Benefit Planned For Nanticoke Mayor Recovering From Cancer
NANTICOKE — May 13 is Day 100 for Rich Wiaterowski.
That Sunday will mark 100 days since the 44-year-old Nanticoke man, the city’s mayor, received a stem cell transplant that helped him recover from acute myeloid leukemia.
Life has changed dramatically for him and his family since his diagnosis in November 2017.
It kept him from the basketball gym where he loves to cheer for the Nanticoke Trojans and share in the camaraderie of his hometown. A weakened immune system meant most of the games were off-limits on doctors’ orders. He watched while his children shoveled the snow. His job site changed from a dusty construction site to light duty on a computer at home. Hunting and fishing had to wait while chemotherapy and total body irradiation prepared him to receive stem cells to replace his own.
The Wiaterowskis don’t know the donor, but his cells were an excellent match that helped save Rich’s life.
When Rich Wiaterowski first learned a transplant could come from an anonymous donor, not knowing the identity didn’t seem like a big deal. Then came the day a coordinator with Be The Match, an organization that helps arrange stem cell transplants, called their house to tell the Wiaterowskis they had a donor.
“Once I got home, I opened the email, and it said scroll down, keep going, then ‘Your donor is: (From) Germany, 28 years old, O-positive (blood type.)’ I got very emotional. I broke down and cried,” he said.
For now, that’s all he knows. The donor knows even less about him. A year after donation, the organization will ask both parties if they want to share their contact information.
In the meantime, Wiaterowski continues to recover.
This Sunday is day 72 post-transplant. His family, friends and supporters will gather for a benefit event to show their support and to gather funds to help the family with the thousands of dollars in medical bills that health insurance didn’t cover.
“It is crazy the way people in this town have come together,” he said. “When someone is sick, not just me, anybody that we’ve seen go through a sickness like this, the town pulls together.”
His son’s sixth grade class sent get-well cards. He’s gotten cards from friends and strangers. He’s kept every one.
“It’s overwhelming,” said his wife, Wendy Wiaterowski. “It’s amazing how much people care, genuinely care, and want to send love and prayers and warm wishes.”
Wiaterowski moved home from the hospital in the beginning of March, although he still travels to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia for weekly follow-up appointments.
Recovery has been months in the making.
He realized something was amiss in November 2017. He was exhausted and his bones ached.
When his doctor called to say he was coming over to discuss the results of a blood test, he knew the diagnosis would be bad.
Tests at Fox Chase confirmed the news, and he started chemotherapy that day. More than two months later, he was receiving a stem cell transplant.
“Right now, he’s doing very well. In (the physicians’) eyes, he’s doing remarkable. There’s lot of positive with that. But there’s still a long road ahead,” Wendy Wiaterowski said.
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IF YOU GO
WHAT: Benefit for Rich Wiaterowksi
WHEN: 1 to 8 p.m., Sunday
WHERE: Nanticoke Armory, 490 E. Main St., Nanticoke
DETAILS: A $10 donation at the door includes entrance to the event, one soda/water ticket, food and entertainment.
Children 12 years old and younger are free.
Parking is available at the armory. Overflow parking is also available at Greater Nanticoke Area High School, and a shuttle will leave form the bus port next to the high school near Church Street.
There will be a cash bar, silent auction and other raffles.
1 p.m.: Acousticstein
2 p.m.: Strawberry Jam Duo
3 p.m.: Doug and Sean Acoustic
5 p.m.: Ol’ Cabbage
6 p.m.: Rhythm and Booze
7 p.m.: 40 lb. Head