The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

A survivor's journey

Cancer diagnosis leads to long-term community support


October 13, 2018

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

BREAST CANCER survivor Nan Powell poses in front of Marenisco's Old Dutch Bar, which she owns with her husband, Bill.


Marenisco - Nan Powell of Marenisco used to be a teacher in the Watersmeet Township School District.

"I'm retired," she kidded in a recent interview with The Globe, "but I bought myself a job." For five years now, she and her husband, Bill, have owned the Old Dutch Bar in Marenisco.

As though that were not enough, she said, "I had breast cancer one and one-half years ago.

"I was diagnosed in March (of 2017). Fortunately, I have yearly mammograms, and that saved my life."

Powell said she resulted in a good place, thanks to sound medical care, health insurance, and support from her family and community. "I'm cancer-free," she said in an equally care-free voice.

Nevertheless, her struggle helped her to understand the many challenges people in this region face when battling cancer. "We're in a rural area, so you have to do some traveling," she said, adding, "I know a lot of women have to go to Ashland for radiation."

Powell said she traveled to see her oncologist in Iron Mountain, received chemotherapy in Iron River, and had radiation in Rhinelander, Wis. "Even though I had health care (insurance), those costs add up," she said of the constant travel.

Once she had recovered her health, she learned of another man in Marenisco whose son had to travel to the Mayo Clinic for medical care. Regarding the father, Powell said, "We were talking one day, and there're so many hidden costs."

She said they resulted in concluding, "Maybe we should do something."

She recalled that when she traveled to Rhinelander, an oncology nurse there handed her an envelope with $250 in gas cards. She speculated that the cancer society in that region made the gift possible. "So that got me thinking about it," she said regarding how to help other people in similar circumstances.

Hence, the first annual Nan Powell Cancer Fund Walk was held in Marenisco on this past June 30. "It was strictly a walk to show support" and "community unity," said Powell, who added at least 50 participants started at the Powells' bar and then returned to the adjacent building for food, wine tasting and a basket raffle.

"And we earned $8,000," she said, including donations from businesses and other random sources. She added some people entered the bar before the walk, threw down a $20 bill and said, "I can't be here (for the walk)." Others gave anonymous donations to the related account at Wakefield's First National Bank.

"We're very community-oriented," said Powell, who stressed she "really appreciated" everyone's support. She added of local citizens, "As economically depressed as we are, they really shell out, and that amazes me."

The event also was special, she said, because volunteers helped and Bruce Mahler, chief of the Marenisco Township Police Department, led the walk. "That was kind of nice," said Powell, who uses Mahler's wife, Dr. Kim Mahler, as her personal physician.

Powell said the donations meant that, so far, "We were able to help someone in the community with gas money, hotel and food, and somebody else also now is lined up for help. They're both from this immediate area." She said those people wish to remain anonymous.

Powell's fund is targeted for residents of Marenisco Township. She hopes Wakefield and other nearby communities will create similar funds for their own residents.

As for 2019, Powell said, "We'll definitely continue every year. I definitely want to see that fund get bigger and bigger."

Not only that, but she said someone she knows suggested a chili cook-off as an additional winter fundraiser. She said she told her, "That is a really good idea."

No date is yet set for the cook-off, but Powell is already anticipating more community spirit in the midst of otherwise cold and sometimes dreary days. "Everybody likes to talk about how good their chili is," she said.

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