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Latest News: Obituaries

Annie's Story: Annie Guthenberg '01

Monday, July 15, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Michael Graziano
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 "Annie's Story" was published in an edition of Colon Cancer Newsletter in memory of SFP Graduate Ann Guthenberg '01 who lost her battle to Colon Cancer three weeks shy of her 28th birthday.  Annie is the daughter of SFP Math teacher Bob Guthenberg.   Bob and his wife, Mary Ellen, are forever grateful to the Prep community for their support in both words and deeds.   In addition to the prayers of the community, a fundraiser was held for Annie so that she could do a little traveling in the last few months prior to her passing.
Two peas in a pod – twins; that is how many people would often refer to my sister and best friend, Annie and I. Although three years older than me, we did everything together, especially enjoying the time we spent with friends and family, shopping or even the beach. We both had our own interests in sports; Annie was always the more athletic one; she enjoyed basketball, softball and swimming. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the casual run. In March of 2010, I participated in the Colon Cancer Challenge – my first 15k Run, and I did so in Annie’s memory. Annie was diagnosed with colon cancer at the age of twenty-four. And, she proved to be a valiant opponent to Colon Cancer, but lost the long battle in late September 2010, three weeks shy of her 28th birthday.
Annie and I were in college at the same time, and often commuted to class together.  One semester, however, I remember Annie started to juggle different doctors’ appointments.  She asked me to accompany her to some of them (including one for an endoscopy).  My sister, a student in her twenties, and someone who I even shared a room with, went from a person in "healthy” condition and in great physical shape to someone who suffered from various different conditions like stomach pains and discomfort to frequent urination. She went from appointment to appointment, strung along to different doctors based on the referrals and recommendations. One of the doctors advised her to keep a journal of what she ate daily: Annie was diagnosed with Celiac disease (an immune-system reaction to the wheat-protein Gluten) and was also advised that she was suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.
As soon as my family learned of Annie’s diagnosis of Celiac, our kitchen at home went gluten-free. We mastered reading ingredient labels (to avoid anything that would contain traces of wheat), and even researched restaurants to dine at with gluten-free menus in our neighborhood.  Since Annie had lost some weight, my family and I decided we would learn how bake a ton of gluten free breads and sweets, and we cooked some of Annie’s favorites without gluten.  In addition, my sister-in-law and I developed a plan to have breakfast with Annie before work and class in attempt to encourage Annie to gain the weight back without having to worry about finding something gluten-free at school. The first morning we had our scheduled breakfast together, I made gluten-free pancakes- Annie did not eat too much but she had a fair amount. When I returned later that day, Annie said to me, "your pancakes made me sick.” At first, I thought how that could be possible. Nothing contained wheat and all the pots, pans and utensils were sterilized. However, while I was skeptical, I figured, I must have mixed something up or not have cleaned something properly.  Even with the change in diet, Annie’s ailments continued and were actually worsening.
The next day, our mother took Annie to urgent care because she was still not feeling well and was dehydrated. After some time, the doctors informed us that they were really not sure what was wrong and admitted Annie to the hospital. Annie’s room was consistently busy with doctor after doctor examining and questioning her. The doctors simply did not know and collaborated with Annie’s gastroenterologist to ultimately arrive with Annie’s Stage IV Colon Cancer diagnosis. That was not the news Annie, or anyone else (including the doctors) were expecting to hear. We were all perplexed, and questioned how a twenty-four year old could have colon cancer.
While studies indicate colon cancer is most common in older men, it is not just a disease that affects African-American men over fifty. Colon cancer is a disease that sees no age, shape or color and this is why my family, friends and I support the Colon Cancer Challenge Foundation (CCCF)- "dedicated to a world without colorectal cancer.” It is imperative to understand the symptoms, spread public awareness, and provide doctors with funding for their research towards reaching this goal.
Annie Katie 1 (2).jpgAfter learning Annie had colon cancer, she immediately had two massive surgeries to remove the large tumor pressing on her bladder. She was in recovery for what seemed like the entire summer and when she was strong enough – she started a chemotherapy routine at Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC every two weeks for several years. While Annie’s life (and my family’s life) changed very drastically, Annie still maintained a positive attitude and made every attempt to live each day to the fullest (even while being pushed around in a wheelchair).  Even when I knew Annie was not feeling well, she still made an attempt to get dressed and groomed, and even put on makeup, up to the weekend before she passed. While these are little gestures that become routine, they are an important reminder that shed a lot of light on how to live: always putting our best face forward and doing it with gratitude. Annie and I spent that last weekend together in Atlantic City with friends and family. While we were there we went out to eat, played the slot machines and had lots of laughs, and these are great memories I will always have of my sister.
Kathleen Guthenberg and Baby Son Resized.jpgAccording to the CCCF’s website, this year there will be over 150,000 new cases of colon cancer diagnosed and 50,000 people will die from colon cancer in the U.S. By sharing my story and supporting the CCCF, I hope to spread awareness to ensure no family ever goes through a similar situation. Help find a cure and fight back to cancer: with early screening, colon cancer is preventable, treatable and beatable!
"Get busy livin” - Annie
-Kathleen Guthenberg 5/31/2013