Judy Klotz: "You Just Keep Living"
Giving has always been an important part of Judy and Rick Klotz’s lives. For years, they both have helped those in need by volunteering at the Norwalk Area Food Bank, unloading trucks and helping patrons select and bag groceries to feed their hungry families.
In April of 2013, Judy and Rick had just returned home from giving their time to their family. They had been in Nashville, babysitting their grandson for the weekend. They had a trip to Germany booked in the coming weeks to see family living there, and Judy finally decided to get her sore throat checked by her physician after months of annoying pain.
“My doctor told me to open my mouth and say, ‘Ahh’,” Judy recalled. “When I did, he physically backed away from me. He asked me when I had last looked at my throat.”
Like most people, Judy couldn’t answer that question. Not surprisingly, her physician sent her to a specialist. The couple cancelled their trip to Germany. The family visit would have to wait.
Just a few days and a biopsy later, the specialist delivered Judy and Rick some very grave news: she had Stage IV soft palate cancer and needed treatment right away.
“Initially, we saw a wonderful physician at University Hospitals in Cleveland. He gave me the option of being treated at one of their Cleveland facilities or in Sandusky at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center at Firelands Regional Medical Center. Choosing to be treated in Sandusky was the very best decision I could’ve made,” Judy said.
The Klotz’s are adamant about the outstanding care they received- from the radiation staff that made treatments inside of a confining mask just a little bit easier, to infusion nurses who wouldn’t give up on chemo treatments, to the physicians who rallied behind her, Judy beams when she talks about the people who cared for her that summer.
But, they were equally touched by the resources made available to them at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center at Firelands Regional Medical Center.
“We can’t say enough about the people here at (Firelands),” Rick said. “When Judy was first diagnosed we really feared the unknown medical costs we would incur. We both had worked our entire lives and then we retired, and we were faced with a cancer diagnosis.”
Judy and Rick both had health insurance through Medicare, but no prescription insurance coverage; they knew those costs would be financially devastating and they needed help.
“We met with Angie (McGrady, Patient Navigator at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center at Firelands Regional Medical Center) and she told us we could focus on beating the cancer because of donors to the Cancer Program Fund,” Judy said. “It was such a tremendous relief to have a fund available to help us with that. I truly wouldn’t have been able to go through treatment without that help.”
Now, two years later, Judy and Rick are back to their normal lives: visiting their grandson and traveling. One year after her diagnosis cancelled their trip to visit family in Germany, the Klotz’s made the journey they had put on hold.
“This experience truly gave us a different perspective on life,” Rick said. “We were used to being the ones to help others. When we needed help, others were there for us. Now it’s our turn to give back again and to live life to the fullest.”
For Judy and Rick, the help they received from The Foundation for Firelands Cancer Program Fund is more than just medication - for them, it means a new lease on life.
“How do you say “thank you” to the people who saved your life?” Judy said as she squeezed her husband's hand through tears.
Their answer: you just keep living.