Cruisin organizer also works to overcome cancer
- Ellen Spitaleri
- Clackamas Review - News
Mark Weidkamp has a philosophy that he borrowed from the movie 'Shawshank Redemption.'
It is: 'Get busy living or get busy dying, but there is nothing in between.'
Weidkamp, the organizer of Milwaukie's Cruisin for Hope, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping those in crisis, said those very words to 2008 MHS graduate Jacob VanVoorhis last year, a young man who was fighting bone cancer.
This year those words apply to Weidkamp himself, who discovered in February that he had a golf-ball size mass on the right side of his brain.
'I returned from a trip to my hometown of Whitefish, Mont., and had some strange numbness in my left side that would come and go in 20-to-30-second intervals,' Weidkamp said.
He knew those were signs of a possible stroke, so he went straight to his doctor at Kaiser, who scheduled him for an immediate MRI. The test revealed that the tumor was the type that contained tissue that was fast-growing.
Surgery in March was successful in removing the tumor, and Weidkamp went back to work about a week later.
'The pathology report came back as a grade three astrocytoma glioma, which is a form of brain cancer, but not the most aggressive type, which tends to be fast and fatal,' he said, adding that his surgeon told him if he had waited a few more weeks he would likely have lost his eyesight and hearing, because the tumor was so fast-spreading.
Weidkamp has since undergone a regimen of chemo and radiation treatments, and faces more.
'I am done with radiation for now, and have a month off from chemo. But I will begin the regimen of chemotherapy follow-up the first of July for six more months. I will be able to have another MRI in a couple of months after the swollen tissue subsides from the radiation to determine the success of treatments,' he said.
In a further ironic twist, Cherish Wischnofske, the 2-year-old daughter of this year's Cruisin for Hope's focus family, was diagnosed with astrocytoma glioma brain cancer last November, and has gone through five surgeries, as well as chemo and radiation treatments.
'I cannot imagine how scary, traumatic and tough this ordeal would be for a baby like Cherish. And what's more, what a harrowing experience for her parents, just like it has been for my family and friends, who have been incredibly supportive.'
Weidkamp said his prognosis is good, and added, 'Another key driving force is that my attitude determines my altitude, and I choose to stay above ground; I have too much yet I want to accomplish and others to help. I should be back up to full steam by the time the Cruisin for Hope Milwaukie event is here; only four months past my diagnosis. I am one lucky guy.'
This year's Cruisin for Hope is June 13 and 14 in downtown Milwaukie. See accompanying story for details.