A heartfelt thank you

By Michelle Winchenbach | Mar 21, 2014

Michelle Robicheau Winchenbach, 35, who grew up in Thomaston, was diagnosed Sept. 27 with advanced inflammatory breast cancer. Friends, family and the community rallied around her with a fundraiser March 11 at Trackside Station restaurant.

Where to begin? This has turned into quite the journey that I never would have expected for my life.

I am a homemaker, a worker, a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a woman. I like to make people around me laugh, sometimes at my own expense. I thought, "How can I make others laugh, when inside I am crumbling apart and can barely muster a smile to present on my tired face? I have two young daughters, who look to me for strength and guidance. How can I break down and give up, but expect them to believe everything will be all right, especially when I don’t know if it will be?"

So many wonderful people have written to me, or reached out to me, and told me that they felt I was a strong person and a brave person for what I am going through. Neither of which have I ever really thought of myself being. Strong, maybe at times. My husband is a commercial scallop fisherman, who is away 60 percent or more of the year. It takes a lot to raise two children (especially in today’s society), make sure bills are paid and the household is running smoothly, plus do all of the outdoor yard work and such essentially all alone. But that’s all stuff that I did whether he was home or not; it just needed to be done. But brave? No, I still can barely deal with a spider in the house, and I will not ride the carnival rides at the fair. That is brave, or stupid; the jury’s still out.

Ambrose Redmoon said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important.” My family and friends are always more important to me. I can be strong and courageous for them. And I thank my lord, Jesus, for providing me with that strength, for without him, I would just fall and allow it to consume me.

Cancer has taught me that the only things that need to be done are the things that keep you sane, happy and most importantly, alive. I try not to dwell in pity for myself. I am alive. I will seek out happiness, be it in a friend, a family member, or even my favorite, the haven’t-met-yet friend – a stranger who looks like he or she needs a kind word or two. I will run in the summer rain in my skivvies, dancing like a child. I will look for the beauty in every tiny, little aspect around me, just to avoid the ugly. I will share my medical experience with anyone who shows interest, but will not press it upon them unsolicited, as I believe we all experience life, death and the dash in-between differently and uniquely to ourselves. My medical experiences may differ drastically from the next person’s, or may practically mirror someone else’s: cancer patient or not. I can only speak of what I personally have experienced; the good, the bad, and the “you’ve got to be kidding me?”

After hearing of my diagnosis, I had so many people reach out to me, or try to contact me to make wonderful offers to my family of cooking meals, cleaning my house, covering costs of co-pays, plus offering to chauffeur my children if need be to school, or related events, trips to the grocery store, etc. Many thanks go to The Food Ladies of the Waldoboro Baptist Church for our Friday meals during intense chemo treatments, as well as numerous neighbors and friends and family who also provided spontaneous meals. My enduring thanks to my neighbor, Michelle Prock, for helping out when our puppy got hit and needed to be brought to the vet. To my high school friends: Missy Poulin, who stepped up and shaved her head right after I had to do mine, to Mia Feltis, for giving me a haircut on my terms so that it wouldn’t be so shocking when it began to fall out, to Brenda Olsen for taking down the length slowly for me, and to Gena and Paula for doing the dirty deed and buzzing it off completely when it finally had to be done.

I am blessed to have such wonderful friends and family, as well as to live in such a remarkable community. I am completely blown away by the outpouring of generosity by all the businesses and individuals for the auction and raffle that was organized on my behalf, not to mention the phenomenal success of the evening overall. I cannot even come close to thanking you all enough for caring for me and being there the other evening.

Words cannot even describe the love and thanks I have for my parents, Joe and Leanne Robicheau, for everything they have done for me, and continue to do. Which leads me to an unprecedented group of people, My Dirty Half Dozen: my sister, Jennifer Maynard, and a group of my closest friends, Genevieve ‘Gena’ Richardson, Paula Byrnes, Kevin Boughton, Jen Chapman and Beth Waters.

These fantastic people went above and beyond, for little ol’ me by gathering gift certificates, retail items, handmade/homemade items, promotional time and advertising for a surprise auction and raffle fundraiser. I was shocked, stunned, astonished, giddy, humbled. I couldn’t, and still cannot, believe my friends care so much that they took a lot of their own time to plan and organize something so special for me. They even arranged a surprise – a short, but sweet, Skype chat conversation with the founder of the breast cancer awareness group, “Feel Your Boobies foundation,” Leigh Hurst, who I had only had a phone conversation and a couple email correspondences with prior to the event.

I have been, and now will continue to be, a long-time advocate for breast cancer awareness, and Leigh’s group creates a lighthearted way to approach the serious matter of breast cancer.

Mike and Kelly Woods, owners of Trackside Station, where the event was held, are awesome! The facility was clean and bright, food was 'delish,' drinks were tasty, wait staff was super friendly and the hospitality was overwhelming. Thank you for providing such a wonderful atmosphere to this event that the above-mentioned group worked so hard on. The evening was simply phenomenal all around.

I’d like to thank each of the generous businesses and individuals that made donations for the auction and raffle as well as many other gifts, such as flowers for my table. They did this for me, a community member they may or may not have known. I will forever be appreciative and give thanks to:

Anne Crosman Robishaw, Kim Scheimreif of Shepards & Such Homesteading Farm, Ann Betts Daggett, Kathy Rawley Hammer and Patricia Ripley of Bad Hair Days, Todd Mank of Bullwinkle’s Steak House/Bog Tavern, Casey’s Creative Cupcakes, Cindy Dirkes Miller, Elizabeth Stanley Photography, Megan Gray of Grayz Angle Photography, Steve Ralph of Harold C. Ralph Chevrolet, Jade Express, Jeff’s Marine, Jennifer Maynard, Jeremy Davis Woodworking, Jil Emerson Ritchie, Tom Chester, Jessica Leonard Chester of Leonard’s, Maggie Trout, the Maine Lighthouse Museum and Dorothy Black, Mia Feltis of Mia’s Sheer Perfection, Midcoast Laser Works, Mike Farley, Moody’s Diner, Nida Kunesh, the Owls Head Transportation Museum, Patti Lawry of Reflections, Mike Benner of Rockland Ford, Kerry Boynton of Salty Water Designs, Subway, Susan Vaughan, Marci Creamer and Heather Soper of The Look, Mike and Kelly Woods of Trackside Station, Vicki Fales of Waterworks, Melissa Soiett, Chris Chadwick of The Black Harpoon, Burnham’s Bloomers, Dorrie and Frank Woods, Elizabeth’s Cut and Style, Kevin Boughton of Midcoast Marine Electronics, Joe and Carol Rafalowski, Heidi and Joel Neal of The Loyal Biscuit Co., Paula Byrnes and Lyman-Morse, Liftmaster and Millsy’s Garage Doors, Rob and Nikki Dixon Murray, Sarah Robertson, Lorraine Prock of The Belted Cow, Beth Waters and US Cellular, Donald Blackman of Best Rates Towing, David Neubig, J & J Lobster, Knox County Paranormal Services, Susan Ware of Maritime Energy/Farms, Lolie Palooza a.k.a. Laura Perkins, Mike and Meg Maney of Naked Leather, Chris Merritt of Schooner Bay Taxi, Lynette Platt of The Market Basket, Cathy Grindell, Sharkey’s American Iron, Atlantic Studios Inc. Custom Tattooing, and Shelley’s Flowers.

A most sincere thank you to all the attendees of this event, those who bid on items, those who won items, those who won raffles, purchased drinks and shirts, etc.

An extended thank you to the generous folks who made donations to my bank account, or who have sent them to me directly, and to those who have continued to do so since the fundraiser.

A big thank you to some of my tiniest supporters: Magic Mountain Daycare and Brenda Porter and Courtney Porter-Tetreault.

A thoughtful thank you to my nephews, Ryan and Brady Maynard, for the numerous pictures they drew for me to keep my spirits up, as well as shaving their heads in support of me.

A fierce shout-out thank you to Oceanside East students who bought bracelets and paid to wear hats one day to show support for me, and thanks to my niece, Kaytlin Maynard for arranging it.

I have a special thank you to the anonymous person who left me a heartfelt donation at Trackside, prior to the event. In the note he writes, “It’s not much $, but God chooses his toughest soldiers to fight the hardest battles. P.S. You got this; don’t (expletive deleted) give up. Please.” And to him I say, “I won’t give up; I have too much worth fighting for. I hope that someday you may introduce yourself, as in my mind, we are now friends.”

Without naming each person, I would like to thank every current fighter or survivor who has reached out and shared their experiences with me, offered support and advice, resources, alternatives, product suggestions, etc. You are all such wonderful folks, and you truly define the words, “Together ♥ We can make it.”

A true heartfelt thank you to the folks who had never met me, but came to show support for me — my “haven't met yet” friends — and to the people who won auction or raffle items/gift certificates and turned them back in to go to my family – that was completely unexpected and incredibly generous and thoughtful of you.

And to all my friends and family (whether in attendance or not), I appreciate your continued love, thoughts and prayers, and well wishes.

It is such a great feeling to know that you are surrounded by love and have so many meaningful connections with those around you.

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