All for Amy

Published 1:32 pm Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hearing the “C” word devastated Amy Mueller-Wilde.

Never before had cancer and Amy been mentioned in the same sentence.

Not for the human dynamo, the wife and mother of three children, line worker for Hormel Foods and community volunteer for the Austin Jaycees.

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Not this young woman.

Unfortunately, Amy learned cancer doesn’t discriminate and she was made a victim.

“I don’t take much for granted anymore,” she said.

Last Oct. 13, 2008, she had a swollen tonsil and went to Austin Medical Center for treatment.

When the swollen tonsil was confirmed to be Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, her life changed instantly.

“I remember I was on lunch break that day when I saw Amy and there were tears in her eyes,” said Amanda Klouse, a sister.

“It was devastating for all of us,” said Diane Mueller, Amy’s mother.

Amy herself is silent during the exchange, and busy fighting back tears.

When she regains her composure and is able to speak, Amy recalls how her family, Henry and Diane Mueller, who live next door in southwest Austin, and her husband Shannon’s family, Gary and Marsha Wilde, who live nearby, rallied around her. Her brother, Jeff, and Amanda, too.

Then, she recounted the changes in her lifestyle.

A week after the diagnosis, she took a medical leave of absence from her work.

Raising three children — Tyler, 11, Abigail, 7, and Elisabeth, 2 — became hard work and she tired easily.

Then, the chemo treatments every three weeks.

Cancer had taken a firm grip on Amy’s life.

In the case of this victim of cancer, cancer’s grip was felt by others.

Shannon is now the family’s only bread-winner and he has taken on a greater role in the household.

“There are days when I just can’t do much of anything and need his help,” his wife said.

“I’ve noticed changes in her,” Amanda said. “We’ve always been close as sisters, but I think when she came down with cancer we’ve gotten along a lot better.”

“There’s nothing worse for a parent than having your child get sick this way,” said her mother.

The only other instance of a debilitating illness in either family is the cancer suffered by Joseph Mueller, a brother of Henry, Amy’s father.

“She’s been doing pretty good I have to say,” Henry said of his daughter.

The depth of the “all for one, one for all” feeling in the Mueller and Wilde families was tested last year when Amanda gave birth to a baby, Alissa, who was born prematurely.

“They’re amazing,” said Amy’s mother-in-law, Marsha Wilde, of how her daughter-in-law and son are dealing with adversity.

“I’ve seen so many wonderful qualities come forward,” she said. “And to see my son cry when he told me Amy has cancer was so sad.”

Mandy Wilde, daughter of Gary and Marshal Wilde, is an acute lymphoblastic leukemia cancer survivor for 18 of her 21 years.

She endured chemo treatments for 2 1/2 years before being declared cancer-free.

Being shoved into the limelight is uncomfortable for Amy, who said, “I’ve never enjoyed that. I’m a person who would rather be on the fringes of attention.”

Cancer changed that part of her life, too, with a public benefit coming soon.

Amy’s chemo treatments are expected to end in late February, when the tumors are gone and there is no evidence they will return.

And, she hopes, life will return to normalcy.

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is any of a large group of cancers of the immune system. It can occur at any age and are often marked by enlarged lymph nodes (in Amy’s case, a tonsil), fever and weight loss. There are many different types of non-Hodgkin lymphomas which can be divided into aggressive (fast-growing or the one Amy has) and slow-growing types and can be classified as either B-cell (the type Amy has) or T-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Family and friends, particularly Amanda and her husband, Kevin, are again rallying behind the 35-year-old woman.

The Amy Mueller-Wilde Cancer Benefit will be held from 3 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7 at St. Edward Corcoran Center in Austin.

The benefit will feature Smitty’s Karaoke, a silent auction and bake sale, games for children, the Austin Jaycees beer wagon on-site and dinner served at 5 p.m. for a suggested $5 donation.

An account has been established at Accentra Credit Union in Austin under the name “Amy Mueller-Wilde Benefit Fund.”

For more information, contact Amanda Klouse at 440-1434.