Healing Angels: My Story

Cancer Survivor was not a title I ever thought I’d possess by the age of 41. 

I however, approached it head-on, plowing through surgeries, treatments and doctors’ appointments.  Cancer was not going to beat me.

And although my cancer journey was a fairly positive one, I found that in a blink of an eye, I started to feel lost and quite honestly, somewhat depressed.  It was taking a toll on my day to day life and the interactions that I had with family and friends.

Active treatments are complete, now what?!?  No one is checking in on me.  What should I be doing?  How should I be feeling?  What if I don’t want this “new normal”?  Although I had a good support system, I somehow felt so alone.

After I finished chemo I found that people would constantly say the phrase, “So you’re done now, right?”.  Little did they know I had so many thoughts and feelings running through my head.  Stuff that kept me up at night.  Medical personnel were no longer monitoring my everyday actions.  It really became a struggle to go back to living my old life after this thing called cancer just disrupted everything I’d known and trusted.

And then a friend shared Angel on My Shoulder with me.  Little did I know this small action would give me my life back.  I was a little skeptical at first, not knowing how a short weekend with a bunch of strangers could possibly be helpful.  But after reading up on it a little more, I said, “What have I got to lose?”  I can do this… Go, share, listen and most importantly relax.  I owed it to myself, to my children and to my husband.   I needed to get back on track – and take control of my life again.

Not knowing what to expect, I found myself a little anxious about going.  But the anxiety quickly faded, as I was cheerfully greeted by Nancy and her awesome team of angel volunteers.  As other attendees started to arrive, it quickly became evident that The-Big-C really knows no boundaries.  The room was filled with survivors from all kinds of backgrounds, ages and types and stages of cancer – each of them telling of their own personal journey.  We shared meals, stories, resources, laughter and tears.  I realized that each of our paths was absolutely unique, but when stepping back, we all really experienced the same thoughts and feelings during treatment and recovery.

I gained so much that weekend.  I spent it with a bunch of strangers that I now think of as friends.  It gave me confidence.  It helped me to know that I’m not going crazy.  And that a “new reality” is something that can be embraced and entered into at my own pace.  Throw in some laughter, smiles, survivor-focused yoga, pampering, gifts and relaxation – It made an impact on my life that will not be forgotten.  Most importantly it helped me to close the door on cancer.

And even though I still have periodic appointments, I’ve given myself permission to move on.

If you or a loved one is hoping to figure out what to do during the next phase of cancer, consider checking out Healing Angels, a program by Angel on My Shoulder.

– Tracy Hengst.  Breast Cancer Survivor.  Diagnosed Oct 2014.

Camp Angel : July 2018

Camp Angel (ages 7-12) was held July 6–8, 2018. An enthusiastic group of forty-one incredible campers joined us for our summer Camp Angel experience.

This awesome group of young campers was warmly greeted by Campsite Co-Directors, Dick & Amy Lemke. A Tree House, Ark, Fort and Tower were the unique weekend lodging of our camper groups: Bunnies, Foxes, Bears and Wolves.

A one of a kind pirate trip adventure on the Strauss Family’s incredible Pirate Ship in Eagle River with Captains Steve and Steve-O Strauss at the helm started off our Saturday activity events. Our deepest thanks goes out to the Strauss’s for providing this always exciting expedition. Highlights of the many fun-filled activity offerings to follow included water craft rides, (always a favorite), swimming, boat rides and a variety of crafts. We all gathered at the end of the day for our traditional dance night with Angel’s own DJ, Dan Scafaro.

We proudly salute our outstanding team of counselors: Alex Graziano, Nikki Graziano, Mason Hageny, Hadley Krus, Tyrel Miller, Alayna Perry, Kenzie Pipes, Corey Ruplinger, Cali Sanborn, Sophie Spiess, Isak Walker and Walker Wendt.

A huge round of applause to our Angel volunteer family: Dick & Amy Lemke, Rob & Traci Graziano, Wendy Lawfer, Laura Roof, Jon & Michelle Perry, Tommy Geraty, Mike Herr, Dave Hughes, Sue Lemke, Dan & Kathleen Oberneder (Caroline, Emily & Lily) Jennifer Schoeneck-Peterson (Jeffrey & Marlie), Mark Peterson, Mary & Otto Schoeneck, Amy Skubal, Dustin & Kendal Wadinski and Dove & Shade. A grateful shout out goes to Nancy and Tom Schuller for their above and beyond help. A special acknowledgment to Camp Luther in Three Lakes and its fantastic staff for helping to make this a very memorable weekend.

Herman Family Generously Gives to Enrich Lives

Family time together and creating long lasting memories are the two constants when you talk to Dennis and Amy Herman, two wonderful caring members of the Angel family.

Residents of Eagle River, WI, they are the parents of four sons, Brandon, Andrew, Erich (Jessie), Nathan and one daughter, Danielle (Joel).  They have three grandchildren, Calvin, Jase and Tanner. Dennis owns and operates STF Construction in Eagle River and Amy works for the Ascension.

Volunteering and fundraising is one of their passions, and it has become a family affair through multiple golf sponsorships (always recruiting new participants) front line bidding at the silent and live auctions, donations, and the list goes on.

On how they first got involved with Angel on My Shoulder, Dennis explained:  “Approximately fifteen years ago, we were looking for a local foundation to make donations to from Cruising For A Cause”   In 2007 Dennis and his brother, Dave, created and organized a cancer focused fundraiser, raising over $60,000 through the years. Proceeds were presented with the help of Amy, along with other family members and AOMS was a recipient at the event.  Dennis explained that some of the greatest benefits  of becoming involved with Angel On My Shoulder are the involvement that they have with the kids, and how AOMS is so generous to people that are in need.

The Hermans’ understand the value of symbolic and meaningful details. Once again, the importance they give to family time together, while creating long lasting and meaningful memories showed a strong driving force guiding their projects, involvement and partnership with AOMS.  As good Wisconsinites, Wisconsin is in their hearts and they knew it was in the hearts of many that have benefited from their generosity.   For the past years they have donated six of their Green Bay Packer tickets for the pre-season home game to an AOMS child and/or family with cancer. They also provide each family member with a Packer’s jersey of their favorite player.   Dennis explained:   “Amy and I enjoy sharing this with these families, so that they can enjoy some time together and to make memories. We have been donating the tickets for a few years now and try to provide the family with jerseys for the game, AOMS has been so good at providing Gas cards and motel rooms for the families to make this a memorable experience, we love getting the cards, pictures from the families after they have attended the games. We are always looking for more things to do to make this a memorable experience for the entire family.”

Each year, the Herman’s also generously and graciously provide the funding for holiday dinners which greatly benefits two AOMS cancer families on very difficult cancer journeys. Dennis’s mom, Roberta, has also become part of this effort.

This year Dennis and Amy embarked on yet another incredible venture for our winter Camp Hozhoni families. They donated, prepared and served an amazing Friday night dinner (cookout around a bonfire) for these cancer families. And they plan on doing just that again next year.   Who came up with the idea of the “bondfire” dinners for families? we asked. “Amy and I thought it might be a good idea as a different way to spend time together”.

Dennis and Amy are both cancer warriors and survivors. We asked, what words of encouragement they would like to send to those battling cancer presently. “Amy and I have both been down this road and all that we can say is to keep positive, positive attitude is the major part of this battle, don’t ever give up and to keep fighting, more and more people are winning this battle every year and one day there will be a cure.”

We, at Angel On My Shoulder, would like to thank the Herman family for the years of dedication to our shared mission and for being wonderful caring members of the Angel family.