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Roseville family won’t let cancer win

Dad devotes himself to fighting disease, helping others
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Tom Wieser has two birthdays.

There is his conventional birthday and then his second one, observed by his wife and four children each March 5 since 2005 when his colorectal cancer metastasized. The Roseville family celebrates that he’s alive.

“It expresses to them that life has to be celebrated,” said his wife Heidi Wieser.

Tom Wieser, 47, was diagnosed with cancer about seven years ago. It has since spread to his lungs. He and his wife decided they would “leave no stone unturned” and commit all their resources to fighting his cancer.

That’s meant surgeries at the Mayo Clinic and last week, Tom Wieser left for Detroit, where doctors performed cryoablation to freeze tumors off his lungs. This was the first in a three-step procedure to free him of these remaining tumors. There are no more drugs to treat him.

Leaving no stone unturned has come at a high cost, as the family slips beneath the rising tide of debt, said Tom’s sister Patty Wieser. She is asking Roseville residents to offer whatever assistance they can so he can win his battle.

“He cares for everyone, he has always been there for others to listen and give advice and he has a way of making those around him feel special and important,” Patty Wieser said. “He spends hours counseling and encouraging his children. His fight is for them. He will undergo whatever torture a doctor can offer him to give him one more day, week or year to see his children grow up.”

Through the years, his family has been hit over the head with cancer, Tom Wieser said.

His wife lost her dad to colorectal cancer when she was 15. The couple may not have met otherwise as she was supposed to move away for high school until her father’s illness surfaced.

Instead, she and Tom Wieser attended the same Bay Area school and fell in love. They’ve been married 23 years. Heidi works as an oncology nurse. Her husband sells cancer diagnostic equipment.

“When I was diagnosed, I was like ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ If it wasn’t so sad, you’d have to laugh,” he said.

From their position on the frontline of cancer, they know about cutting-edge treatments and clinical trials. When Tom Wieser’s doctors told him his cancer metastasized, they said with treatment he’d live for two years and without he’d live for one. He chose a different path.

He opted to beat the disease, not just extend his life. He’s undergone five thoracic surgeries and more than 30 ablations, which cook the tumors.

“We thought there’s got to be a way to turn this into something positive,” he said.

Tom Wieser and his wife started the Me-One Foundation to provide a free weekend getaway for adult cancer patients and their families — kids, grandparents, friends, survivors — to heal together. This year’s camp takes place in October in Santa Cruz and will accommodate 30 families who get to enjoy rock climbing, dancing, massages, hiking, arts and crafts, and more.

“The experience, it’s impossible to put into words. It’s the camaraderie, it’s the kinship,” Tom Wieser said. “For three days, they can just put cancer on hold.”

A week prior to the inaugural camp, a family withdrew to pursue treatment. The spot was filled with a woman, her two sons and husband. A month later, she passed away.

“We gave that family the last precious moments they ever had,” Tom Wieser said.

They need to fundraise $50,000 annually for the camp, so they host a golf tournament and a 5K run/walk, just like they did this year.

But the Wiesers are personally financially tapped from seven years of nonstop procedures, clinical trials, therapies and medications.

“The silver lining is there is technology and science to live longer, but the gray cloud is I have to service the debt associated,” Tom Wieser said.

He and his wife have worked the whole time. He also helps coach his kids’ soccer and baseball teams. He’s a big sports nut. That’s how the name Me-One Foundation came about. It’s like a scoreboard: cancer 0, me 1.

Inside the Wieser household, the family talks openly about cancer and uses a whiteboard to express themselves when speaking is too difficult.

“I don’t want cancer to be a whispered word in my house,” Heidi Wieser said. “We’re not going to stop living.”

Tom Wieser says he looks at life through “cancer goggles,” enjoying the simple things, such as sunsets and birds — a habit he hopes rubs off on his kids, ages 13 to 20, along with his decision to never give up.

“People in this battle have to find courage,” he said. “They have to have the will to live. I still have every intention of walking my two girls down the aisle and seeing my two sons graduate from college.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at SenaC_RsvPT.

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Me-One Foundation runs the annual Camp Challenge, a free weekend retreat for adult cancer patients and their families to enjoy life without disease as a primary thought. To donate, visit http://www.me-onefoundation.org/.

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To provide assistance to the Wieser family of Roseville, e-mail Patty Wieser at pmwieser@gmail.com.