This time, the shoe’s on the other foot
As a pastor, Thomas Yauch spent a lot of his professional life counseling people through difficult times. Now, he’s discovering what it’s like to be on the other side of that conversation.
Yauch got his first cancer diagnosis in 2003. The longtime Bible Baptist Church pastor was having surgery to correct nerve problems in his back, and doctors discovered non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He’s been in treatment on and off since then, with his longest remission lasting two years. It was difficult at times, but it was manageable.
Things changed in February. Yauch was going through one of his lymphoma treatments when doctors came back with news it took him a while to comprehend. They’d found myeloma, an aggressive and unpredictable bone cancer. They had to act fast, he said, so Yauch leapt right into a treatment that doctors said was as likely to kill him as it was to cure him. He should have died on at least two occasions, he said.
“I’m not supposed to be alive, according to the medical community, but God had different plans,” Yauch said.
The treatment left Yauch weak, though. He’s lost 45 pounds since February. His kidneys failed. And he only recently started walking without a cane or a walker. His big goal now is to make it around the block once a day.
Eventually, Yauch decided he was doing the church a disservice by staying on as pastor when he didn’t feel like he could do the job. After 15 years, half the church’s life, he retired at the end of June.
Stepping down after putting so much of his life into the church has not been easy, but Yauch quickly discovered the church is not done with him yet. Church members have invited him to help out where he is able, and they have become his counselors as he was theirs for so long. When Yauch went to the hospital Wednesday for a biopsy in preparation for a bone marrow transplant, it was one of the church members who drove him.
“They have bent over backwards to help and provide a lot of things for us,” Yauch said.
The help is coming from other places, too. A church Yauch was associated with years ago recently sent him a check for $1,000. It’s a modest contribution when chemotherapy treatments can cost $60,000 each, but gestures like that move Yauch.
“It’s overwhelming,” he said.
There will be another opportunity Aug. 2 for friends and family to help Yauch. His daughter Alex is organizing a kickball tournament fundraiser on the fields at Dodge Middle School. The school is just across the street from Yauch’s house, so he can take in as much as he’s able and get home if he gets tired or if the weather is too hot. Yauch even hopes to get in a turn at the plate, although he’ll probably need a pinch runner.
Alex Yauch got the idea for the kickball tournament from a friend who held a similar event. She wanted something that could raise money, but that would also be fun. The event will also include a silent auction and a bake sale.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing who shows up, because my dad has made such an impact in this world,” she said. “I just know that anyone who meets him, loves him. I’m excited to see all of those people show up to show how much they really do care for him.”
Anyone interested in forming a 10- to 14-person team can find information about the Beat it With Thomas tournament on Facebook or Twitter or call Alex Yauch at 651-367-9174 or Suzanne Yauch at 651-307-4329.