Volume 126, Number
Esmond native battles breast cancer; urges check-ups
Editor’s note: The following article, which appeared in the October 24, 2009 issue of The Herald-Press at Harvey concerns Rosalie Axtman. She is the daughter of Walter and Ann Streifel of Harvey, formerly of Esmond. She is a 1980 graduate of Esmond High School.
BY HEATHER KNODEL MELSON
Reprinted from The Herald-Press, Harvey
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and with everything Rosalie Axtman is experiencing, one can’t get any more aware than she is right now. Axtman is turning her breast cancer diagnosis into a plea for women to take breast cancer screening seriously.
"It can happen to you, regardless of who you are, whether you have risk factors or not," Axtman said. "I was not high risk. Cancer does not discriminate. It doesn’t care if you have time in your life or the ability to deal with it. It changes your life in an instant. Yet, with all we know, all we have been told time after time, many women still put off taking the steps we have been taught. Why? Because we think it happens to other people? I’m not sure, but I am here to tell you, and if necessary, scare you into making the appointment!"
Axtman’s journey with breast cancer started just recently. In early August, Axtman, 47, found a lump in her right breast as she was getting ready to shower. "I didn’t find it by doing a self check, which I am ashamed to admit that I may have done but once a year, and it wasn’t very thorough either," she said. "I know finding this lump came as Divine Intervention. As I passed the mirror to the shower, out of the corner of my eye I saw a blue circle on my breast. I actually did a double take and nearly passed it off. But after pressing on it, I went to lie on the bed and the lump became more prominent."
Axtman immediately called to reschedule the mammogram appointment she had canceled in December. "I was too busy and I told myself I would go in January. I made myself a sticky note, but the note got moved from month to month as I was always ‘busy,’ " she said.
After she had her mammogram, a radiologist requested she have an ultrasound as well. When the radiologist returned to the room, he told her he wanted her back for a biopsy. Axtman said that while she felt a little rattled, she tried to convince herself it would all be fine. During the biopsy a week later, she was told there were actually two lumps. She said she felt a bit more concerned with this news, but she still tried to believe it was nothing to worry about.
"The following week, my husband, Randy and 17-year-old daughter Natalie went with me to see the doctor. Let me tell you, when the doctor said, ‘I am sorry, but it’s cancer,’ some hormone must be released from your brain that shoots through your body in a millisecond. You are numb. Nothing can prepare you for those words and life as you know it is changed. Forget the immediate plans you were making, as you are now first on the list of priorities. All thoughts are now focused on cancer and what is next. It can become a whirlwind of confusion, as it did for me. Questions begin to plague your mind: What happens next? How long has it been there? Has it traveled? What stage is it? and more questions that leave you sleepless and consume your every thought. Who do you see and where to go is your first decision to make and you feel that has to be immediate," Axtman advised.
Axtman chose the oncologist who treated her mother earlier this year for lung cancer. She struggled in finding a surgeon, but she did her research through other people and made her decision based on gut feelings and prayer. "Once these decisions were made, I began to feel some peace."
Just a month after seeing the blue circle on her breast and discovering the lump, Axtman met with her surgeon. Her surgery was scheduled for September 17. "I had 16 days to absorb and sort through things. The kind of cancer I had was rare, like three percent of all breast cancers. It was a slow-growing cancer, so I didn’t have to rush to surgery," she said. "I’m thankful for that time to deal with this and I tried to keep a sense of humor through it all."
Axtman threw a going-away party for "the girls," as she called them, since she had decided to have both breasts removed. Twenty-seven women came to the backyard party to celebrate their friendship.
Axtman made pink ribbons for each woman to remind them to get scheduled for a mammogram, if they hadn’t already. "As the date of my surgery neared, my sense of humor was slipping. Fear and mourning the loss of my breasts set in. I went through many phases in the course of a month and the last phase prior to surgery was the most difficult. The removal of one’s body parts is difficult to think about. Breasts do not define a woman, but they are part of you and your sense of femininity," she said.
Her surgery went well, but her recovery has been slow. While she’s healing fine, she has suffered a lot of intense pain, more than her doctors believe to be usual. "Maybe that fuels my fire to tell my story and encourage you to get a mammogram, see a doctor for an exam and learn to do self breast exams every month. If I am your reminder when you see me, I have no problem with that. I will be one of several women in this community who have gone through this. Just knowing them and what each has endured will serve as a reminder that it can happen to you," she said. "For the men, you have a woman in your life you love, whether it be your wife, mother, sister, daughter, grandmother or niece. There is someone for you to remind how much you love them and encourage them to get screened."
Axtman said she took pride in the fact that she did annual mammograms, but she didn’t do self exams. "I used to have excuses for not doing them, such as knowing my breasts were dense and fibrous, which made them feel a bit lumpy. I said I didn’t know the difference. I heard time and time again the same lousy excuse from other women. I’ve learned you can tell the difference! I am amazed at how many women I have talked to who have admitted they have never had a mammogram, or have let many years slip by since their last one.
"Don’t be afraid of the horror stories of how mammograms hurt. Don’t talk to me about pain! I would stand all day with a breast compressed, if it meant not having to go through what I am going through now!" she said. "There are no excuses anymore for anyone. None!"
Axtman’s next step in her breast cancer treatment is chemotherapy, which is scheduled for October 27. "I dread this day more than I can tell you. I will be honest: I am scared of what chemotherapy can do to a person. But I find inspiration in the women who have gone before me and I know I will be okay. I find inspiration in my mom as well, as she has taken her cancer like a trooper and is doing well.
"It’s only human to be scared. It’s my faith and the countless people praying for me that carries me through. I have felt the power of prayer many times since this journey began, and I can’t say thank you enough to those who have held me in prayer. It is what has sustained me, especially when I couldn’t find the words to pray. I have learned what it is like to ‘Be still and know I am God.’ "
But what about the blue circle? "It never appeared again. I looked for it every morning and evening and none of the three physicians had an answer for what it could have been. They all agreed with me when I told them it was God telling me because I wasn’t paying attention.
"Don’t wait for God to show you! We don’t always listen to Him, but I got it loud and clear. Schedule your appointment if you haven’t had a recent mammogram and a physician’s examination," Axtman said. "I will be reminding you!"
Before losing her hair to cancer, Esmond native Rosalie (Streifel) Axtman, front, decided to donate it to Locks of Love. Locks of Love uses donated hair to fashion wigs for children who have lost their hair to illness. "It brings me comfort, knowing someone can benefit from my loss. I love my new haircut!" Hairstylist Jen Vollmer is also pictured. (Herald-Press photo)
Large crowd at festival
A fall festival open house was held Friday, Oct. 30 at the North Prairie Signature warehouse/retail store north of Leeds. Over 300 people from the surrounding area, as well as hunters from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and South Dakota, enjoyed a bison meal and product samples. Drawings for door prizes were also held throughout the evening. Winners of the first kids’ drawing are shown with the North Prairie Signature staff. In the front, left to right, are Brandi Tuenge of Warwick and Brenna Bulman of Cando. Behind the girls, left to right, are Jan Engstrom, Sue Sexhus and Marge Johnson.
Visit pumpkin patch
Leeds Elementary School students recently visited the pumpkin patch at the Jim and Judy Engstrom farm. While there the students took turns going through the corn maze and tried to figure out what the maze spelled. After the corn maze students picked out a pumpkin and were given treats. Michael Heck, Cameron O’Brien and Tyler Blegen find their pumpkins.
Jessica Sexton carries the pumpkin she picked.
Katelyn Nelsen and Taylor Bisbee in the corn maze.
Ryan Wangler tries to carry his big pumpkin.
Leeds music students
Leeds Elementary School music students of the first quarter include, left to right, front row, John Fischer, Desidy Schwanke and Madi Dulmage. Back row: Arnikka Thompson, Keaton Nelsen, Kaylee Lybeck and Nikara Nelsen.
Leeds Elementary School band students of the month are Tyler Blegen, left, and Josh Bowman.
Students, staff helped by grants at Warwick
In only the first nine weeks of the school year, the Warwick School has had an extremely ambitious staff development program underway. Members of the staff attended workshops before school started. Elementary and junior high staff attended workshops held in Minnewaukan in August. Staff for grades 3-12 attended PLATO (online curriculum) training in August on the Warwick Campus.
In addition to those, numerous training sessions have been held in conjunction with two grants received.
The Library Literacy Grant sponsored trainings for PreK-12 staff on operating the Activboards that have now been installed in all the classrooms, literacy for the different levels and computer programs.
The PEP (Physical Education Program) grant also held numerous trainings on the new fitness center, team building, sportswall training and other related areas.
Most staff members attended the trainings and have passed on their knowledge to the students.
At the Team Building workshop (part of the PEP grant) held at the Warwick school recently, staff participated in the Norwegian Skis activity lead by Wayne Hooey. Left to right are Hooey, Dori Walter, Karlene Warner, Cherry Heinz (workshop creator and facilitator) and Tom Hill. Watching in the background, left to right, are Beth Neuman, Wendy Gourneau, Frannie Greyhorn and Marlo Byberg.
The fitness center at the Warwick School is filled to capacity with the latest state-of-the-art equipment. Physical education staff, left to right, posing before training, are Holly Retzlaff (site PEP grant coordinator), Trevor Yetterboe and Marlo Byberg. The center is one of the products of the Physical Education Program grant awarded to the Warwick School.
Warwick third grader John Tollefson is seen winding up for a good swing at the sportwall during a training/activity period held in the gym by the equipment trainer and Warwick’s physical education staff. Five sportwalls were installed.
Suicide prevention team has school event
The Minnewaukan Suicide Prevention Team hosted a Halloween Party October 28 with the theme, "Life Is Too Sweet." The party featured a dance contest in which Alex Beecroft and Kylee Rallo tore up the floor. Jason Worthey won the Guitar Hero contest and Shaquille DuBois won the lightning contest. Perry Mudgett as a scary clown, Dallas Anderson with the look of death and Kylee Rallo as a pregnant Hannah Montana were winners in the costume contests. The finale consisted of "Pies for Prevention" in which several teachers took a pie in the face.
The Minnewaukan Suicide Prevention Team is motivated to strengthen the connection between students, as well as students and staff, in an effort to open the lines of communication and support. The team will continue to be active in providing information about how peers can become aware of symptoms of depression and request help. The team is planning to put on a skit for the upper elementary students, a possible bowling tourney this winter and a second annual kickball tourney in the spring.
Preparing to throw pies are, left to right, Jason Worthey, Ivy Littlewind, Demrae Ami, Perry Mudgett, Dallas Anderson, Brittney Reyes, Shaquille DuBois, Cody Greywater, Brennen Thompson, Rainy Hill and Allissia Hernandez.
Mr. Risovi and Mr. Svir took pies in the face to prove that "Life Is Too Sweet."
The Minnewaukan Second Grade Class posed in Halloween costumes on Friday, Oct. 30. Left to right, back row, are Carrie Arness, Robyn Martin, Dakota Whiteshield, Taylah Thumb, Jerry Lenoir, Jenna Makesgood, Daesha Lovejoy, Julie Ann Santos, Emilee Driver, Jayson Vivier and Traci Hansen. Front row: Jamie Alberts, Shelby Beecroft, Shaylynn DeMarrias, Jaymison Green, Roger Yankton, Shannon Beecroft and Kiara Olson.
Children tour bakery
A baker’s dozen Maddock Head Start children toured The Bread Box bakery in Maddock on October 13. Stacy Bergrud, owner and baker, gave children a hands-on experience of what a baker does. The children were impressed with the large warming oven, slicer, mixer, oven, dough hooks and table. They enjoyed a sweet roll treat they picked out from the display case. Later in the classroom, they re-created their own bakery with clay rolls frosted with a shaving cream/glue frosting. Though the children’s creations weren’t edible, they looked pretty appetizing. Left to right in the back row are Stacy Bergrud owner, Macyn Olson, Aiden Huffman, Anastasia Wilks, Grant Hagen, Lane Benson, Logan Maddock, McKenzie Melaas and Rakel Follman. Children in the front row are Shawn Foss, Paige Jones, Kaylee Knatterud, Wyatt Hakanson and Andrew Brow. Adults in the background are Rae Ann Lynne, Susan Gutormson, Julie Tandeski and Kristina Trautman.
Maddock music students named to NW Festival choirs
Nine students from Maddock High School have been selected to be members of this year’s Northwest Festival of Music choirs in Minot. Selected as members of the Nova mixed choir are freshmen students Chelsey Weigler, daughter of Richard and Rhonda Rosendahl and Eric Broten, son of Don Vetsch and Melissa Hoffer. Selected as members of the Women’s Choir are Katie Rice, a freshman, daughter of John and Barb Rice, Shelby Brandvold, an eighth grader, daughter of Allen and Becky Brandvold, Breana Buehler, a sophomore, daughter of Todd and Nadley Buehler and Janna Rice, a junior, daughter of John and Barb Rice. Selected as members of the older mixed choir are Karl Kenner, a sophomore, son of Dave and Karen Kenner, Preston Gilderhus, a junior, son of Eddie Gilderhus and Renee Gilderhus and John Sears, a senior, son of Jerry and Marianne Sears. The students were selected by a recorded audition and will take part in the festival which takes place on the Minot State University campus on Friday, Nov. 6 and Saturday, Nov. 7. A concert will be presented in the Ann Nicole Nelson Auditorium on Saturday evening at 7 p.m.
Left to right, front row, are Eric Broten, Breana Buehler, Katie Rice, Shelby Brandvold and Janna Rice. Back row: Karl Kenner, Preston Gilderhus, Chelsey Weigler and John Sears.