Feeling humbled: Gina Grundmeier finds comfort in other’s support in the wake of medical diagnosis

Published 7:00 pm Friday, April 12, 2024

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For over 10 years, Gina Grundmeier has been helping others through Pay It Forward, but now she’s the one at the center of people’s attention as she prepares to face a medical diagnosis that has changed her life.

Grundmeier was recently diagnosed with Autoimmune Metaplastic Atrophic Gastritis (AMAG), a disease where her autoimmune system attacks her stomach lining.

In turn, it can also raise the chances that she could develop stomach cancer down the line.

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Making it worse is that there is no cure or really anything substantial that can be done for Grundmeier, who will have to cope with the disease for the rest of her life.

“My stomach hurts all the time, whether I eat or don’t eat,” Grundmeier said. “Then I feel nauseated when I eat. I feel nauseated when I don’t eat.”

However, Grundmeier isn’t one to simply give up and she’s vowed to treat the prognosis like anything else.

“I think it’s super important that I remain positive and trust in the process and what (the doctors) are doing,” Grundmeier said. “Lord knows I think I’m kind of tough, I’m a fighter and I’ll just keep using the same passion in my own fight as I do with anybody else’s.”

Grundmeier’s journey began last fall, but strangely, it was a pain in the shoulders that was the first indicator. Grundmeier learned that there can sometimes be a link between shoulder pain and the gallbladder and so doctors began testing the gallbladder.

At the same time, Grundmeier was also dealing with stomach pain that she initially attributed to ulcers due to “stressful stuff, because life isn’t lacking stress for anybody anymore.”

Doctors decided to order an endoscopy as well as additional blood work to try and determine the issue. At the same time, her doctor decided to do some biopsies, which proved crucial in Grundmeier’s diagnosis.

Two of the three biopsies came back without noting anything amiss, but the third was a different story.

“When the third one came back he basically messaged me and said, ‘yeah, what you have is rare. I’m referring you to a GI (specialist) in Rochester,’” Grundmeier said. “I thought, ‘oh know.’”

Within five days, Grundmeier was meeting with the specialist, but the timing was challenging because everything came to a head just days before this year’s reveal of the Pay It Forward project for Tim and Samantha Staver.

While the news was devastating enough, the understanding of what it meant was equally heavy.

“There’s nothing as far as lifestyle I can change,” Grundmeier said. “I can help with the aggravation and they put me on medication.”

“They gave me ideas of things I can just avoid that would lessen any irritation because of the lining,” she later added.

However, the discovery that she had AMAG wasn’t the end, because doctors soon began working on another question related to her liver earlier in the process. Often, anybody suffering AMAG will also have something else going on and so doctors tested her alkaline phosphatase (ALP) levels, which they expected to be up. But they weren’t.

Doctors began looking at bone density and while Grundmeier was hoping for something like osteoporosis — it wasn’t, meaning that it could be something more serious.

“Now we wait and see what the next step is,” Grundmeier said.

With medical costs rising, a third challenge was entered into the mix, however, it was somebody on the receiving end of Pay It Forward that ironically came forward to start the process along with another who has been a major part of the program for a number of years.

“Unknown to me, Samantha Staver approached Morgan (Converse) and said they had to come up with a way to help me with some of my bills,” Grundmeier said. “That’s how the GoFundMe started.”

As a self-employed business through T ‘N G Plumbing, health insurance is an astronomical cost and Grundmeier said in the past that she’s always been able to handle costs on her own. However, as procedures and tests began stacking up so did the costs.

Her last endoscopy alone cost $7,000.

However, Grundmeier isn’t one to simply sit back and wait as she and her husband, Todd Grundmeier, continue working to find ways around these hurdles. Having so much support outside of her inner circle has also been a comfort.

“It is incredible and the things people have said, the comments they are making and the things they make when they are sharing the posts … I always just felt what I’m doing is the right thing to do,” Grundmeier said. “It wasn’t anything I bankrolled to come back to later. To see what everybody says, there is great comfort in it.”

“Having people around you gives an incredible addition to the strength you’re trying to find sometimes anyway,” she continued. “Having that support is huge. It’s incredibly comforting.”

That comfort started early on with Converse’s own work with establishing the GoFundMe page.

“She is the beautiful human who sees the value in people who haven’t found that value in themselves,” Converse wrote on the page. “She will be sure you are taken care of before she takes care of herself and we all are well aware of her extraordinary efforts to make our world a little bit brighter.”

That effort and those words stuck with Grundmeier.

“I can learn more about myself by listening to her and the way she speaks about me then I guess through my own words,” she said. “The way she puts things is quite incredible and I’m humbled by it.”

Grundmeier is likely to face many more challenges as this process goes along. She admits its scary for both her and Todd, but she also believes in a positive future.

“I think we all need to live life to the fullest,” Grundmeier said. “Pursue your dreams. I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.”

If you would like to help Gina Grundmeier and her family, visit this link at GoFundMe.