Editor’s note: This is the fifth installment in a nine-part series on SOUL Walk.
UNION CITY, Ind. — Stacy Dorko has attended all of the walks associated with Survivors of Unspeakable Loss (SOUL) with the exception of last year when she battling her own health woes and was in the hospital.
Dorko was diagnosed with Chronic Malignant Leukemia in 2008 and the illness became more serious last year.
“She had pneumonia four times and was in a coma three times,” said her mother, Jean Borton. “It was an interesting last year. She was in the hospital for nine months. We were afraid we were losing her.”
Dorko, who now lives in Springboro, also underwent a stem cell transplant on Oct. 14, 2014, after her father, Ken Schmitz of Rose Hill, donated his stem cells.
“Dad’s been here [at the walk] every year with me,” Stacy said.
She now has issues with drop foot and graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), which includes inflammatory and/or fibrosing manifestations that may arise at various times after transplantation of any organ containing lymphoid cells.
“They just put me on a whole bunch of steroids,” Dorko said.
“She’s cancer free,” offered her mother.
Her parents attended the event with her as did good friend, Tricia Shade of Carlisle, who drove, and two of Dorko’s three children Evan 4, and Karlie, 2. Husband Rob and daughter Madisyn, 10, were unable to attend the SOUL Walk held Sept. 20, at Harter Park, here.
The couple, who met through a friend, will be married five years on Dec. 23.
Stacy said her only restrictions now are to be careful, don’t hug many people and don’t overdo.
“Or, I will be out for a few days,” she said. “It wears me out.”
Dorko, who formerly worked at Cassano’s in Huber Heights, was active with the SOUL group almost since it started. The group in the first year was devoted to survivors of those who completed suicide.
She lost her brother and best friend, Bruce Schmitz, to suicide on Dec. 15, 2004, at the age of 20. He was a 2003 graduate of Mississinawa Valley High School.
“I sure could have used Bruce this past year,” said Stacy, with tears in her eyes, “He was a great person. He would help anybody. He was my hero, my best friend.”
“Bruce would have probably been her match [for the stem cell transplant],” Borton said. “They [Stacy and Bruce] were trouble-makers together.”
Shade, Dorko’s friend who brought her to Union City, Indiana, for the recent walk, said it was Stacy who helped her and her husband to get over her own sister-in-law’s passing following a drug overdose.
“I found her [the sister-in-law],” said Shade, validating that Stacy has played an important role in her family’s life.
It has been Shade who helps take care of Dorko’s children when she is not feeling well or in the hospital.
“Stacy has the word ‘faith’ tattooed on the back of his neck and my husband has a big orange ribbon on the back of his thigh,” said Shade, who walked the SOUL Walk as did the entire Schmitz family mentioned.