After two battles with cancer, woman won't dwell on the negative

Kevin McClintock

Longtime Neosho, Mo., resident Wanda Lentz has survived not one, but two brushes with cancer.

The first cost her a breast; the second a lump of flesh from her throat. Both times, she put her life in God’s hands.

“I am a survivor,” Lentz said with a shrug.

Eleven years ago, she discovered a small lump near her left breast.

“I went to the doctor and he told me, ‘We’re going to have to take the breast,’ ” Lentz said. “So he took the breast. I didn’t have any qualms about giving it up.”

As she relates the story, her voice is steady, her movements straightforward and matter-of-fact.

“I didn’t do a prosthesis,” she continued. “I just bought the bra and I still wear it.”

When asked about her calm demeanor, she shrugged — and then cracked a small smile.

“I said, ‘If the Lord wants me to continue doing the Lord’s work, then I’ll be all right,’ ” she said.

At the time, both she and her husband of many years, Gerster, were retired. Her three boys and single daughter were grown and out of the house, with families of their own. If there was ever a good time for Wanda to have cancer, this was as good as any.

“I’ll be 89 years old next month, and I’m still doing the Lord’s work, and he’s still taking good care of me,” she said. “It was either losing my breast or (losing) my life — it was a common sense (decision). I just asked the Lord to take care of it, and he’s done his part.”

She tries not to dwell on the negative.

“You dwell on getting well enough to go ahead and maintain a good life and do good to others,” Lentz said.

Since then, she’s lost her husband. Now living alone, she’s heavily involved with the Rocketdyne Church of Christ in Neosho, which she holds near and dear to her heart. She also tries to play a few weekly hands of her beloved Bridge.

Unfortunately, cancer snuck back into her life for a second battle.

“It came right here,” she said, gesturing to her throat, “on the thyroid gland. And the doctor took it off. It was the same cancer that came from the breast. I’m still on cancer medication right now. But they removed the small lump. I have a little knot there, but it’s OK.”

Wanda and Gerster were located on the West Coast, with Gerster building airplanes for Lockheed. Her oldest son was born in Hollywood, but Wanda hated California.

“I said, ‘We don’t need to live out here.’ I didn’t like it. California was no place to raise a family,” Lentz said.

They moved back to Oklahoma, where they struggled to make ends meet on a farm. Since Gerster owned a teaching degree, they decided to follow that route instead. She’s glad they did. Her husband was hired by the Neosho School District to teach science and math, and later, driver’s education. She stayed home and raised the kids.

When their two oldest boys were in college, they both worked for the city’s golf course to pay their way through. At the time, there were only sand greens available — putting areas made of oiled sand. Gerster built the course’s first nine grass greens. Later, the couple retired to their home, with a cabin at nearby Grand Lake. That’s when cancer reared its ugly head.

God, she said, has always been her shepherd.

“I’ve always been a Christian, we’ve always been a Christian family, and that means a lot,” she said.” The whole gist of living a Christian life is to become like Jesus. None of us will ever attain that, since he was the sacrificer.

“If we can propel Christianity and the outlook that you have as a Christian, you really don’t have anything to worry about, because you really live for others.

“I have a lot of people tell me when they get to be my age, they want to be like me. And that’s a pretty good compliment, and it’s a lot to live up to. But if you have that attitude, it’s pretty hard to ever get down."

Neosho Daily News