Cathy Wingert may have lost her battle with colon cancer, but her legacy lives on.
After being diagnosed in December 2012, Wingert, who resided in Marshfield, spent the next five years becoming an advocate for colon cancer research and raising funds for the cause. Her story has inspired her family to continue her mission by organizing a Bowlin’ for Colons fundraising event in Marshfield on March 4th, just two days shy of Cathy’s birthday.
When Wingert learned in spring 2014 that her cancer had metastasized with no cure possible, she sought a second opinion at the UW Carbone Cancer Center in Madison under Dr. Dusty Deming, a colon cancer survivor himself. The center is the only comprehensive cancer center in the state of Wisconsin, and focuses on patient care, research, education, and prevention.
She was impressed by Dr. Deming’s care and research efforts, and decided to use whatever time she had left to make an impact.
“My mom had this newfound hope that led her to attend conferences, serve on advisory boards and mentor other cancer patients,” said Brianah Laughnan, Cathy’s daughter. “She truly believed in all the work that Dusty was doing, and continues to do, in his research lab.”
Additionally, Wingert and her family attended fundraising events for the center, which includes Carbone Race for Research (October), Bowlin’ for Colons (March), The Ride (September), Funk Out Cancer (November, alternating years), and Andy North & Friends last summer.
She also found a way to make a personal donation to the center through a life insurance option that allowed her to use the money while living. Her family, husband Patrick Wingert and three children Ross Wingert, Raelynn Wingert, and Brianah, all supported her decision and even donated their own shares toward the cause. Altogether, the family made a $50,000 initial donation to the research lab under Dr. Deming.
Wingert held her own fundraising event in November 2016 and shared her story and the importance of research with friends at the Blue Heron Brewpub. Dr. Deming visited from Madison, as well as oncologist Dr. Yeboah of Marshfield Clinic.
After passing away last November, her family saw the impact she had made in the many who showed up to pay their respects. Wingert had many roles within the Marshfield community, including Martin Dental office, MACCI, Marshfield Wastewater Treatment Facility and Marshfield School District as Administrative Secretary to the Superintendent.
“We always knew Mom built many relationships and knew many people, but seeing the amount of people that attended her visitation and funeral really confirmed the impact she had on many lives within the Marshfield and surrounding communities,” said Laughnan.
For those close to her, Wingert’s legacy is the positive attitude she had during her cancer battle.
“Throughout her cancer journey my Mom was not negative,” Laughnan said. “She would always remain positive, and I remember her always saying, ‘there is always someone that has it worse.’”
“I remember telling her on numerous occasions that she always seemed so happy and positive,” said Krystal Bowman, Cathy’s niece. “This is something that Eric and I remind each other when we have a bad day, and Cathy instilled it in us.”
Wingert was given an official timeline in October and received in-home hospice, passing away on November 3 surrounded by family. However, that was not the end of her mission.
“My wheels were already spinning about how we could continue her legacy,” said Laughnan. “In December, I reached out to one of the contacts mom had made during her time at Carbone.”
She was able to secure Rose Bowl Lanes as one of the six locations for Bowlin’ for Colons, an event which the family first attended in 2016 on Wingert’s birthday. Hosting their own event was a possibility that Laughnan discussed with her mother last summer.
“I truly believe that this never would have been possible without the relationships that my Mom made with so many people in the Development Office at Carbone,” she said.
The family hopes to make the event an annual one and continue Wingert’s commitment to colon cancer research. And while she won’t be able to see the results herself, Wingert’s legacy will live on in the thousands who receive better treatment and improved odds after a diagnosis.