Dick Buechner shows off photos of his soon-to-be 1-year-old great-grandson Graham Kunert at Buechner's home Friday. Buechner and Graham are this year's Relay For Life ambassadors.
Dick Buechner shows off photos of his soon-to-be 1-year-old great-grandson Graham Kunert at Buechner's home Friday. Buechner and Graham are this year's Relay For Life ambassadors.

Archived Story

Relatives take reins as Relay ambassadors

Published 11:01am Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Dick Buechner is a lucky man. In 2011, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid Leukemia, a rare form of cancer where less than 33 percent of those afflicted survive.

Yet Buechner has been in remission for 18 months, much to his and his wife Jeannine’s delight. Now the 84-year-old is watching his great-grandson, 11-month-old Graham Kunert, take on a different type of cancer.

Dick and his infant great-grandson are this year’s Relay for Life ambassadors. The 84-year-old former county commissioner and his great-grandson will be on hand Saturday to lead the Relay for Life walk.

“From one year to 84-years-old, cancer is prevalent,” Dick said.

Dick didn’t know he had a form of leukemia until he came down with what he and doctors thought was pneumonia in March 2011.

A month later, doctors diagnosed Dick with leukemia.

“We thought this was it,” Jeannine said. “We didn’t think that he’d make it.”

Yet Dick persevered through eight months of off-and-on chemotherapy, at times staying at the Hope Lodge in downtown Rochester in order to keep up with his treatments.

The treatments worked: In November 2011, doctors pronounced Dick officially in remission. He goes to the doctor every three months or so to make sure he’s still cancer-free, but he’s feeling a lot better these days.

Dick Buechner stands next to birthday balloons he and his wife Jeannine hope to give their infant great-grandson Graham Kunert later this month. Dick and Graham are this year's Relay For Life ambassadors.
Dick Buechner stands next to birthday balloons he and his wife Jeannine hope to give their infant great-grandson Graham Kunert later this month. Dick and Graham are this year’s Relay For Life ambassadors.

Yet Dick’s great-grandson is dealing with his own form of cancer. Graham was diagnosed with retinoblastoma earlier this year, when he was just six months old. Retinoblastoma is a type of cancerous tumor found in the eye, though it’s rare in babies. Though Graham’s cancer was confined to one eye, the tumor was quite large.

Yet doctors caught it early enough to be treated through chemotherapy. According to Dick, Graham has gone through five chemotherapy treatments thus far, which involve doctors injecting the chemotherapy drugs directly into his eye.

“It seems like he can take his treatments,” Dick said. “I don’t know as he cries a lot. I think I would.”

Dick is grateful to see his great-grandson this weekend and is happy to promote Relay For Life, the American Cancer Society and the Hope Lodge in Rochester, which he and Jeannine credit for helping them beat Dick’s cancer.

Yet after this weekend, Graham’s fight will still continue, though doctors and the family are confident Graham’s cancer will go into remission. That’s why Dick passed on a family memento he received during his cancer bout to Graham: a pair of Everlast boxing gloves, as Graham has a few more fights left before conquering cancer.

“So I gave him the gloves,” Buechner said. “I didn’t want them anymore.”


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