This article is part of a series to promote the 36th annual Waynesboro Area Gala Cancer Auction Saturday, April 22, in Green Grove Gardens in Shady Grove. The theme is “Star Light, Star Bright, We Wish Upon A Cure Tonight.” The silent auction starts at 4 p.m. and the oral bidding gets underway at 5:30 p.m. To donate, call auction chair Jill Kessler at 717-729-8887 or Lori Blubaugh, chair of the silent table committee, 717-977-0414.
WAYNESBORO — As Allie Kohler worked for the past decade on the annual Waynesboro Area Gala Cancer Auction, he never dreamed he would one day have cancer himself, but that’s just how it is for him on this go-round.
“It’s kind of unbelievable,” he said of the irony.
Kohler, 79, a lifelong resident of Waynesboro, except for eight years when he went away to college and then first taught school in Lancaster County, has worn many hats in the community throughout the years. A retired teacher from East Junior High School (now called Waynesboro Middle School), where he taught mostly science and eighth grade from 1964-1992, Kohler has served on the Waynesboro Hospital Board for nine years, on two different boards of Renfrew Museum and Park and as member and treasurer of the Waynesboro Historical Society.
In the 1960s he was part of the Lion’s Club and the JCs (the Junior Chamber of Commerce, no longer in existence). Then in 1997, he was active on the Waynesboro Bicentennial Committee and coordinator of the activities to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the town’s founding.
Despite his cancer diagnosis last August, Kohler is on the WaynesboroFest Committee, which currently is planning for next year’s 200th anniversary of Waynesboro’s becoming a borough. He is chairman of the Renfrew Committee Incorporated (RCI); president of the board at Quincy Village; chairman of the board of Presbyterian Senior Living (that owns Quincy Village); and treasurer of the Gala Cancer Auction.
Clearly, Kohler has not slowed down, despite his fatigue, which is really his only symptom following his August diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia.
“I went in for my regular CBC, as I do every six months, and to everyone’s surprise including the doctors and myself, I came up with very few white cells, which meant I had to have other tests done. A bone marrow test confirmed the diagnosis,” he said.
This came as a surprise because he had not experienced any symptoms; he had not felt sick.
He has no treatment for 21 days and then undergoes chemotherapy for five days in a row at John R. Marsh Cancer Center in Hagerstown. Because of his age, he says, he is not a candidate for a bone marrow transplant or anything aggressive. His treatment is maintenance, just keeping him well.
“There is no possibility of remission, but they aim to maintain. I’m in maintenance, meaning, they can keep the rest of your cells healthy unless you get some infectious disease,” he said.
If he were to get sick, even with a urinary tract infection, he would have to go to the hospital right away.
“As soon as that happens, your brain tells you to release white cells and instead releases leukemia cells. You have to get to the hospital in day and a half. If you put it off, you may not survive,” Kohler said.
Thankfully, Kohler has not been sick since the diagnosis, and he has to either stay away from sick people and germs or wear a mask and gloves.
The fatigue is what will keep him from attending the auction on Saturday, for the first time since he’s been on the Cancer Auction Committee.
“My fatigue does not allow me to go from three in the afternoon ‘til midnight. Jo Ann [his wife] is going instead,” he said.
Usually experiencing cancer or watching a loved one go through it is what prompts people to get involved with fundraisers, but neither propelled Kohler toward the Waynesboro Area Gala Cancer Auction 10 years ago. Though his brother Louis W. (Bill) Kohler, also a Waynesboro resident and teacher, died of cancer, that was not the push Allie needed to get involved but just a desire to help others.
“We need to get rid of that stuff (cancer),” he said. “It was my desire to do that.”