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New cancer scare strengthens family

Sarah Stadler (right) was diagnosed with stage II Hodgkins lymphoma in September. Stadler is Sally Gogerty's (left) second daughter to be diagnosed with a form of cancer. Photo by Jackie Grumish

Patrick and Sally Gogerty lost a daughter to leukemia in 1994. Now, 14 years later, their other daughter has been diagnosed with stage II Hodgkins lymphoma.

Fortunately, Stadler's odds are better than her sister's were.

"I do feel very fortunate in that aspect," said Sarah Stadler, 29. "The doctor told me if you had to pick a cancer, this is the one you'd pick."

That's because 90 percent of patients diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma make a full recovery.

Stadler's sister, Rachael Gogerty, died in 1994 after battling leukemia for a year.

"She had a bone marrow transplant that didn't take," Sally Gogerty said as her eyes filled with tears. "There's no way to describe how that felt - it was tragic."

Rachael's leukemia and Stadler's Hodgkins lymphoma unrelated, Sally Gogerty said.

"The doctors said we just have really bad luck," she said as she smiled at Stadler. "There's no genetic link."

That means chances are slim that any of the other Gogerty family members will be diagnosed with cancer.

Although Stadler's odds are better than her sister's, Sally Gogerty said there is no guarantee and the thought is always in the back of her mind.

Although she admits that she's scared, Stadler, a 1998 Somerset High School graduate, is more optimistic.

"I never for one day thought I wouldn't survive this," she said.

Stadler works as a nurse in Regions Hospital's Intensive Care Unit in St. Paul, Minn. Her work in the medical field might be part of the reason her odds are so good.

She was diagnosed about a month after discovering a swollen lymph node in her neck. As a nurse, she knew it was best to have it check by a doctor, she said.

The doctor recommended watching it for a month before having it biopsied. She told her mom about the cancer possibility, but kept it from her father.

"He's very emotional," Stadler said. "It would have kept him up at night."

When Stadler noticed a second swollen lymph node, she called her doctor and scheduled a biopsy. Later that day she was diagnosed with stage II Hodgkins lymphoma.

It was difficult to accept the diagnosis, she said.

"Part of it was scary because I knew what (Rachael) went through," Stadler said. "The other was going on the Internet and learning about it and the different treatments."

Now, Stadler is being treated with chemotherapy, which will be followed with radiation.

The chemotherapy has lived up to its reputation, Stadler said.

From nausea to headaches and body aches, the doctors are still trying to balance Stadler's medication to keep her comfortable during the chemotherapy process.

"I call them torture treatments," she said. "The first one was easy, the second was a little harder and this last one was pretty hard."

Next week's fourth treatment is going to be the worst yet, she said.

"It's because I know how sick they make me," she said.

After her fourth treatment, Stadler will have a PET scan, which is used to detect small deposits that do not show on CT scanning. If the results are favorable, she'll continue with four more treatments. If they're not favorable, she'll need even more.

To help pay for those medical treatments, a benefit dinner will be held Dec. 13 at K&J's Catering in St. Paul, Minn. The benefit starts at 3 p.m. and will include a silent auction and several drawings; all proceeds will go toward helping with medical bills.

Stadler said she's thankful that she has such a supportive network to help her through the illness.

Her husband, Paul, is her "rock," she said.

"He's very strong," she said. "He handles it better than I do."

The newlyweds planned to start a family soon, but instead must wait until Sarah has been cancer free for at least two years.

The ability to have children was a concern when discussing treatment options, she said. Some chemotherapy treatments harm the ovaries and lower the chances of being able to have kids.

Luckily, doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. suggested a chemo treatment that has a high success rate.

Studies have shown that 29 of 31 women were able to have kids after being treated.

A full recovery and the possibility of grandchildren has Gogerty smiling.

"I have a lot of hope this time around," she said.

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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