After graduating from New Richmond High School in 2014, Lydia Armbruster had no idea that her life would change so drastically just a few short years later and force her to leave college and her jobs behind to start her battle with cancer.
"When I got the diagnosis, I was in disbelief. Everything I planned for my future, travel, marriage, kids, all flashed through my mind," Armbruster said.
Armbruster was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroendocrine carcinoma in April after experiencing intense lower back pain that flared up at the beginning of 2018. After moving to Arizona to be with her mother, Mary, because of her back problems, Armbruster said an X-ray of her lower back found a fracture on her spine caused by the tumor, which lead to an MRI that showed many more tumors in the area of her lower back.
"I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I felt numb and once the information set in I was terrified. She was only 21 when she was diagnosed, just starting her adult life with everything ahead of her," Mary said. "She was given a prognosis of six months in April, I want her spirit to be what is remembered if the cancer wins. Not the disease!"
According to Armbruster, neuroendocrine carcinoma, which develops from the endocrine/hormonal system, is a rare form of cancer affecting a small percentage of the population. The doctors believe the cancer originated from the neuroendocrine cells in her pancreas and then spread to her liver, spleen, pelvis, sacrum spine and coccyx.
"The larger tumors seem to have responded well to the first four rounds of chemotherapy better than the smaller tumors in my spine. The tumors have affected my ability to walk as well as my stamina and overall health," Armbruster said. "This cancer develops resistance to chemotherapy quickly, I have been told between four and six rounds of chemotherapy the cancer will begin to grow again. I just started a new oral chemotherapy treatment called CAPTEM. There isn't much data on its success rate, but I am hopeful I will respond well to it."
To help Armbruster and her family with the financial costs of her battle with cancer, clost friends Serena Randolph and her mother have organized a benefit to be held 3-7 p.m. Sunday, July 22, at Gibby's Lanes Sports Bar & Banquet Center, 546 W. North Shore Drive, New Richmond. The benefit, which costs $15 at the door, will include a spaghetti dinner, silent auction, bake sale and 50/50 raffle.
"I was devastated at first when I found out. I called my mom and couldn't even get through the conversation with my mom without crying," Randolph, 22, said. "You hear about it all the time about other people, but it isn't until it happens to someone that you know and are close with that it really strikes you that it can happen to anyone at any point in time. Almost right after I heard about Lydia's diagnosis, I told my mom that we needed to do something to help because she has always been there for me whenever I've needed her."
The young women have been friends since first grade at West Elementary in New Richmond. The two have celebrated numerous birthdays and other life events together since then, including rooming together on an 1- day trip to Europe their sophomore year of high school. The pair stayed close during college and hung out all summer long.
Randolph will accept donations for the silent auction and bake sale until Friday, July 20. To donate, contact Dawn Randolph at 715-246-5091 or Serena Randolph, 715-410-9866. They are urging attendees to wear green to the benefit, because it is Armbruster's favorite color.
"I've really just wanted the focus of the benefit to be on her because I can't even begin to imagine what she and her family are going through. When you have a chance to make a difference in people's lives, I wish people would take more opportunities to do that," Randolph said. "My parents have always instilled in me from a young age that if you can help in anyway you should do your best to help other people. I hope this benefit can help lift and relieve some of the financial burdens that they are going through."
Armbruster has made her way back to New Richmond to be with family after spending 19 days in a Phoenix hospital where she underwent her first round of chemotherapy. Three more followed and she was well enough to travel back to New Richmond in mid-June with her treatments being transferred to the Rochester Mayo Clinic. However, the trip back home was hard on Armbruster, causing her to be admitted to the hospital for five days to received a radiation treatment on her spinal tumors in an attempt to decrease the pain in her back and prevent those tumors from impinging on her spinal cord.
For more information on the benefit, visit the Love for Lydia event page on Facebook (facebook.com/events/2379136515433616/).