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Hospice patient’s ‘trip of a lifetime’ is spending time with family

Photos of her family’s Florida beach vacation warmed Billie Martin’s heart during the long, dreary winter. At the same time, they broke it, too.

The person who had enjoyed the vacation most wasn’t there to enjoy the photos with her. Martin’s son, David Wolfe, had died Jan. 29 of brain cancer. He was just 29.

With David Wolfe, second from right, are, from left, his sister Sammie Martin, brother Drew Wolfe, sister in-law Racheal Wolfe, nephew Lucas Wolfe, mother Billie Martin and sister Dani Thieme. 

Martin says her son, known as “Googs,” was a “gentle-natured, fun-loving, goofy guy” who endeared himself to family and friends. A long cancer battle didn’t change that.

“He always had such an upbeat personality. He never complained,” she says.

A hard journey

In 2009, Wolfe suffered a seizure. Tests showed that he had a grade 2 glioblastoma — the deadliest form of cancerous brain tumor. Very few patients survive more than three years. In July 2010, the tumor was partially removed, alleviating some symptoms.

But by the summer of 2014, Wolfe’s symptoms had worsened. The tumor had regrown, and doctors attempted two more surgeries and countless radiation and chemotherapy treatments in hopes of putting the cancer into remission.

Though the treatments bought Wolfe some time, the tumor had progressed to grade 4 by January 2018 and was no longer operable. By April 2018, the treatments had become ineffective. Wolfe was told he had six months to one year to live.

His family was devastated. Wolfe was so young and still had so much to see and do.

When Wolfe mentioned to his social worker, Michelle Bryant, that he had always wished he could go with his family to see the beach, Bryant called Friends of Wings to get the ball rolling.

Friends of Wings is an organization of volunteers and donors working to create memories, celebrate life and bring comfort to BJC pediatric and adult hospice patients, families and others impacted by life-limiting illness. Friends of Wings members work to fund and support programs that are centered on celebrating and capturing the moments that matter.

The Friends of Wings team swung into action, reaching out to those willing to help. Homeowners Ray Smith, MD, and Patty Nations, an oncologist and oncology nurse, donated their beach house in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, for Wolfe’s and his family’s stay. Florida photographer Michelle Castle donated a family photo session on the beach and the digital images. Drury Hotels donated four one-night stays so the family could stop twice on the way down and back, to make the ride easier for Wolfe. Enterprise Rent-a-Car donated a minivan at a substantial discount. Finally, Friends of Wings donated a goody basket filled with everything from gas gift cards to games and snacks, and Friends of Wings supporters Joe and Marti Roth donated a $150 gift card for traveling expenses.

Memories made

David Wolfe and his family enjoyed their trip to Santa Rosa Aug. 9-20. It was a special time for the entire family, says Martin.

“It was our first-ever family vacation together, and it meant everything in the world to me and my children,” Martin says. “We made so many memories. We laughed, we talked, we had quiet time just to sit there and enjoy each other without interruptions. No extra worries.

“I don’t know if I could ever say thank you enough or if anyone can truly understand how thankful I am as a mother and how thankful my son was to have that time at the beach,” says Martin.

After almost 10 years of living with a lethal cancer, David Wolfe died Jan. 29.

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