Recently I began seeing these posts on Facebook about this fundraiser for an Oil City cop who is battling a very aggressive cancer. I learned a little about what was going on and passed the info on to our long-time reporter Judy Etzel. She covers Oil City and frankly, is the best writer we have.
Only thing is..... her husband passed away from a devastating battle with cancer and she just can't do these stories. She did say we need to do the story. So I reached out, through a message, to see if they would be willing to share their story with me.
I didn't hear back for a couple days. Then I received a message asking for more clarification about what I wanted to do. I was honest and up-front as I am with everyone I'm asking to trust me. I said it basically starts with a conversation.
But they agreed to a conversation.
What I didn't know was they really had decided not to talk to me, that this was a private family thing and they wanted it to be that way. But they reached out to a mutual friend of ours and asked about me.
Now this is where I get a little choked up. They listened to our mutual friend who said that I was the one they should talk to and I'd do their story justice.
I'm just a photographer at a small paper, but someone is telling another person that I will tell their story right.
I was scared now because now someone is advocating for me and I can't mess this up.
It was remarkable to me watching him.
Then about an hour or so into our conversation he looked at me and asked again, so what is it exactly we're doing with this, what is this about?
So I again stated the importance of telling a story in a way that connects with people because they can relate. Often words are easy to dismiss, but words with photographs - telling photographs - reach so many more people and often will help others who might be going through the same or similar thing.
I'm not sure why, but Steve got that. Paula got that. And we proceeded.
What a gift they gave to us by opening up their struggles so we can better understand life.
I want to thank Steve and Paula for letting me into their lives. What a gift you gave to me to get to know you better. So often these stories about people are at arms length and easy to dismiss, but knowing someone who tells me a part of their life - there aren't words really. I think about you every day now and hope somehow you're not coughing as much and the difficulties with breathing and burning in your chest are just not there.
Your strength amazes me.
Rembold said he can't believe how everything in life has changed so fast.
In the fall whole family had a bout of bronchitis, Rembold said. So when he began coughing it just seemed that he got it too. After doubling over in pain he went to get some tests. The tests showed he had fractured some of his ribs from the heavy coughing.
During the next few weeks he continued to cough and things just were not improving. More tests began to reveal something serious. By early December he learned he had cancer cells throughout his body.
The prognosis was not good and his health kept deteriorating.
Everything in the family changed at that point.
One week later on New Years Eve, Steve's health rapidly worsened. He had trouble walking without losing his breath.
"I'd get winded walking from here to there," he said pointing to a door about 12 feet away.
Paula, knowing her husband was so sick he couldn't wait for his scheduled appointments in mid-January, tried to get him some help. His doctor got him some medication and inhalers but they didn't seem to help. On Jan 2 they headed to the emergency room.
His heart-rate was elevated and his oxygen level was low. On top of everything else he was developing pneumonia. They spent the whole day and night in the ER. After assessing Steve's condition his doctor suggested a very aggressive treatment right away.
The doctor called it a "hail Mary" where they would throw everything they had to attack the cancer immediately. The following day Steve had two doses of chemotherapy and one dose of immunuotherapy.
Two weeks later Steve Rembold is back at home with a near daily appointment schedule. He has around the clock oxygen to help keep his levels regulated and a basket of medication. Additional scans have shown the aggressive cancer has also spread to his brain furthering the complications of treatment.
But he hasn't lost hope. More chemo therapy and radiation treatments are scheduled to hopefully shrink the tumors as he fights.
"Things can change and we have to hope they will," Steve Rembold said. He looks toward the future and once again serving his community by getting back to work. "Even if its light duty. I miss it," he said.
While the Rembolds were busy with emergency rooms and doctors their friends and community were busy arranging ways to support the family. A facebook page was created - OCPD 96 Strong - to give a place for the community to keep up to date. The 96 refers to Rembold's badge number.
A Go Fund Me account was set. T-shirts to support the family are being sold along with bracelets and a fundraiser dinner with a basket raffle and bake sale is planned for the end of the month at the Venango Technical Center.
Another fundraiser is planned for February at Double Play in Oil City.
"I'm not one to ask for help," Steve Rembold said, but can't be more thankful to his friends and co-workers who are stepping up to help.
Comments left on the Facebook page have even brought them to tears. People he has encountered on the job over the years have left notes thanking him for helping them when their life was at a low point.
He was surprised by those, to him it's just part of the job and he loves his job.
"You forget," he said about how police work can sometimes help someone turn their life around. "Those are the ones that really got me," he said as he wiped tears from his eyes.
Paula said everything from the fundraising efforts to little notes in cards all mean so much to them as they concentrate on this chapter of their lives.
"We are so thankful to everyone for all they are doing?" she said.
Visit the GoFundMe account here to donate directly. https://www.gofundme.com/f/96-treatment-supoort?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link&utm_campaign=p_cf+share-flow-1&fbclid=IwAR3J3hgaqzShmhbvr0Kn5Yh9wFP_EBVJFPgWmRv0UJBnp2SnNf-PrjhqD2k
A chicken and biscuit benefit dinner is planned for Jan. 31 from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Venango Technology Center. Tickets are $9 for adults and $5 for children.
There will be a Chinese auction at the benefit with dozens of baskets and other items including a bake sale
Other ways to help include a T-shirt, wristband and bumper sticker sale. The shirts and stickers are designed with a black white and blue flag with OCPD#96Strong and the words "In this family, No one fights alone," Orders for the shirts can be placed by Monday for $13/child or $18/Adults or $20 for plus sizes. Bumper stickers are $4. These can be ordered using a form found on the OCPD#96 Strong Facebook page or by stopping by the police department.
The wrist bands are $2 or 3 for $5 and available at State Farm Insurance in the Cranberry Mall, Heath's Market in Oil City, the Venango Technical Center or the Oil City police station.
A second benefit is planned for Feb. 9 at Double Play in Oil City from noon to 8 p.m. A portion of sales and tips from guest servers will go to the family. There will be a lottery tree at the restaurant as well.