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Jeff & Mary Dorn

Guest Story: Jeff & Mary Dorn

DePere, Wis.

“Life can still happen here. The real world and the caregiver cancer world intersect.”

April Fool’s Day was an unfortunate date for Jeff Dorn to be diagnosed with cancer. When he called his brother with the news, he thought it was a prank.

As the family soon learned, though, Jeff’s leukemia was all too real. After weeks of symptoms and self-advocacy, his tests showed a need for immediate care. The DePere resident made immediate plans to travel to Milwaukee with his wife Mary.

Mary was the first to find a “home away from home” at Kathy’s House, after renting a room about 30 minutes away – a situation she described as “a chaotic mess.” In contrast, staying at Kathy’s House was transformative. Each day of Jeff’s inpatient stay, she would eat breakfast before heading to the hospital for a full 12-hour day. Walking to and from the hospital was a welcome stress relief for the self-described small-town native, who would not have been comfortable driving around the city.

Mary was also heartened by the opportunity to spend her Sundays cooking, which she calls “my therapy.” “I go out to the kitchen and I cook and I come back all smiley,” she said.  Being in Kathy’s House allowed her to build a support system with other families. “No one else in your life understands what it’s like to be a caregiver or a cancer patient like the people here do,” she explained.