Like most teens his age, Collin Rowley is eager for his high school graduation. Unlike most teens, Rowley must endure monthly rounds of chemotherapy to make his graduation dream a reality.
Rowley, an 18-year-old senior at Stansbury High School, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a malignant childhood brain tumor, during his freshman year. His first round of treatment was successful, but the cancer recurred — reappearing first in his spine, and then again in his brain.
Despite his ongoing treatment, Rowley tries to maintain a fairly normal schedule. He attends school daily, taking just a week off each month for his chemo treatment, and maintains good grades. He plays sports — though he can no longer play baseball and football because of his decreased stamina. He has also discovered a passion for golf and enjoys dirt biking.
“You can’t let something like cancer define your life,” he said. “You have to go about living life the way you want.”
But it hasn’t been easy.
When Rowley’s test results came back positive for cancer and his doctor gave him a year to live, his mother, Wynnie Wahlfeldt, left her job as a school liaison officer at an army base in Kansas to move to Tooele and be near her son. She has been unemployed ever since. Even though she has looked for jobs in the area, nothing has panned out, she said.
Instead, she has dedicated herself to caregiving for her son.
“Caregiving is such a noble work,” she said. “It’s a different sort of work, but for me it’s absolutely the right thing to do.”
Meanwhile, the expenses have stacked up. Just one of the medications Rowley takes costs $25 per pill. Wahlfeldt moved back in with her ex-husband, Greg Rowley, to save money, but the medical expenses continued to eat away at her savings. Her ex-husband’s funds have likewise dwindled.
“After three rounds of cancer — unless I had a $1 million a year job — it’s pretty much wiped things out,” Wahlfeldt said.
The church their family attends, Mountain of Faith Lutheran Church, began planning a fundraiser for Collin last November. Initially the church had intended to hold an event for another congregant fighting breast cancer, but when she heard Collin’s story, she asked that they make him the focus of their efforts instead, said Melissa Merseth, the event’s organizer.
More recently, the faculty and student body officers at Stansbury High School have stepped up to support the fundraiser as well, Merseth said.
“Everyone at that school has just been incredible in their willingness to volunteer,” she said.
Students from the high school’s performing arts classes have planned a variety show using acts that have competed well at the state level, Merseth said. School staff have volunteered to help provide a spaghetti dinner prior to the performance. Local businesses have also donated items such as gift baskets, overnight packages at the Millpond Spa and an afternoon sail boat tour on the Great Salt Lake to a silent auction to be held the same day as the fundraising dinner.
Saturday’s dinner will be served at 6 p.m., followed by the variety show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $25 per family of four, $10 per adult, and $5 for children under ten. They will be available at the door at Stansbury High School the evening of the fundraiser.
Those who cannot attend the fundraiser are welcome to bid in the silent auction, which will be set up at the high school around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Donations can also be made online at www.youcaring.com/collinscause.senioryear.