Help Dempsey Wheeler Recover from Cancer and a Heart Attack

For: Dempsey Wheeler and Jillian Wheeler
Austin, TX
Organizer: Allison Coleman
Help Dempsey Wheeler Recover from Cancer and a Heart Attack (Dempsey Wheeler and Jillian Wheeler)
of $40,000 goal
4% Complete
Raised by 12 donors
This fundraiser is closed. Thank you for your support!

The Story

My stepfather Dempsey Wheeler is one of those guys that everyone loves. He is funny and kind. This last year has been tough for him, having experienced both head/neck cancer and a heart attack. He and his family could use your help to pay for the medical bills that are stacking up and general life recovery cost! Dempsey has survived so much and is getting better but we are still waiting to see when and if he will be able to return to work. Your donation will be used to help Dempsey and Jillian to manage the medical bills (with more to come) and living expenses while Dempsey regains his strength.

More about this year:

In January 2017, 57-year-old Dempsey Wheeler was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. His wife, Jillian, got the call, and when she told him, they were in shock. He said, "I wanted another 20 years with you." That became their motto - 20 More Years.

They went to Cancer Treatment Center in Phoenix, where he had surgery to remove a fast-growing tumor in his neck (including some muscle), then he underwent 7 weeks of chemo and  daily radiation, causing extensive damage to his throat and neck, as well as impacting his kidneys and heart.  

He was hospitalized several times. The last time, in May, he was in critical condition, but regained his strength enough to be released to begin recovery. They went to stay with friends in New Mexico. In August, he had a heart attack and was life flighted to El Paso, where he had several stents implanted.

Dempsey is my stepfather. He's always been there for my brothers and me, and after his sister died, he and my mom helped raise his three nieces. For ten years he's worked for Austin State Hospital, caring for psychotic patients. Often he has worked a second job to make sure we all had what we needed, so that my mom could homeschool the younger kids, and to send them to college. 

We all love and depend on Dempsey, and we want to help him be able to be here for our mom, for us, and for his 10 grandchildren. 

As of his last visit to CTCA, in August, Dempsey was found to be cancer-free, and his odds of recovery from this cancer are very promising. He has to return for quarterly checkups for the next several years. He is about to begin physical therapy to strengthen his right side, which was weakened by the surgery, In mid-October he will began two months of cardiac rehab.

Through this process, Dempsey has lost 80 pounds. He throat is still painful, and he has difficulty eating. He is extremely weak, and cannot walk too far without stopping to rest.  The weakness is a result of the radiation as well as the heart attack. The expected recovery time for that type of radiation is at least a year.

Dempsey has not been able to work since January, and at this point we do not know when he will be able to return to work. His co-workers have generously donated vacation time to him, but that has run out. Family members have been of great help. My mom, who is a writer and consultant, has worked very little this year as she has put everything else aside to care of him. Although he was treated in another state, they still had expenses at home in Austin. 

Fortunately, CTCA accepted Dempsey's state insurance in network. However, he was also treated in 4 other hospitals and by a number of other providers, for whom his insurance only paid a portion of their fees. The radiation necessitated extensive dental work, and he was also under the care of an audiologist. They returned to Austin to face many thousands of dollars in medical bills,  after a year with very limited income.  We know additional dental work will be needed when he goes back to Phoenix in October,. There are also more medical expenses pending and to come over the next months.

Your gift will be used to pay medical expenses and to provide additional support as needed. Even a small donation can make a real difference. Please also share this with your friends! Our family thanks you!

You can read more in the blog (just go back to the first post):

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on November 18, 2017


Posted on November 18, 2017

Dempsey is continuing Cardiac Rehab 3 times a week, and he's getting stronger. So far he has gained 10 pounds of muscle.

Posted on October 21, 2017

Posted on October 21, 2017

Dempsey started physical therapy this week to strengthen his left side, weakened by his cancer surgery.  He also began his 12-week Cardiac Rehab program.  He's so grateful for the donations, which have already helped with some medical bills.

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