Introducing EOT Relay For Life's honorary co-chairs
These two women, Lola Bachmann and Courtney Frohling, are the honorary co-chairs of this year's relay.
As Perham looks ahead to the 2021 Relay For Life of East Otter Tail on Friday, July 9, two East Otter Tail County cancer survivors are preparing to share their cancer stories and the wisdom gained from these experiences. These two women, Lola Bachmann and Courtney Frohling, are the honorary co-chairs of this year's relay.
Their stories embody various parts of the 2021 East Otter Tail Relay theme: “Soaring Higher, Meeting Challenges, Bringing Hope.”
"I am one of the lucky ones," Lola Bachmann said. She believes this because she never felt sick, and the surgery to remove her cancer was all that was needed for treatment. She also believes she was lucky because her commitment to getting her yearly physical and screenings resulted in finding her cancer early, which meant it could be treated quickly and easily.
Lola’s cancer journey began in December 2012, when her routine yearly pap smear came back abnormal. She was told, “It’s not cancer, but there’s something there.” Though, it actually was cancer, cervical cancer.
But, Lola said, “I wasn’t worried. I had faith it would turn out well.” Lola had a hysterectomy in February 2013, and she was told she would not need any further treatment. Lola had no problems with recovery, and she returned to work earlier than expected. Her check-ups have continued to reveal no return of the cancer. Lola said, “I’ve been lucky. I never felt sick, ever .”
Part of the “bringing hope” that Lola experienced and wishes to share with others comes from the support of her family and her strong faith, both of which were key to her ability to feel hopeful and strong during her cancer experience. “Faith gets you through,” she said.
Just as Lola embodies the “bringing hope” part of the relay’s 2021 theme, Courtney Frohling exemplifies “meeting challenges.” Courtney, 17, remains positive as she navigates through surgeries and treatments to fight her stage four metastatic melanoma. “I don’t dwell on it,” she said.
Courtney’s cancer journey began in June 2019, when she was diagnosed with stage two melanoma, after she had a random mole biopsy. One mole was removed, then she had surgery to remove skin in a wider area and a biopsy of one lymph node to confirm that the cancer hadn’t spread. All results came back negative, as was the case with skin checks done every three months after. This experience was kept in Courtney's family.
Though, Courtney’s second cancer experience has been anything but private, and she is grateful for the widespread community support she’s had through it. That experience began on Feb. 12, 2021, when Courtney had a seizure. When she was in the emergency room, a CT scan revealed several tumors in her brain. The doctors looked at her earlier melanoma diagnosis and concluded that cause of her tumors was melanoma.
“If it weren’t for the seizure, we would never have known about (the tumors).” Courtney said.
Next came more scans in Fargo, which revealed spots in the spleen, lungs, one hip bone, the brain and in two vertebrae. The doctors believe this cancer is fast-growing, and the cancer in all those places likely developed within a month. They then removed the large tumor from the brain surgically and treated the other tumors in the brain with radiation.
Courtney then started two immunotherapy drugs to treat the cancer in the rest of her body. It kept the cancer from growing as fast as it was. Though, some new spots had developed on her brain, lungs and rib. They then switched her to chemotherapy drugs which do targeted therapy and attack the receptors. Her recent brain scans show there is improvement with the new therapy, but doctors are unsure if the results are due to the radiation or the new therapy. Courtney hasn’t had the other areas scanned yet to see if the new chemo is working.
“I feel good,” said Courtney. “I hesitate to say that, because every time I think I’m feeling pretty good, I end up going to the hospital.”
When asked about what has been helpful during her cancer journey, Courtney said, “Family. My family is my biggest support… I have really good doctors, especially Dr. Witt and Dr. Glawe here and Dr. Milanovich and the Roger Maris Pediatric Oncology team… the support of the local community… church people and Pastor Ratcliffe… basically everyone.” Courtney also mentioned that Jeff Morris began organizing fundraisers while she was still at the hospital, and her co-workers at The Nest were supportive.
To hear more from Lola and Courtney, join the Relay For Life of East Otter Tail on Friday, July 9, at the Perham High School track. They will be leading the survivors lap at the 7 p.m. opening ceremony and will speak at the 9:15 p.m. luminaria ceremony.