fight for what it takes because I won’t give it a chance,” Grogan said.
She said she misses hiking and tennis but it is a trade for energy.
“It takes so much energy to play tennis, but instead I spend my day finding ways to excel and make a difference,” she said.
Grogan, who now works for USA Drug, is very involved in helping others.
She is co-captain of a Relay For Life team, and organizes a New Beginnings Grief and Loss support group.
“I’ve seen illness take both an emotional and physical toll and stop them in their tracks,” she said.
She explained that it is important that the patient, doctor and pharmacist work together, with the patient taking a very active role in the team when it comes to their treatment.
Grogan, who helped organize the event, hopes people will listen to the speakers who live their lives with quality and quantity.
“Time is limited,” she said. “What you do today, you pay a day of your life for.”
26-year-old Danielle Redecker knew at age seven she wanted to be a pharmacist.
“I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when I was five,” she said.
“My parents didn’t let me use it as an excuse for anything,” she said.
Both Redecker’s parents work for a school district.
“I remember my mom telling me that I would change my mind, but I never did,” Redecker said as she can’t think of anything else she’s ever wanted to be.
Redecker, who is now a pharmacists at USA Drug, wants to tell her story during “Live Life like your Life depends on it: Thriving, not just Surviving illnesses and challenges.”
“Diabetes is one of the most common conditions that I work with,” she said.
She explained that older people will tell her she wouldn’t understand when she tries to tell them how to use their supplies. Once she shares her story of living with diabetes since age 5, they can relate.
“Life is what you make of it,” she said. “I’ve never let it stop me.”
Rev. Chuck Lotz
With a house full of small children at home in 1986, Charles ‘Chuck’ Lotz was horrified to know that he had Hodgkins Disease.
After battling tests for 2-3 weeks, they found lymphoma.
“Back then, they didn’t know a lot. It was pretty grim,” Lotz said.
Lotz said it was hard, even as a believer, he had to come to terms to deal with it.
Over the past two decades, the cancer has came back several times.
“My type of Hogkins has a high reoccurrence rate but responds well to treatment,” he said.
When Lotz went to Colorado in 1999 for a mission trip, his cancer came back and they told him there was nothing they could do.
“They told me because of other health issues, my heart could not take the chemo,” he said.
He came back to Missouri with no insurance. His doctor told him it would be $3,000 per treatment.
Short on hope, Lotz applied to be part of a case study for a new treatment drug. He qualified.
Lotz is both a Pastor at First Freewill Baptist Church of Park Hills and the Chaplain at Southeast Missouri Mental Health Treatment Center.
He has used his on-going battle with cancer to motivate his congregation and clients.
“I went through a rough series of treatment in 1992,” he said. “I have no confidence in anything. I thought I would die,” Lotz said.
Then he remembered a Bible verse that applied to him at that time.
“I decided whether chemo or cancer was going to take my life, I was trusting the Lord,” he said. “I could fall apart tomorrow but today I’m doing good.”
Lotz said that in his line of work, he has been able to help others.
“I know what it is to sit in the circle of recliners and know that they are going through,” he said.
He hopes to talk to those Nov. 18 about living, not dying.
Kathryn Lewis is a diabetes educator at Parkland Health Center.
Lewis who does not personally have diabetes, said it has affected her life.
“Diabetes affects most everyone,” said the nurse of 19 years.
She said there are seven steps in managing diabetes: Healthy eating, being active, monitoring blood sugar, medication if necessary, problem solving, healthy coping and reducing your risk.
“People with diabetes deal with it 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Lewis said. “They have to learn to have knowledge and the tools to manage their disease.”
November is National Diabetes Month.
The American Diabetes Association estimated in 2007, there were 23.6 million children and adults in the United States with diabetes and 5.7 million who were undiagnosed.
“In celebration of National Diabetes Month, we want to bring light to diabetes,” she said.
Lewis asks that people put blue lights on their porches or in a lamp close to the window to bring light to diabetes.
“We need to focus on bringing the tools to those with diabetes,” Lewis said.
“It does no good if we have the tools but don’t share.”
She is a breast cancer survivor. Her husband is a cancer survivor. She has had several surgeries and even lost a child.
“There isn’t much that hasn’t happened to me,” Margaret Cannell laughed.
Through it all, Cannell loves her life.
“I have a wonderful life,” she said. “I was knocked down and still able to get back up because of my Savior, family and friends.”
She said she was honored to be one of the American Cancer Society’s Heroes of Hope for the 2008-09 year.
She has been able to speak at different functions and tell her story of how she had cancer and how she found ways to survive.
“Before cancer, I didn’t think I was a candidate for any of the categories of cancer,” she said.
Cannell said it was luck that the doctors found her aggressive cancer and were able to treat it.
“I am not a scientist and can’t help that way, but I help feed the roots,” she said. “I think that’s what St. Francois County has been doing, feeding the roots.”
Cannell said she doesn’t know how people won’t be motivated and inspired after listening to Wednesday’s speakers.
“I am honored to speak,” she said. “I hope I can just help one person there and when they leave they will be talking about what they heard.”
Jessica Crepps is a staff writer for the Daily Journal. You may reach her at 573-431-2010 ext. 143 or firstname.lastname@example.org