RACINE — “I thought you’d never ask.”
With these words, Brenda and Duane Wolfe, at a Dairy Queen near Devola, Ohio, cemented their plans for their first date — a fishing trip.
And not long after their first date the couple said “I do” in 2001, their marriage lasting 12 years. During this time the couple traveled together, gardened together, ministered at a small West Virginia church together and wrote together. Specifically, during their marriage they were in the process of writing a book filled with collections of stories from their small-town childhoods. Brenda grew up in a small town in Washington County. Duane has lived in Racine all of his life, and was even member of the first class to graduate from then newly created Southern High School.
“I like it here,” he said.
The couple’s book, “Weeds and Flowers in our Garden,” was finally published this year. However, Brenda never got to see the finished product. In late July of 2013, after being taken to the emergency room for stomach pain, Brenda was informed that she had stage four primary peritoneal cancer, which is a cancer of the moist tissue that covers the abdominal cavity and the entire surface of all organs in the abdomen, according to the Foundation for Women’s Cancer. This type of cancer is rare and usually occurs in women.
According to Duane, this type of cancer is also more difficult to detect in early stages because of the symptoms, which include constipation or diarrhea, the feeling of being full after taking in only a little food, the felling of being bloated, weight loss or weight gain, nausea, pain in the lower abdomen, and loss of appetite — feelings that anyone, especially women, will most likely feel in their lifetimes.
“And you probably don’t experience anything in the first couple of stages,” Duane said.
Less than a month after being diagnosed, Brenda Wolfe passed away on Aug. 17, 2013. She was 62.
Duane said after his wife’s passing it took him another year and a half to complete the book.
“It was not easy writing,” he said. “I was in shock for quite a while. Brenda was my wife, the love of my life but what hurt so much was that she was the best friend that I ever had. And so there were times in writing and trying to finish the book that I would just get so overcome with grief that I would just have to get away from it. I would just cry so much, remembering bad things.”
However, Duane said he finally found hope and steadied his formerly shaky faith, which helped him to decide on a title for the book.
“The premise of the book is our childhood experiences help mold and make what we become as adults, and the title, ‘Weeds and Flowers in our Garden,’ the weeds are the bad things that happen to us in our life and the flowers are the good things,” he said. “The weeds are the bad habits that we have and the flowers are the good habits and behaviors that we all have. The weeds are sometimes hard to pull up and therefore habits are sometimes hard to give up. It’s one of the most personal books you’ll ever read.”
After having the book edited by Duane’s former English teacher, Jennings Beegle, Duane found a publisher in McClain Printing in Parsons, W.Va.
However, Duane knew that he didn’t want to stop at the publishing of a book in order to continue his wife’s memory. He also wanted to aid others who have the same type of cancer Brenda had, leading him to create the Brenda K. Wolfe Peritoneal Cancer Foundation, which was created and became an official nonprofit this year. The name of the website for the foundation is whynotacure.com.
“‘Why Not a Cure’ came from something George Bernard Shaw once said,” Duane said. “‘You see things and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not?’”
The Wolfe’s book is available for sale on the website, with all proceeds going towards the foundation, which will then give any proceeds from the book or donations on the website to hospitals completing primary peritoneal cancer research.
“I wanted to do something to save people’s lives so that it wouldn’t happen to somebody else,” Duane said.
The board for the foundation currently includes Chris Tenoglia, president, Doug Hunter, vice president, Ronnie Wagner, treasurer and Terri Keiser, secretary. Duane, along with being a founder, is also a board member, but holds no title beyond that, and said he trusts those who do.
“They’re all really good, honest people,” he said. “We share the dream of saving people’s lives. We’re simply paying it forward; life is very precious, human life is very precious, and we want to see people live. Whether (the cancer is) found in first, second or third stage, we want to see them live and not die before their time.”
In addition to continuing to spread the word about his foundation and primary peritoneal cancer, Duane will also be doing two book signings at the beginning of 2016. He will appear at Farmers Bank located at 640 E. Main Street in Pomeroy on Tuesday, Jan. 12 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at the Racine Library, located at 608 Tyree Blvd. from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6.
Duane said he hopes his wife can see what he’s doing in her memory.
“I think she’s smiling,” he said.
For more information visit www.whynotacure.com or call 740-949-2730.
Reach Lindsay Kriz at 740-992-2155 EXT. 2555 or on Twitter @JournalistKriz.