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Never Lose Hope

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Rick Wolff was born for the outdoors. An avid cyclist and high school state champion runner, he later made a career in the woods as a DNR game warden. Physical fitness and maintaining a healthy lifestyle were always important to the 59-year-old Grafton resident. So it came as a complete shock when in October 2011 he was diagnosed with stage III lung cancer.
“My initial reaction was just complete shock, utter disbelief. It felt like I’d been punched in the gut,” Rick says. “I thought, ‘How could that possibly be?’ I’ve been healthy my entire life. I never smoked. I kept saying, ‘Where could this have come from?’”

Rick had been experiencing kidney stones and went to the doctor for a routine abdominal X-ray. By the grace of God, the X-ray was positioned a little high and caught a bit of Rick’s left lung — revealing a mass. A subsequent biopsy came back positive for cancer.

Over the next several months, Rick underwent chemotherapy, radiation and doctors even removed part of his left lung — a rare trifecta of cancer treatment. Through it all, though, guided by his unwavering faith and the supportive, nurturing Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s Polly and Bill Van Dyke Cancer Center staff — particularly Dr. Erika SwansonDr. Ranveer Nand and Dr. Daryl Pearlstein — Rick never lost hope.

In fact, in February Rick saw a poster for the upcoming Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival Mountain Bike Race in northern Wisconsin. Though he was still in the middle of his treatments and the race wasn’t till September (and he had never actually competed in a mountain bike race before), Rick told his doctors he intended to compete in it.

None of his doctors questioned Rick’s commitment or tried to dissuade him from what some might consider an unrealistic goal. They simply got to work to make it a reality. Dr. Pearlstein, in fact, took the race poster and hung it on his office wall, where it served as a concrete vision for Rick’s survivorship and as a daily reminder of his hope, courage and spirit.

To Rick, this  personalized and comprehensive approach to health care — one that treats not just the ailment, but the mind, body and spirit — is gospel.

“The care I received,” Rick says, “touched me in my soul.”

As for that bike race that was the guiding light of Rick's recovery, on September 15, 2012 Rick competed in the grueling 16-mile course. And just like in his fight against cancer, he was victorious.



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