Rev. John E. Lewis, IV

In late 2015, my general practitioner reported the results of my PSA exam of 9.7 (the benchmark for African American men being 4.0). He referred me to a urologist who after re-examining me, reported that I had prostate cancer. As I considered my family's history with cancer, there was a part of me that felt that "my journey" would end up as my parents' and maternal grandparents'. Even though I consider myself a man of strong faith, I must admit that I had moments when wondered if I would live to see the dawning of 2020. To make matters worse, my urologist at the team suggested that the treatment best for me is he would monitor me for the next 10 years to see if the cancer would spread. I could not believe that he would suggest treatment that offered no hope. Being a man of faith, my wife and I prayed, trusting that God Almighty would give us the answer... and of course He did.

God calmly reminded me that I had a friend who was an oncologist who happens to work for Siteman Cancer Center. So, we called Dr. Lannis Hall who did what she does best--she started the process to help me. Of course, I had to face her wrath (joined by my wife) for not coming to her sooner. However, after the dust settled, she said to me, "Now let's help you to get better." She outlined several approached to my issue without leaving us with any unanswered questions. We fast forward to January 2019 where after being treated and several follow up visits my PSA is reported at .42 and I'm cancer free.

Thank God... thank you Dr. Lannis Hall, and thank you Siteman Cancer Center.

IMG_1951.JPG

Wanda Morganfield-Nelson

I am a two-time breast cancer survivor, first diagnosed in 1983. I remained cancer free until November 2015 when I was diagnosed again. In that 32-year period of being cancer free, I always knew there was a possibility I could have another occurrence, but that did not stop me from living a full and active life. However, when I found the lump in my breast, I was no different from any other woman receiving the diagnosis. I was scared, apprehensive and at a loss of where to start.

I was fortunate that one of Siteman’s oncologists was on the Board of my breast cancer support group. I spoke to her about my concerns and she referred me to doctors she believed would give me the best possible care. These doctors were also on the Siteman team. I was also familiar with Siteman Cancer Center, as my breast cancer group had partnered with them in the fight against breast cancer. Also, I knew that Siteman ranked high nationally, as one of the best cancer treatment centers.

My Board member, who became my oncologist, assured me that I would get the best and most comprehensive care and assured me that I was going to be okay. Her confidence and the knowledge that I was going to receive treatment at one of the best centers, was most assuring. Thus, began my second journey on the road to survival.

Siteman’s first class service began upon entering the front door, being greeted by a friendly, competent staff, that eased my anxiety and made me feel comfortable. After a few visits, they recognized me before bringing up my chart. That made me feel special.

I was always treated with dignity, concern, and compassion. My team always involved me in my treatment plan and made sure that I understood that their decisions were the best for ME. My appointments were never rushed; they were professional, with the right amount of “bedside manner” that made me feel more of a person rather than a patient.

When I began Chemotherapy, the staff was competent and professional, but still personable and friendly. The Siteman facility was “homey” and I felt more like I was going to see “family” than going to a hospital for treatment. I believe their care and dedication made my road to recovery a little less bumpy and successful. I am thankful and will be forever grateful for the care and treatment I received at Siteman Cancer Center. I decided to help “My Team” and be of service to cancer patients who are on the journey that I completed. I now volunteer in the Pod where I received my treatment. I not only survive, I thrive!

Patricia Burkhart

Three years ago I began my journey of treatment and recovery when I received my breast cancer diagnosis. After the initial shock wore off, I knew I needed a plan. Fortunately, I found my way to Siteman Cancer Center, where I now know firsthand what world-class care is all about.

At Siteman, each cancer patient is treated as if they are the only person with cancer. It is amazing how they make you feel, the depth of care and compassion and how your treatment is tailored specifically to you. Through chemotherapy, followed by surgery, today I am cancer free.

With an attitude of gratitude, I am committed to helping more people have a successful conclusion to their own cancer journey. I am personally committed to help advance cancer treatment by philanthropy and volunteer service. I am honored to co-chair Sing for Siteman for a second time this year. By supporting Sing for Siteman, your gift will make a difference in saving someone’s life.

Luca Gruszka

Statistics show one out of every 285 kids in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday. On December 12th, 2016, Luca became a statistic.

Historically, Luca suffered from cough variant asthma during the change in seasons. Fall 2016 wasn’t any different. He fell into his typical pattern of getting a cold and the cold settling in his lungs resulting in a cough and difficulty breathing. He visited the pediatrician twice in November to receive steroids and various inhalers. After his second visit, he got better, but on the night of December 11th, he took a turn for the worse and couldn’t catch his breath. His mom called the medical exchange and determined he was in the “red” zone and needed to get to an ER immediately. She took him to Missouri Baptist since it was affiliated with Children’s Hospital. After an x-ray, the doctors thought he had pneumonia and started him on high low oxygen. After calling Children’s Hospital, the doctors decided to send him by ambulance to the ER at Children’s Hospital. After a long night of an MRI, CT, and bloodwork, Luca’s parents were told Luca had lymphoma. A few hours later, Luca was transferred to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for further tests. After all of the test results came back, Luca’s diagnosis was changed to T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Luca’s blasts were in the left side of body-lung, kidneys, bones, and testicles.

The location of the mass on his lung and fluid in his lung and around his heart made his first surgery very scary. Luca couldn’t be placed under anesthesia. It was the scariest time for his parents, but the doctors at Siteman walked them through each step of surgery and answered questions with patience and compassion. Kids and families can’t fight cancer alone, and the doctors and nurses take this to heart and continue to support the entire family throughout the journey. For the last two years, the doctors and nurses have taken time to get to know Luca. They ask him about Legos, his robot, baseball, and hockey. Sometimes they even have a joke for him because Luca is known for his sense of humor. When in the hospital, Luca passes time by telling jokes and enjoys teasing the nurses and doctors.

When Luca was in the hospital, he virtually attended school via robot. Seeing the tremendous impact the robot made on Luca socially and emotionally family and friends helped Luca’s parents start the Luca Foundation. The Luca Foundation loans robots to patients fighting cancer so they can virtually attend school. Siteman kids saved Luca’s life, and now Siteman Kids is working with Luca’s family and the Luca Foundation to help other kids with cancer virtually attend school.

Edie Cornell-Smith

My name is Edie Cornell-Smith. I am a Pancreatic Cancer survivor. I would consider myself a quilter and bicyclist and I love to work in my Koi pond. I also love dancing and met my husband at a country/western saloon in California. We moved back to St. Louis fifteen years ago to spend time with my mother before we lost her at the young age of 92. I am glad we are still here!

My journey began in May 2012. I woke in the middle of the night with extreme stomach and back pain and chills. I thought I had food poisoning from what I had eaten at dinner that night, but after three days my husband was wise enough to say it wasn’t food poisoning, so we went to our doctor. She sent me for x-rays and CT where it was confirmed that I had a tumor. Since this was a Friday I had to wait through the weekend and I then was scheduled for a biopsy several weeks later when it was confirmed that I had pancreatic cancer. What a shock. It was even more devastating to my husband as he lost his father to pancreatic and liver cancer. My husband also had many skin cancers and cancer in his eye which had been dealt with at Siteman. Also his whole family had a lot of cancer and so we always thought he would be the one to get a major cancer. I on the other hand was very healthy, ate well and was very active. This doesn’t matter to cancer!

When first confirmed in June 2012, I was not a candidate for surgery as my tumor was wrapped around the portal vein and too close to the main artery. My oncologist, Dr. Andrea Wang-Gillam, put me on a specific chemo treatment. I started in July 2012 and had three months of chemo. An extra month was added so I could go to a quilt festival in Houston, TX. My husband thought I was nuts, but I did get approval from my doctor. I was so blessed and fortunate as my tumor shrunk 70% and I then qualified for the Whipple surgery. I am very grateful to my oncologist for choosing the correct chemo for me that was successful. I felt so comfortable and taken care of by all the doctors and staff at Siteman and throughout my stay in the hospital. I am so thankful for my surgeon Dr. Maria Doyle and her team for getting all the cancer out of me. I did have some follow up chemo and now to this day, I am cancer free. I can’t tell you how grateful and thankful I am for all that Siteman and the people involved did for me.

There are several ways I try to give back. One is riding for Pedal the Cause, which raises money for cancer research. I ride on the Pancreas Cancer Road Warriors team. I have been riding for the past six years.

The second thing I do is make pillowcases for chemo patients which I hand out at Siteman West County. I just want to pick up their day while they are having their treatments and share that I too had been in one of those chairs. I have also been doing this for six years and I enjoy sharing my story and hope that I can inspire a few people there.

I am so thankful we were in St. Louis when this all happened and that Siteman and all the doctors and staff were here for my journey.

Edith King

As a full-time working wife, mother and grandmother, my priorities were always centered on family and work. When I received the call in May 2011 informing me that I had breast cancer my world shattered. How could this be happening to me? There must be a mistake – this simply could not be.

After the initial shock and much prayer, I knew that God had a plan. His plan included a wonderful oncologist who introduced me to Siteman Cancer Center. My first visit there was scary. I didn’t know what to expect, I was frightened and unsure. What I discovered is that Siteman is like one big family. When I cried there was someone there to help me dry my tears. When I felt like quitting there was someone there to give me a hug. When I didn’t think I could endure one more day, there was someone there to reassure me that I could fight this and win.

Now I sing because I am happy, and I sing because I am cancer free. I sing the praises of Dr. Hall and the wonderful staff at Siteman Cancer Center. I am a Breast Cancer Survivor with music in my heart. Thank you for the opportunity to share my song and my journey.

photo info: Linda DeVaughn (Friend), Brian Franklin (Son), Edith King, Charles King Jr. (Husband)

Peyton Wuennenberg

Have you ever felt like life was great and all was well and then suddenly you just run full speed into a brick wall?

Shortly after Thanksgiving 2014, Peyton, a happy, healthy, energetic nine-year-old fourth grader, received the State of Washington as her assigned state to research for the Annual State Fair project. Actually, it is more than a project… it is a fixation for fourth graders at Ascension Catholic School. Sharing the excitement of this assignment, Peyton’s family of four booked a trip to Seattle for Spring Break.

In search of some family fun and to do some up-close and personal research, Peyton and her family flew to Seattle on March 17th. The next morning, while walking up Pike Place, Peyton complained a couple of times stating “Mom, my shoulder hurts” but mom blew off her complaints. The rest of the day more symptoms piled up--including loss of appetite, extreme fatigue, and a fever. Peyton tried her best to enjoy the rest of the Seattle trip despite these symptoms and upon returning to St. Louis endured several doctor visits and three sets of bloodwork (THREE times to deal with a needle in your arm is NOT a happy set of moments for a nine-year-old).

On April 15th, Peyton was admitted to a west St. Louis County hospital via the emergency room and spent several days there for testing. She was diagnosed with advanced pneumonia and leukemia. Upon hearing the word leukemia, Peyton’s mom requested an immediate transfer to St. Louis Children’s Hospital (a nationally ranked children’s hospital AND home of the Siteman Kids clinic).

Peyton arrived late Friday night via a quiet, anxiety-filled ambulance. The first inpatient nurse at Siteman Kids welcomed Peyton with tremendous bedside manner, and introduced her to fighting cancer firsthand because she too was undergoing chemotherapy--fighting her own cancer. Soon, Peyton’s official diagnosis was confirmed as being “pre B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia” and it came with a very lengthy treatment plan.

During the course of Peyton’s 28 months of treatment, Peyton endured: a port placement surgery, weekly Siteman Kids clinic visits, 17 spinal taps, five inpatient stays totaling 37 days, 48 port accesses and a port removal surgery. Friends and relatives constantly commented about how remarkable Peyton endured everything--always with a genuine smile while at the Siteman Kids clinic or in the surgery center. Peyton’s smile and attitude were directly linked to the stellar employees of Siteman Kids. The doctors, nurses and staff truly treat patients like family. St. Louis Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Specialty Care Center felt like a home away from home to Peyton.

Siteman Kids essentially saved Peyton’s life while sustaining her family’s sanity and medical faith. Countless children and their families are saved and soothed by the Siteman Kids staff daily. St. Louisans are extremely blessed to have Siteman Kids and Siteman Cancer Center in such close proximity.

Brendan Davis

My name is Brendan Davis, I am 29 years old and grew up in the Kirkwood area. I graduated from CBC and then from the University of Missouri. I enjoy all things outdoors, being active, golf, Mizzou football, and hanging with my dog, Chicharito.

In late 2017/ early 2018, I knew something was not right with my health. After meeting with a few different doctors and having no luck diagnosing the problem, I decided to insist on a colonoscopy as one of the last-ditch efforts. During the colonoscopy, it was discovered that I had colon cancer and after getting additional scans, I was diagnosed with stage IV, as it had spread to my liver.

The first couple of days after being diagnosed was completely chaotic, however, I was put in touch with some specialists from Siteman and instantly knew it was the place I needed to be. I was very fortunate to get set up with an incredible team, who has been supportive and provided me with a sense of confidence since day one. I have been going through treatment for about a year and know that all of Siteman’s resources and staff are part of the reason I’m still here and have the belief that I will be cancer free in the near future. There are few cancer hospitals that strive to really make a difference and be supportive in all aspects of a patient’s journey, and luckily we have one here in St. Louis in Siteman.

Elizabeth Mannen

It’s hard to think of a time when Siteman hasn’t been part of my life. While there are moments and sometimes even full days that this doesn’t seem fair, most days I know my good fortune and the richness of my blessings.

Elizabeth Mannen, left, at Sing for Siteman 2015

Elizabeth Mannen, left, at Sing for Siteman 2015

For me, cancer has given me much more than it’s taken. Cancer has given me clarity, focus, determination, candor, and a keen appreciation for the ironic. No matter how many times, five and counting, that cancer’s come knocking, I still find myself lamenting a “bad hair day” from time to time before I catch myself and remember what it’s like to have a “no hair day.”

Siteman is a fortress and Sing for Siteman one of its important castle keeps. The answer to cancer is research, Sing for Siteman raises dollars for the Discovery Fund that allows groundbreaking research. The connection for me to Siteman and Sing for Siteman is multifaceted. Music is a healing art that provokes great emotion whether I play it, sing along to it, dance to it, or simply listen to it. That Sing for Siteman raises money for the institution that has stood next to me through my battles with ovarian cancer, breast cancer and all that comes with it and after it, makes it an event worth singing about!

Richelle Weisbrod

When a routine check-up results in a hospital stay, urgent tests and new doctors, you fear that this is the day you will be in the wrong statistics category. I was holding hands tightly with my husband and our very pregnant only child when we learned the devastating news that my breast cancer had metastasized in my bones. I wept and asked if I would live to meet my first grandchild, due in just 8 weeks. My Siteman oncologist of course immediately built and implemented an aggressive medical protocol.

For me, treating my body wasn't enough. I needed much more support. And I got it. I was treated spiritually and emotionally through Siteman counseling services, individually and in classes; I was given the sense of control I needed by discussions of the implications of all of my test results; Siteman helped me be an active participant in my plan of care through mychart, nutritional and exercise services. Siteman gave me knowledge, empowerment, strength, and hope.

I was with my family for the birth of my grandson. I am an integral part of my family's daily lives. I am able to mentor my daughter as she begins this new incredible chapter in her life as a mother. I can play with my grandson. I am now, and hope to be for a very long time, my grandson's Gigi, thanks to Siteman's holistic approach, treating the entire person and their family, while fighting this terrible disease.