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Testing the Teacher: U.S. Army Veteran Fights Lung Cancer

by -

Wayne Manders

For 38 years, Wayne Manders of Bellevue has sharpened the minds of young children as a junior high, fourth grade and second grade teacher at Marquette Catholic. 

In mid-September of 2019, Wayne faced a far different type of test than what he had given his students many times throughout his teaching career – stage 4 lung cancer. 

“I was shocked,” Wayne said. “I know so many people that have had cancer. I shouldn’t have expected it to not happen to me, but when it does happen to you, it really comes as a surprise.”

Once he was diagnosed with lung cancer, Wayne’s cancer treatment journey began with chemotherapy. 

After beginning chemotherapy treatments, Wayne was referred to the Wendt Regional Cancer Center for 30 radiation treatments on his right lung and a one-time radiation treatment to his right scapula, or shoulder bone.

Coming to the Wendt Center for the first time was a unique experience for Wayne, but once he came through the doors, he was impressed. 

“I was nervous,” Wayne said. “I didn’t know what to expect, but it was very easy. It started with a consultation and then I was set up for radiation. After that, every trip was quick and on time.”

With Wayne’s lung cancer being diagnosed in an advanced stage, completely treating the cancer is quite a challenge. 

After undergoing radiation treatments at the Wendt Center, Wayne was optimistic about the success the treatments had on his overall health. 

“It improved my quality of life,” Wayne said. “It helped. After my last PET scan, I found out that all of the tumors had shrunk. I felt really good about it. My doctor told me that they aren’t going to go away, because it’s untreatable. It’s contained right now, and that makes me feel really good.”

At UnityPoint Health, one of our priorities is to show patients how much they matter to this world. 

Throughout Wayne’s treatments at the Wendt Center, he was consistently impressed with how the staff treated him and connected with him on a personal level. 

“The people are wonderful,” Wayne said. “They know you by name, visit with you and share their personal stories with you. Even when I went into my radiation treatments, the girls would talk sports with me and different things. It really was enjoyable.”

On November 13, 2019, Wayne had his final radiation treatment, which meant it was time to ring the bell. 

Wayne was proud to ring the bell, not only because it was his final radiation treatment, but because of what he overcame along his treatment journey. 

“It felt good, not only because it was finished, but because I just felt really good,” Wayne said. “At first it bothered me, and I had some trouble swallowing. As time went on, those side effects went away and now I feel good.” 

As part of Wayne’s bell ringing ceremony, he was gifted a small bell with the poem: “Your time at the Wendt Center has come to an end. And although you came as a patient, you leave as our friend. Ring this bell as a reminder for all you’ve been through. Most of all, thank you for letting us care for you.”

The miniature bell serves as a reminder for Wayne what’s to come in life. 

“I have the little bell hanging from my rearview mirror in my car,” Wayne said. “Every time I turn, it jingles. It’s a reminder. Every time I look up there and hear it jingling, that bell reminds me that there is still more to come in life. 

Throughout treatment, Wayne displayed the true valor of a United States Army veteran – determination, courage and bravery. 

Wayne served in the Army as a Specialist E-5 in administration. One fond memory Wayne has from his time in the service was the many places he got to see around the world. 

“It’s a great opportunity to travel,” Wayne said. “When I was stationed in Germany, I went to Switzerland, Austria, Italy, England, France, Luxemburg and Belgium. When I was stationed in Vietnam, we were granted a week of rest and relaxation, so they flew me to Sydney, Australia for a week. It’s something I never would have been able to do.”

Using his passion for the military, Wayne manages the American Legion Post 273 in Bellevue. Wayne also gives back to his community by working at the Legion, helping with Quilts of Valor and going to meetings. 

A retired teacher, proud United States Army veteran and now lung cancer survivor, Wayne has high hopes about what awaits him in his next chapter of life.

“I’m looking forward to a long life,” Wayne said. “Everybody I know says I look like there’s nothing wrong and people have told me that I look good and I’m healthy. I’m just looking forward to living.”