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Monday, May 2, 2016

Clay County Optimists hear of trials and triumphs of family facing cancer

Monday, March 1, 2004

Optimism has much to do with recovery from illness, many people believe. On Saturday, Clay County Optimists heard from the father of a local teenager who has beaten cancer.

Sara Grafe, 17, and her parents, David and Janelle, were the guests of the weekly Optimists Club meeting at American Legion Post 2 Saturday morning.

"It's been tough, but I made it through with lots of support," Sara said after the meeting.

The Clay City High School senior plans to attend the University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, and become a kindergarten teacher.

Last fall, Sara became ill. Her parents thought she was suffering from pneumonia, but medical tests revealed a tumor in her lung. She was referred to the Indiana University Medical Center where one of the top thoracic surgeons for pulmonary disease took her case, David said.

Surgery was scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving. Fortunately, the tumor was a single-cell carcinoma and there was no evidence that it had spread. Sara will not have to face any kind of therapy, but she will have to return to the doctor for an x-ray examination every six months.

While Sara has a bright future, her parents are waiting with some concern for her final medical bills to arrive. They don't know how much health insurance will pay.

The Grafes will owe more than 20 percent of the $75,000 cost of the surgery. Plus, other medical expenses connected with her illness -- thousands of dollars at a time -- piled up.

"One thing I learned through this," David said. "An African proverb goes, 'Smooth waters do not make good sailors.'"

The Grafes have certainly not had smooth sailing in the past year. David was unemployed, but now he has a job. He says he doesn't mind the 120-mile drive each day.

Janell works for the Clay City branch of the Brazil Public Library. One day, two women who asked not to be identified approached her and said they knew of her daughter's illness.

"Can we do something to help?" they wanted to know.

The result was the organization of two fundraisers, one at Main Street Pizza and one at the A&W restaurant in Clay City .

Since Sara's story has been told, donations have been received from friends and people who don't know the Grafes.

The family believes the illnesses of Sara and another Clay City youth, Natalie Loudermilk, have brought the community together. At least one fundraiser at the A&W has been held for the Loudermilks as well.

"Know what?" David told the club. "We have a great big bunch of friends in Clay City and the surrounding communities."

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