As a mother of five who is very active in her children’s schools and in the Lodi community, a diagnosis of stage 3 ovarian cancer was the last thing Rebecca Enzi wanted to hear from her doctor.
But Enzi, 47, has shown strength through her ordeal, inspiring friends and community members to rally together to raise money and awareness for her cause.
Ranging from teachers to parents of Junior Flames, community members have organized a benefit dinner at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Moose Lodge. Local businesses and organizations have donated items to be auctioned off at the event in addition to prizes for a raffle, and all proceeds from the dinner will go directly to Enzi and her family, to be used according to their needs.
As a coach for the Lodi Junior Flames cheerleaders for past two years, Enzi has been motivating the cheerleaders to succeed and has taken many of them to nationals — all while going through chemotherapy.
“She’s an inspiration, going through something so painful and always keeping a smile on her face,”
Aaron Greenmyer, athletic director of the Lodi Junior Flames, said. “Someone asked why she keeps going, and she said, ‘I made a commitment to the kids.’”
Dinner organizers say it’s not all about the money.
“There are a lot of cancers out there. You don’t hear about ovarian cancer a lot, so we wanted to bring awareness,” Greenmyer said.
Enzi previously lived in Bear Valley, where she was a softball and baseball coach in the Tuolumne and Groveland areas. Her kids were able to ski in their physical education classes at school. Her husband Ken worked at the City of Lodi Electric Utility.
That peaceful life was interrupted by a diagnosis of stage 3 ovarian cancer in June 2010, meaning the cancer had spread outside of the ovaries and into the surrounding areas.
Before her diagnosis, Enzi had occasional pains in her side, but thought nothing of it until her stomach began growing as if she were pregnant and the pains increased. Doctors initially thought it was a fibroid — a usually benign tumor — but instead found a football-sized tumor on her ovary.
“I remember it was a Friday. I turned off my computer in Bear Valley to go for a blood test, and I never walked into that house again. It was like a scene from a movie,” said Enzi. “By the next Wednesday I was diagnosed, and the following Wednesday I went in for surgery.”
By that last Wednesday, she could no longer walk. The tumor’s size was affecting the surrounding organs. Eventually, Enzi had to go to the emergency room.
During surgery, doctors found a second, grapefruit-sized tumor on her other ovary.
While in recovery, Enzi rented a house off Turner Road and friends helped move her and her family to Lodi.
After an initial four-month active chemotherapy treatment and 12 months of maintenance chemo, Enzi began feeling a pain in her side again in Jan. 2013. The cancer had reappeared, this time on her liver. Over the past year, Enzi has undergone more surgery and finished another round of active chemo treatment. She is now moving on to a maintenance chemo treatment.
Despite all this, Enzi keeps a positive outlook, and continues giving her time to her kids and to others.
“You just keep going. I have five kids, so there’s no stopping,” she said. “My kids save my life, I guess. Otherwise I’d sit on the couch crying.”
Enzi said attitude is everything for cancer patients and their families. She advises people to go out and do community service, whether making cookies for the elderly or helping out a family member. Volunteering is fulfilling for the soul, Enzi said, and there simply isn’t time to feel miserable.
One message Enzi hopes to get across is for people to pay attention to their bodies.
“I didn’t have any other symptoms, no bleeding or anything, just pains. That’s why (ovarian cancer is) so deadly,” she said.
Enzi is humbled by the help she has received from friends for Saturday’s benefit dinner. Two hundred tickets have already been sold.
“Doctors can’t predict your expiration date. Only God knows when you’re going,” she said. “I’ve fallen back on my faith and I try to look at the positive side. Even if you keep getting pushed back down, you just get back up again.”