As a 15-year volunteer for the Fulton County Relay for Life, Tra Wiechers was fully aware of the irony of being diagnosed with cancer.
Chosen as the event’s 2018 Honorary Chair, she recalled, “The first thing I said to the doctor was, ‘I’ll get to wear a survivor shirt at Relay.’”
The 63-year-old Napoleon resident initially reacted with fear to her diagnosis, but then replaced it with the positive attitude for which she is known.
“It wasn’t going to beat me,” Wiechers said. “You’re always scared when the diagnosis hits you. It’s what you do with it after you take it in.”
Now cancer-free, she will take the Survivors Walk at the Fulton County Relay for Life event scheduled Friday, June 8, from 6 p.m. to midnight at the county fairgrounds. Then Wiechers plans to move ahead and enjoy her second chance.
“If it does come back, I’ll have to fight it again. But I don’t want to spend my life worrying. Life sometimes hands you things that you have to deal with,” she said.
Her journey with cancer began in the summer of 2015. Weichers suffered stomach cramps that wouldn’t go away. “I knew that something was seriously wrong,” she said.
Her family physician sent her to a specialist in Toledo that fall, where she was tested and gave tissue samples.
On Oct. 9, the day before her birthday, Wiechers was told she had endometrial cancer, which begins in cells forming in the lining of the uterus. But she was also told it was in a very early stage.
“They told me if I had to pick a cancer that was the best one to pick. It has a very high cure rate,” she said. “I replied to them, ‘So, I made a good choice, huh?’”
On Nov. 20, Wiechers underwent a hysterectomy, and the surgeon found no spread of cancer to her lymph nodes. Five days later, doctors confirmed the cancer had been fully contained.
“I started crying,” she said.
She went home the next day, which happened to be the traditional Black Friday shopping day, an event she didn’t want to miss.
“I didn’t get to go shopping on Black Friday, and I was very upset,” Wiechers said humorously. “I wanted my daughters to take me in a wheelchair.”
No ensuing chemotherapy or radiation was necessary. During a six-week convalescent period she was nurtured by Keith, her husband of 37 years.
“He was my rock. He took care of me, he was there for anything I needed, and he gave me space to deal with everything,” she said.
She also had the love and support of her daughters, Kris, Christa, Sandi Rae, and Sandy Jo, and sons, Keith and Jason.
“The hardest thing was telling the kids. They were scared, but I think they just all knew that I’m a fighter,” Wiechers said.
She returned to her job at IAC in Wauseon in January to supportive friends who had produced T-shirts on her behalf.
The chance of her cancer recurring is only five percent. But Wiechers reminds herself how fortunate she’s been.
“Even now, I’m thankful every day,” she said. “It never leaves you. It’s always there. It made me more thankful for the people around me, just the love and care you have for them. Because you never know what the next day brings.”
Wiechers had remained involved in Relay for Life to honor her grandson, Carter, who is 15 years cancer-free. Now she has more reason to stay – to share her good news and give hope to other cancer victims.
“Stay positive. Rely on your friends and family and God,” she said.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.