On May 5, 2020, Peter Berhow felt dizzy one day at work. He called his wife, Jody, for a ride to urgent care. Something was wrong. Once there, many blood tests were ordered and then the sudden realization that he immediately needed medical care with a cancer specialist. Following additional tests at Gunderson Medical Center in La Crosse, Peter was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia at age 65. “You will need a STEM transplant,” said the specialist. “This is going to be life changing.”
At that moment, the process of cancer treatment began for Peter. So many tests, transfusions, drugs, chemotherapy treatments, insurance, etc. all wrapped inside, outside, twisted and knotted within a world pandemic and a frenzy to understand that as well. Once diagnosed and after many appointments, Peter and Jody chose to go to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for treatment and a stem cell transplant. They lived at the transplant house in Rochester for what was assumed to be 100 days for recovery, from November to March. Fortunately, because of the closeness to Winona, they were able to come home on New Year’s Eve due to concerns of the pandemic and being safer at home with just the two of them. The transplant was successful, and Peter continues today to be so well with his donor’s stem cells (bone marrow) doing exactly what they need to do.
Through the years, Peter and Jody have supported Team Vogel through its many fundraisers, and Jody, an elementary art teacher for Cotter Schools in Winona, helps organize yearly school fundraisers to raise money for Team Vogel as well. Joe Vogel is an alumnus of Cotter Schools and was once a student in Jody’s art room.
During the entire process of Peter's illness, Jody reflected on family and the full circle of life. Imagine, Joe, a young boy in her art room for seven years as a K-6 grade student moving on to offering his art teacher perhaps the most profound precious gift to receive, in his passing, a check of funds given to Peter and herself from Team Vogel to alleviate the stress of navigating the truly awful, painful and long, strange trip that cancer can be. The funds were used to pay for the transplant house rent and medicines too costly to afford.
“God bless Team Vogel, all the doctors, Mayo Clinic, Gundersen Medical, donors, the givers, those that we meet, and those that we know, enjoy and call friends,” said Jody. “The group hug of family is resoundingly too large to wrap your arms around. But because of them, there are moments to rejoice, to smile, to remember Joe and to truly ‘Believe!’
Today Peter remains cancer free! He still goes to Mayo appointments for check-ups but is living life as well as can be. From words Jody posted to Facebook friends, “Living closer to our own God and wiser than we used to be!”