By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Since Charlene Anderson of Winsted was diagnosed with lung cancer last October, her sister, Bonnie Roy, has made it her mission to make Anderson’s life as worry-free as possible while she undergoes chemotherapy and to be there for her during her recovery.
The sisters have always been close, even during their younger years growing up in the Noerenberg family home in New Germany. They are both graduates of Mayer Lutheran.
“Bonnie is my advocate through all of this,” Anderson said. “If it wouldn’t be for her helping me, this would be so much harder.”
One of the ways Roy is helping to support her sister is leading the fundraising efforts for a benefit for Charlene and her husband, Bruce, to help pay some of the mounting medical bills.
The benefit is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Friday, May 15 at the Blue Note in Winsted. Dinner, children’s activities, a silent auction, social hour with free beer and pop, and a dance are included in the ticket for $15 or a donation for the Anderson family.
Diagnosed 12 years earlier with breast cancer, Roy still remembers what it was like trying to recover from her cancer surgery.
“One of the hardest things when you get sick is having to look at those bills that are coming in every day,” Roy said. “And you have to decide between putting money towards a house payment or managing your pain. How do you decide? Even the stress of trying to deal with that alone would be overwhelming for anybody.”
This isn’t the first fundraiser Roy has been part of, but it is the first one for a family member. Her other benefits have assisted cancer foundations like the Susan G. Komen Foundation, the Ridgeview Medical Foundation hospice and cancer program, the Minnesota Oncology Foundation, and the American Cancer Society.
Before Charlene started developing health problems, she owned and operated The Caring Hearts Pet Service which she started in 2002. Today, because of her health, it is running about half-capacity, but she is hoping to have it back up to full capacity soon.
After spending time in Andersons’ home, it is easy to understand why Charlene chose a pet service.
She has four house cats, Tinkerbell, Angel, Spanky, and Leo; two dogs, Molly and Lucy; three goats, Natalie, Sydney, and Annie; and three parakeets, a goose, three chickens, and two ducks.
“My husband is taking care of my animals while I am sick. He doesn’t like them quite as much as me. He has asked me why I don’t build an ark already,” Charlene said.
Her animals have been her therapy during this long ordeal, which began early last year when she was being treated by an orthopedic specialist for a knee that just wasn’t getting better.
“Then it went from my knee to my whole leg,” Charlene said.
When she went to her regular doctor for additional help, a chest x-ray diagnosed her with stage II lung cancer.
After more tests and scans, she learned Oct. 31 there was also cancer present in her brain. The oncologist chose to treat the brain cancer first with five weeks of radiation, followed by the Gamma Knife procedure.
Gamma Knife procedure is a radiation process, but doesn’t involve the use of a “knife” or scalpel. In fact, no incisions are made at all.
Surgery to remove the lower lobe of her left lung, where the cancer was present, was scheduled for Jan. 9.
While undergoing pre-surgery scans, she learned the cancer had spread to both her liver and lymph nodes, and the only option for treatment became chemotherapy.
Charlene has been getting one chemotherapy treatment a month, which lasts for about five hours. She has two treatments left to go.
After her treatments in April and May, she is hoping to have two months off while they decide what her next step will be.
“This kind of cancer can be controlled, but not cured,” Charlene said.
Roy has also been working with Anderson family and friends to form a number of caring heart teams each working on specific projects to make Charlene’s life a little better.
A Caring Heart meals on wheels prepares dinner for Charlene and Bruce every Wednesday fixing whatever she is hungry for.
Then there is a Caring Hearts home care, when someone comes in to help around the house.
The next big team endeavor is called Caring Hearts digging up daisies. It is a project Charlene is very excited about as she loves flowers.
Charlene estimates she plants between 300 and 500 flowers annually “a lot of petunias.”
“We have a group set to plant a new garden, and most of the girls that have volunteered to come are into gardening,” Charlene added.
If you would like to help Charlene, check out her web site at www.carepages.com and under “visit,” type in caringhearts.
Bruce and Charlene have two daughters:
• Christene who is married to Joel Karels. They live in Winsted with their four children Aleksey, 13, Tucker, 7, Rylan, 3, Josie, 7 months.
• Courtney who lives in Hutchinson with her daughter Cora, 2.