Krista Corner Havre Daily News email@example.com
About a year ago, one of the Havre Daily's families was struck with a catastrophic blow. Their doctor uttered the “C” word. And not just any type of cancer acute myelogenous leukemia a cancer that has a high reoccurrence rate. Cancer not only ravages a person's body, it also emotionally drains the victim and their loved ones. Treatment of the disease takes a toll on a family’s financial reserves. Sheila Otterstrom, 58, wife to Havre Daily News Circulation Manager Craig Otterstrom, was diagnosed with this leukemia in May 2007. In an effort to defray costs incurred from obtaining treatment and those still to come the Havre Daily News team is uniting with Thrivent Financial to raise funds. Thrivent and HDN are hosting a sloppy Joe dinner and auction benefit for the Otterstroms May 3 at the Eagles Club. Jennifer Thompson, benefit coordinator, said donations are being sought for silent auction items. Donors can bring items to the Havre Daily News office between 8 a. m. and 5:30 p.m. The Otterstroms medical expenses have accumulated to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the cost of a much-needed bone marrow transplant will total about $300,000. The fight for Sheila's life began with rather minor symptoms. She said, looking back, she recalls first experiencing extreme fatigue around the Christmas holiday in 2006. “She had experienced having to leave work because she was weak and almost fainted,” Craig said. “I had a physical scheduled (at the doctor's office),” Sheila said, adding she had thought she should wait to see a doctor until then, because “it was only a week away.” The regular doctor visit did not go well. “When they tested her blood, they asked if she had ever had a blood transfusion,” Craig said. “I said no,’” Sheila said. “They told her well, you’re going to have one now,’” Craig added. Two rounds of chemotherapy kept Sheila in the hospital for more than a month at a time. “Craig called me every night, and so did the rest of the them,” she said of her family’s support. “I am so blessed.” Craig said he continued to work while Sheila received treatment at Benefis Hospital in Great Falls. “I would call her during the evenings, and drive down on weekends,” he said. “I would basically stay in her room with her for the whole weekend and sleep in the chair.” The local family's battle continues. The Otterstroms and Sheila’s doctor are now seeking a bone marrow donor that is a suitable match. The national database listing millions of donors, offered just 10 potential matches and in the end none of them were suitable in Sheila's case. “It’s a waiting game,” Craig said. “The reason (patients) go through a transplant is because with this type of leukemia, the recovery rate isn’t very good.” He said patients who do not receive bone marrow transplants are given only a 20-percent chance of recovery for more than two years without another occurrence. With the transplant, the odds are increased to 50-percent. While they wait, Sheila said she tries to keep her spirits up with prayer, living day-to-day, moment-to-moment, and hanging on to a phrase her grandmother taught her. Her grandmother “was confined to a wheelchair in the rest home, diabetic and dying from pancreatic cancer,” Sheila said tearfully. “When I asked her how she was she replied, good enough.’ So I use that now. My number one job is to get well, and I am thankful I get up every morning and have one more day. Without a donor match soon, though, I might not be here.” Community members who would like to help, including being a possible bone marrow donor, donating items or volunteering for the auction, can call Jennifer Thompson during the day at 265-6795 or 945-2623 and Julie Groven at 265-5997 in the evenings. Those able to contribute financially are asked to make checks out to Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. Thompson said a generous community has begun donating a nice collection of auction items, but there is room for more. Items received include an original drawing by artist Margo Dolan, a portrait by Jeannette Williams, a quilted wall hanging, coolers, a live lamb with butchering, and numerous gift certificates. “I guess the biggest thing we are hoping for is community support,” Thompson said.