Woman diagnosed with terminal cancer finds hope in helping others

Woman diagnosed with terminal cancer finds hope in helping others

A woman with terminal cancer is not letting her prognosis define her. Instead she has used it to fuel her efforts to raise awareness and become an advocate for patients.

In 2014, two years after being diagnosed with terminal colon cancer, Cathy Wingert’s doctors told her to get her affairs in order.

When her family urged her to get a second opinion, she found a doctor at the University of Wisconsin Carbon Cancer Center where she found new hope.

“I left without any hope and I started with a brand-new hope. I thought in my mind that the disease itself has taken so much, that I have been given a chance to find the good in my cancer and do something about it,” Wingert said.

Her new physician, Dr. Dustin Deming, discussed research and alternative treatments to try that Wingert said changed her life. She began working with him to find ways to help others through awareness and research for the disease.

A new study from the American Cancer Society shows a sharp-rise in colorectal cancers, in people as young as in their 20s and 30s. Since screening is typically recommended for people over 50, it’s hard to catch in younger patients.

Researchers say the age to start screening people at average-risk, may need to be reconsidered.

“What we are seeing is that these patients are largely presenting at a more advance stage. They may have symptoms. They may see their primary care physicians many times before they are actually diagnosed with colon cancer,” Deming said.

It’s a reality Deming discovered himself when he was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of 31.

“I self-diagnosed with things other than cancer because why would a 30-year-old, especially a 30-year-old specializing in cancer research be diagnosed with cancer?” he said

Four years later, Deming has no signs of cancer. Deming said screening is key. For younger patients he hopes there will be new test to catch the disease at an early age and discover advance treatments.

Deming said there is a lack of funding for research, something Wingert is helping to change.

“It just really was important to me because I actually had this quality of life back, that I give back,” she said.

Wingert is using her life insurance policy and something called living benefits that allows a terminal patient to use the money while still alive. Instead of using the money for herself, she is using it to help fund cancer research. While she might not see the advances, she hopes it will save another life.

“You really leave this world with nothing and whatever you can do with making a difference I think is more important,” she said.

Wingert and her family initially donated $50,000 to Deming’s research lab from her living benefits. They continue to raise funds for colon cancer research through a number of different avenues.

UW Carbone Cancer Center is hosting its 16th annual Bowlin’ for Colons Sunday. Those who want to attend can attend at Ten Pin Alley in Fitchburg and Bowl-A-Vard lanes in Madison.