A Race to Remember

Published: Oct. 8, 2017

The love of his life

“Her potato salad was phenomenal.”

Two years ago, Randy Bueltel said goodbye to the love of his life.

“She would drop everything to help family… anywhere, anytime,” said Randy, who says the loss is still fresh. “With anything from house remodeling, repairs or painting and helping, she was very good with taking things apart and fixing things. She had a knack for that.”

Randy and Donna had been married 38 years before she passed. They met in high school and married shortly after. He wasn’t anticipating he would have to say goodbye so soon.

“She passed not long after her first grandson was born,” said Randy. “He was born in March 2013 and she passed in January 2015, just before his second birthday.”

A two-year battle

Donna lived and fought for two years before succumbing to breast cancer. It was a journey that began with a self-examination.

“She had her mammogram every year and was only a month away from going in for her next one when she felt a lump and knew something wasn’t right,” said Randy. “We went in for the diagnosis and when the doctor when to take the sample he broke the needle, and we knew that wasn’t good. She had a double mastectomy and there were complications.”

Those complications led to more surgeries along with chemo and radiation. And while the journey was long, Randy says what made it bearable was the support he and Donna received during her treatment at Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center (MECC).

“We would talk about it being a journey and that we’d get through it together,” said Randy. “You go through all the speed bumps and turns in the road and muddle through it. You go from diagnosis to diagnosis. Estabrook was like a second family. It was very therapeutic.”

Sharing experiences

At MECC, they met doctors, nurses and patient navigators, as well as other patients and family members going through the same cancer journey. They would share experiences along the way that made their own struggles easier.

“It means a lot knowing that you’re not alone,” said Randy. “When Donna was going through chemo we met a lot of people going through the same thing. The ladies had their own little clique and even the spouses would interact and try to reassure one another. Everybody got to talk with everybody else’s family and we would talk for hours at a time.”

Walking in her memory

It’s for this same reason that Randy and his children continue to walk in the Race for the Cure. It was an event that Donna took part in during her illness, and with that fight in mind, they walk in her memory.

“She saw that she wasn’t alone,” said Randy through his grief. “She fought to the end. She didn’t lose the battle so much as she just ran out of time. I do this race for her. If she was strong enough to do it, so am I.”