Chip Garrow is a person who typically cannot sit still.
That’s why he spends his free time at Flease’s Wolf River Trips and Campground on County X between Northport and Weyauwega.
“I love landscaping,” Garrow said. “Mark Flease lets me do just about anything I come up with and trusts me to do it well.”
As a result, Garrow designed a flow of water that glides over river rock, around vegetation and down the hill to the sandy beach. It runs parallel of the lengthy steps that lead to the ever-popular tubing area.
“I’m really proud of the waterfall. I got help from Brett Handschke, who made it a fun project. It challenged us,” Garrow said.
The employees at Wolf River Trips are a tight bunch. They return each year to their seasonal family.
Usually Chip will jump at a chance to experience something new. Two weeks ago, he received a verbal invitation to attend New London’s Relay for Life. Flease family members attend annually.
“I’d never been to one, but I heard a little bit about them over the years,” Garrow said.
Since Garrow was experiencing cancer, and his seasonal family wanted to go with him, they arrived at the event. They wore identical t-shirts designed by Sam Van Alstine and Austin Scherpke made to raise money for Garrow’s medical bills.
The shirts are bright blue with neon green lettering, a standout in a crowd of purple survivor and white cancer fighter shirts. Garrow knew the survivors in purple shirts shared a link with him.
In the summer of 1998, Garrow was fresh out of high school when he experienced chest pains. Over a few weeks, they increased in pain and frequency. He was becoming alarmed.
As he walked down the driveway one day, Garrow sunk to his knees in pain. His father had had enough. He took him directly to the emergency room.
The doctors were astounded as they examined chest x-rays. A mass had grown around the young man’s heart. Showing Garrow the x-ray brought the news into focus.
He says it took the medical team well over a month to diagnose it.
“Remember, that was back when the portable CT scanner went from hospital to hospital,” Chip said.
Today the diagnosis takes about three days to confirm. He said the technology advances so quickly that from 1998 to now, the treatments and medications are vastly different.
To remove the cancer around his heart, Garrow received a procedure comparative to open-heart surgery. The tumor measured 6 by 9 by 12 inches. A strict regimen of chemotherapy and radiation followed.
All the while Garrow took things in stride.
“When you’re that age you get on with it. You can’t wait to have your freedom back,” he said.
There were minor complications, some attributed to reactions from medications.
“It was pretty much clear sailing, really,” he recalled.
The clear sailing lasted five years. Again, Garrow experienced pains in his chest, but strangely enough, only when wearing a seat belt.
An initial x-ray revealed the sternum wiring from his 1998 surgery was detaching. The seat belt rubbed across the area where the wiring had unraveled. They would have to open him up and replace the wiring.
This x-ray also revealed the deadly disease in his abdomen.
His doctor suggested he contact a colleague at Froedert Hospital.
Garrow took this doctor’s advice and underwent chemotherapy and radiation to decrease the size of the tumor, in order to operate. Following his surgery, a staph infection developed that he fought for a month.
“I was taking strong medication that did not agree with me,” Garrow said. “One day I was really out of it, and the dog started barking and wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t get out of bed to take care of him.”
Garrow managed to call his sister, who rushed over.
“If it weren’t for the dog and my sister, I don’t know what would have happened to me,” Garrow said.
However, he survived and his health improved.
“The harsh drugs really make you fight,” Garrow said. “They were much harder to deal with than the operation.”
Garrow was a volunteer firefighter for the city of Greenville and went on to achieve an associate’s degree in fire fighting. Being a firefighter provided firsthand knowledge as to what a First Responder does.
He was so impressed that he switched his volunteer service and became a First Responder. “
They are both such taxing jobs, it’s just that First Responder tasks fit my interests more,” Chip said.
IN January of this year cancer invaded Garrow’s body again.
He self-diagnosed himself this time, being mindful of the constant itching that began on his upper legs, and progressed throughout his body.
Garrow did what others do when experiencing skin irritation. He changed detergents, got rid of restrictive under armor clothing.
He then went to see a doctor with findings that he had every symptom but one that diagnosed Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“Chemo rooms are sad places. People are waiting to die,” Garrow said. “I was fortunate to meet Nancy Rabe, who would not let the cancer silence her.”
Chip said she is a hostess; running around making sure everyone is as comfortable as possible, greeting the nurses, and having loud discussions with others as she sat in her chemo chair, receiving strong cancer-fighting medicines. She, Chip, and others created the Loud Section.
Once patients have completed their chemotherapy sessions, a healing bell at the exit of the room says, “Ring this bell, three times well, its toll to clearly say, my treatment’s done, this course is run, and I am on my way!”
Inspired by Penney Garbe, Garrow took the idea and made a bell for the Appleton Medical Center. Plans are in the works for a bell at each hospital in the Fox Valley.
Enduring bouts of chemotherapy and painful medication side effects, Garrow is not quiet about cancer.
“The stories of cancer need to be heard,” he said, regarding the stories shared by Relay for Life. “It’s a sounding board for a disease that is nasty, and affects everyone around you.”