In 1995, Wings Regional Cancer Support first came together to help community members in Flathead and Lincoln Counties with the out-of-pocket expenses associated with cancer treatment.
In 2006, Cheri Javorsky, a long-time supporter of Wings both in Libby and in the Yaak — where she and her husband, Bob, were building their retirement home — experienced first-hand the blessing of having local community support through Wings.
Cheri described finding out that her 26-year-old son, Robin, had cancer as a “nightmare.”
“It doesn’t matter if your child is small or grown. Your heart is broken,” she said. “You want to fix it or have it be you instead.”
The family first noticed Robin was getting sick during a July 4, 2006, family weekend at their cabin in the Yaak.
A logger along with Bob, Robin was “very healthy” and in “the best shape of his life,” his mother said.
“We all had been fishing and the next morning he woke with pain in his chest and back. He told me about it,” Cheri said. “I knew something was wrong because my kids didn’t complain about little aches and pains. They were very tough.”
Robin tried to work through the pain, but when it became unbearable, they took him to the emergency room. Medical professionals couldn’t figure out what was wrong at first, and by July 27, “his pain was out of control,” she said.
After additional tests revealed Robin had leukemia, he was flown to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, where he was admitted to the intensive care unit.
He spent months undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and could not leave the hospital because he was immunocompromised.
Eventually, he had to have a bone marrow transplant, provided by his brother, Jeremiah. Having Jeremiah match perfectly as a donor was an answer to prayer, Cheri said.
He received the transplant in February 2007, over eight months from that fateful July 4, and his recovery was still far from over.
Robin’s parents rented an apartment in Seattle near the Seattle Alliance Cancer Center, which had to be in a special building due to Robin’s weakened immune system.
When they were finally able to come home in May 2007, it was a month earlier than they had anticipated.
Over a decade later, Robin remains cancer-free, Cheri said.
“He is married and they have two beautiful, healthy children,” she said. “When I look at him, I see a miracle! When I look at my grandchildren, I see a miracle!”
The journey for the family was 11 months of “terrible pain and agony,” she said.
The support they had through Wings made a big difference, she said.
“It was amazing to have that support,” Cheri said. “Because when you are facing any illness like what he had, it really hits you financially.”
Cheri said that when she considers the help that local people are willing to give, she is still amazed.
“I don’t know what words to describe it,” she said. “It was just amazing, how they do that and how it’s carried on all these years — and all the people that they’ve helped.”
Cheri still provides an auction item every year for the annual Wings fundraising auction at the Yaak River Tavern and Mercantile, usually a quilt or a homemade basket of “goodies” that she has made.
A tray of cookies may go for $1,000 at the auction, but it’s not just because of how much people enjoy the things their neighbors bake, she said.
“It’s not for the tray of cookies, it’s for Wings,” she said. “I don’t know how to explain it other than — it’s amazing what the community does up here, and in Libby.”
Cheri said she hopes people who need help don’t hesitate to reach out.
“People shouldn’t hold back,” she said. “Some people don’t think that they’re needy enough to use Wings, but when you have cancer, there’s so many costs, so many hidden costs.”
There are several fundraising events going on for Wings this week and throughout May.
Tonight at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1548 in Libby, the “Wingo” Bingo Tournament starts at 6:30 p.m. Entry cost is $20. For more information, call 406-283-1292.
On Saturday, the annual Yaak Wings Benefit will take place at the Yaak River Tavern and Mercantile. The event will start at noon, with face painting, chair messages and local guitarist Dave Stout performing outside the white tent. There will also be hot dogs and popcorn during the day for those who can’t stay for the dinner at 5 p.m.
There will be a silent auction, bucket raffle and chance tickets to win a chainsaw, Linehan Float trip and a shotgun.
The live auction in the Yaak starts at 6:30 p.m. Examples of some of the items up for auction can be seen at www.facebook.com/yaakwings.
On Tuesday, Lincoln Lanes will host Libby Bowling at 7 p.m.
On Wednesday, Wings volunteers will be stationed in parking lots around Libby and Troy from noon to 6 p.m. accepting donations.
Saturday, May 11, there will be a motorcycle poker run, starting at the Switchback Bar and Grill in Libby. Registration is from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. It will be an approximately 100-mile round trip that ends at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1548 in Libby.
A ribs, beans and salad dinner will be held at VFW Post 1548 at 5 p.m., with a portion of dinner sales benefitting Wings. All poker hand monies raised go to support Wings. For my information about the poker run, contact Jule at 406-291-2201 of Dee at 406-291-6939.
And every Thursday in May, Cabinet Mountain Brewery will have a Brews for Benefits fundraiser benefiting Wings, with $1 donated to Wings for every beer sold from 6 p.m to final call at 8 p.m.
Donations can also be dropped off at First Montana Bank in either Libby or Troy, or mailed to Wings, P.O. Box 1160, Libby MT 59923.
To find out more or volunteer, contact Karen Stickney at 406-293-4380.
Additional information about Wings can also be found at www.wingsnwmontana.org.