Caring for Cancer

In recent years, cancer has accounted for 10 million deaths annually worldwide, and although certain months are dedicated to respective types of cancer awareness, cancer doesn’t follow a calendar.

Bre Mumaw, a Woodgrove staff member whose grandmother passed from Ovarian cancer shared her story. “I was a freshman in college, and I was actually in the cafeteria when my mom called me and said, ‘It wasn’t actually her gallbladder; it was cancer.’” Mumaw’s advice for others struggling with a family member’s diagnosis is to just be there. Scientists have been working on a cure for cancer for decades. “A cure would mean positive encouragement, that anything is possible,” states Mumaw.

John Hoffmann, a Woodgrove Science teacher, learned first hand what it is like to battle and win against cancer. Hoffmann was diagnosed with stage four melanoma, which he says is “one step below death.” He had to go through an intense treatment in order to put the cancer into remission. “I went through something called immunotherapy, and I was told that there was a 20% chance that this drug would get rid of my cancer completely. The treatment was devastating to my body, in the sense that I became very ill. But it worked; it got rid of my cancer. The drug is called Opdivo. It saved my life. I could only tolerate two doses because it killed my digestive system. I lost 40 pounds in five weeks,” shares Hoffmann.

Hoffman explains how he got through his treatment and what he learned from his experience with melanoma. “Just the thought that you might not be around in no more than six months to a year. When you hear those words, it changes you a lot, and I think for me it really helped me to focus on what’s important in life and what’s not. For me, what’s important in life is my relationships. It’s not money or anything like that, it’s my relationships with my children and my wife. Not everything about cancer is bad, is what I’m saying. Cancer teaches you things that are tough lessons, but good lessons.”

One piece of advice that Hoffmann says got him through his treatment was positive thinking. “Negative thoughts will come, the thoughts of, ‘Oh my god, I am going to die,’ and you know, ‘I’m not going to see the birth of my grandchildren.’ You are going to think those thoughts, the key for me was to not dwell on them. Another thing is to surround yourself with people who will lift you up.”

Anna Lockhart (on the left) and Riley Castellano (on the right), Founders of Our Perfect Warrior Foundation. (Provided by Anna Lockhart.)

Our Perfect Warrior, a foundation started by Woodgrove alumnae Riley Castellano and Anna Lockhart, helps families who have loved ones suffering from cancer. “With our foundation, we help families with whatever they may need, whether it’s chemo care packages, going grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, etc. We want to teach people that the little things count the most when someone is battling cancer,” says Lockhart. The two created the organization in 2018 after Riley’s mother passed away from breast cancer. “After Riley’s mom passed away, she realized how much it meant to them that they had the amount of support that they did in this time. We decided we wanted to help others the way people helped her,” shares Lockhart.

Lockhart’s advice to people who have a loved one who is battling cancer is, “Always be there for that special family member but also make sure to check in on yourself too. When you know someone battling cancer, it is also a struggle for yourself so having a support system outside of your direct family can be very beneficial.”

Our Perfect Warrior Foundation Logo. (Provided by Anna Lockhart.)