In Memory & Honor

Ann's Hope In Honor & Memory

A part of Ann’s Hope Foundation’s mission is to remember and honor those who have battled melanoma.

If you would like to have your loved one added to our memory page or to honor a survivor, please contact us at 262.305.1370 or send us mail at: Ann’s Hope Foundation
P.O. Box 376
Hartland WI 53029.

2013 Honorary Survivor

Barbara Zukaukas

Where do I begin…my story isn’t that much different than others with this cancer.  I noticed a mole that changed slightly on my foot in the fall of 2011. I went to the dermatologist and she removed the mole at my first appointment in October.  She called four days later with results.  It was hard to hear I had melanoma and it was a late stage already.  I was scheduled for surgery two weeks later in November.

The surgeon removed a fairly large section around the mole and also did an all layer skin graft.  At this first surgery they also removed my sentinel lymph node. A week later I found out the lymph node was full of cancer. The next surgery, a week later, removed the majority of the lymph nodes in my leg. I started interferon in February 2012 and the side effects of this drug are not enjoyable by any means. I don’t know if I can stay on it for the five years they suggest, but I am trying to stay on it as long as I can. I have had three clean scans so far. I have a scan every three months along with a visit to the dermatologist as often. I’m very hopeful the cancer will not return.

I’m 52, with blonde hair and fair skin. I used tanning beds in my 20s and had several sunburns over the years.  I’m told that is all it takes.  My goal now is to spread the word about melanoma and encourage everyone to have their moles checked. It is so important to catch melanoma early. I feel very blessed the cancer has not returned and couldn’t have made it through the last year without my boys (23 and 21), friends and family.  One of my friends set up a Caringbridge site for me and it was a huge help keeping everyone updated and encouraging for me to read their posts of inspiration and love.

So far, my story continues and I pray I am one of the lucky ones that can enjoy a long, happy cancer-free life. However, I do know the cancer can come back at any time. Please check your moles and encourage everyone you know to do the same.

2013 Memorials

Thomas W. Keel, Jr. • 12/12/1982-2/23/2012

Tom had lived an amazing life even though it was rather short. Tom was a great son and friend; he was the kind of person that stands by you when you need somebody to be there. All of the times when you thought you were there for him, it was he that was there for you.

What is it that we remember when we think of Tom? I think everyone who knew agrees that it was his sense of humor. He was the kind of person that would make everyone laugh so hard that they’d end up crying. Who could forget about his “You might be a redneck if…” jokes? He would make everyone laugh when they were really sad. That’s the trademark of Tom. He always wanted to make people happy. He knew how to be serious at times and he also knew when to joke around. He always found time to be with his friends. He was a very loyal and kind friend. We should all be thankful that we were given the chance to have known a man named Tom.

Tom was too young — only 29 —  when he lost his courageous battle after two short years to melanoma. Tom endured weekly treatments, sometimes several times each week, always more concerned about the nurses and doctors than he was for himself. He did not want anyone else to be inconvenienced just because of him.

Tom indeed lived his life wonderfully. Tom was well-loved and had done so many things for so many people.
Everyone who knew Tom will forever be grateful for spending so many years of their lives with a friend like him. All the memories shared with him will forever be cherished and remembered. Tom will forever be missed but I know in the right time, we will all meet Tom again and he’ll make us laugh in tears again.

I know Tom left lots of things undone and others that he never had a chance to start. Probably just his way of reminding us to cherish the day, each other and to do what we may not have a chance to do. Let’s just be thankful for all the special moments that Tom has left us. And with that, I hope that Tom will continue to live on within our hearts and minds.

“You grew into the man you are meant to be.”

2013 Memorials

Rachael Streich • January 20, 1986 – January 24, 2012

Rachael was well-blessed with intelligence and was Montello High School’s 2004 valedictorian.  She developed new college friendships at Stevens Point, WI, majoring in music education.  One very special relationship started with her question to fellow student, Truman, in one particular history class: “Why do you always look so grumpy?” His response was, “I hate history.”  He too majored in instrumental music.  They dated and she graduated from college in 2009, and they had hoped for the “happy ever after” Cinderella ending.

The “beast” of melanoma was discovered in November 2004, but it wasn’t until 2010 that bloodstream melanoma reared its ugly head in the form of melanoma in the lung. Two lung surgeries, confirmed liver biopsy, brain surgery and stereotactic radio surgery, a partial clinical study and ipilumumab treatment took place between August 2010 and December 23, 2011.

However, January 2, 2012 arrived as did Rachael’s words: “Mom, I could die this year.”  I responded with “Yes, honey, I know that.  Let’s just hope ipilumumab does its stuff so that doesn’t happen for about 80 years or so.”  She turned the saddest eyes on me that I have ever seen.  We both knew that that wasn’t going to happen.

Rachael’s 26th birthday: On Friday, January 20, 2012, it was revealed that Rachael’s blurry vision was caused from two more brain tumors discovered during an emergency CT scan done at the Stevens Point hospital.  Sunday, January 22, 2012: successful brain surgery at UW.  Rachael’s health deteriorated rapidly with a slow heart rate, her headache was still severe; her speech became irrational and physically she started thrashing around.  Monday, January 23, 2012: At 2:30 a.m. she was finally sleeping peacefully.  At 3:20 a.m. she got a glimpse of heaven and God and God just took her breath away — literally.  She never came back to us again.  Tuesday morning, January 24th, 2012: The final test was done to determine if any oxygen was getting to the brain to warrant keeping her on life support.  The so-swollen brain had no oxygen and she was declared medically brain dead. Our Rachael was spared the awful lingering melanoma death and for that, we are very grateful.

Rachael was just one of the unlucky ones in having dealt with melanoma. Family had not had any dealings with melanoma in the past. However, since Rachael’s illness, her sister, Michelle, had a Stage I melanoma site removed on her arm with other benign spots removed.  Younger sister, Mara, was also checked and two displasic spots were removed.  Both girls will be monitored annually.  Neither of the girls would have even thought to be checked out by a dermatologist if not for Rachael’s experiences.

God Bless! Dennis & Connie Streich, Truman Clark – Rachael’s “My Person,” Curt, Michelle, Isabelle & Sadie Renee Nummerdor, Mara Streich & Joel Phelps, and sadly missed by man’s best canine friend:  Missy

Written by Mom (Connie Streich)

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