Woman needed ‘Hope’ to defeat cancer
Carly Hoefler is a normal five-year-old girl. She likes giraffes (stuffed or real), enjoys doing cartwheels in the front yard with her sister and smiles an ear-to-ear grin when someone wants to take her picture.
On this day she's seated near her mother, Wendy Hoefler of Shawnee, when the two share a light moment. Hoefler leans in and asks her daughter a curious question:
"You remember when mama was sick and you were in her tummy?"she asks.
Carly nods, leans her head into her mother and smiles that familiar toothy grin, like she's saying to her mom, 'gosh, we have to tell it again.' That's when it becomes apparent there's nothing average about this little girl and that it's impossible to tell the story of one without telling that of the other.
Hoefler, a participant in the upcoming Relay for Life this weekend at Mill Valley High School, wasn't always so certain she and her middle child would enjoy such happy times.
Six years ago, in 1998, doctors iagnosed Wendy Hoefler with stomach cancer. Two days later, they told her she was pregnant.
"It was depressing because I already had a two-year-old at home and I couldn't imagine leaving her," she said.
Luckily, fear never met reality. Doctors adjusted Hoefler's treatments to both protect her baby and battle the cancer. She didn't need chemotherapy or radiation treatments and when she needed things like an X-ray, doctors shielded the fetus.
Carly came into this world three-and-a-half weeks premature, but otherwise healthy, on Dec. 27, 1998. Since then, the Hoefler family has added one more to their number. Shelton, a baby boy, is three months old.
On Friday evening, Hoefler will participate in her third Shawnee-Lenexa Relay for Life, an annual fund-raising benefit sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The event raises money for cancer research and programs.
Hoefler sits on the committee organizing the event. She said her contributions to the Relay for Life are far from extraordinary but that the event is "very important to me," and other cancer survivors.
Hoefler and her family still feel some parallel effects from the cancer. The endless treatments and doctor's visits caused her to miss a lot of work and helped drain the family financially. They currently live with her husband's parents near St. Joseph's Elementary School.
However, times are getting better, she said. She's gone back to work, there have been no signs of the cancer returning and her husband and children are all healthy.
This weekend, Hoefler said she would share her story with whoever is interested. She'll also share one of the key components in helping overcome the disease, an aspect she found so important she gave it to Carly as a middle name.