FORT LORAMIE, Ohio – The St. Michael’s Hall fall blood drive comes during October National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a personal tradition for coordinator Jane Poeppelman to add a message to the back of her Community Blood Center “I Fight Cancer” t-shirt.
Jane turned to show “Survivor” printed in bold, red letters. “I wanted pink, but red was a close as I could get,” she said. Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer 14 years ago. “I’m hanging in there,” she said. “I was in there a month ago and all was a go.”
Chemotherapy is often damaging to blood cells, making it vital for cancer patients to receive red cell and platelet transfusions. The Tuesday, Oct. 17 blood drive at St. Michael’s helped the fight against cancer by reaching 114 percent of collection goal. The 251 whole blood units donated actually exceeded the number of donors thanks to 23 double-red cell donations, plus nine platelet and plasma donations.
Cancer touches lives everywhere, including many of the 241 donors at St. Michael’s. Fort Loramie chiropractor Rob Huddleston and his wife Jenny have two young children. Rob began donating to show support for Jenny after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in February of 2016.
“One reason why I’m doing it,” Rob said, “if she can handle all the pokes and needles she’s been through, I can tolerate a few pokes to do this.”
Rob talked about how Jenny found a lump under her arm. They suspected a simple infection, but tests revealed it was a rapidly advancing cancer. She underwent three and a half months of chemotherapy, followed by a double mastectomy and radiation.
On Feb. 25, 2017, the one-year anniversary of her diagnosis, Rob and Jenny went on a Buckeye Cancer Cruise to Nassau and Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas. They traveled with Ohio State Coach Urban Meyer and a host of Buckeye greats, including A.J. Hawk and Ezekiel Elliot.
“It was all good this year,” said Rob, until red flags emerged in August. They found spots of cancer in her shoulder, neck and tailbone. Instead of chemo, she will undergo a specially-engineered two-drug therapy at Ohio State. It’s an approach that has shown promise in other patients.
“She’s anxious to get into treatment, and see if that’s working,” said Rob. “That would make her feel a whole lot better. It’s just the waiting game that bothers her.”
As he sat waiting to make his 89th lifetime blood donation, Fort Loramie’s Tom Pleiman talked about his own battle against cancer. “In 1995 I had a tumor on my small intestine,” he said. “They removed a section and I had chemo for one year. I was cancer free. Twenty-plus years and I feel great.”
Instead of using the warm October afternoon for farm work, Shelby County Commissioner came to St. Michael’s for his usual double red blood cell donation. He wore a pink tie as he went about county business on Tuesday. He said he will switch to a purple for Thursday’s commission meeting in honor of a proclamation for domestic violence awareness.
Tony now has 108 lifetime donations. He believes one of the most reliable ways to help his community is to be a blood donor. “You just keep doing what you can do,” he said.