What a pleasure it is for one to sit down in the presence of Josie and her mother Gail (Stayner) Reitzel for a nice visit on a beautiful sunny afternoon on the farm north of Edon.
This story is about a fine young woman who wants folks to know more about the disease she is battling than about her personally. Josie desires for folks to be aware of this disease and she wants to be there to help anyone who may experience the same things she is going through at the present time.
Josie was born during the month of July 1980 in Bryan, Ohio to Kenny and Gail (Stayner) Reitzel. She has one brother, Jim (Jessica Hobeck) Reitzel. She is the proud mother of two children, 9 year old son Sky and a 7 year old daughter Daisii.
She attended the Edon Northwest School System K-12 and went on to graduate from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts and Art Education.
At Edon Schools, she has some very fond memories of four teachers in particular; the late Mrs. Robin Spangler, Mrs. Barbara Fogel, Mr. Mark Blue, and Mr. Paul Stoll. Each one of these individuals left a lifetime impact on Josie, each in a different and very impressionable way.
Josie says growing up in Edon was very special as the community lets one know they’re not alone. “When someone has a triumph, we all celebrate together. And when something tragic happens, we all band together with love and support. Edon is full of prayer warriors”
She was united in marriage in June of 2008 to Jody Osborn and says, “We love living on our family farm and raising our children in this environment.” The house they live in is back a lane from her parents and is located where she and her brother, Jim, used to go to when they were growing up for picnics etc.
As far as her career goes, Josie does Art Photography and teaches adult painting classes. She was substituting at local schools until her doctor advised her to quit because of the health risks she now is facing.
Josie says that this just breaks her heart because she loved her students and the work that she was doing with them.
So what is Wegener’s Granulomatosis? According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, which details the basic definition of the condition, “Wegener’s Granulomatosis is an uncommon disorder that causes inflammation of your blood vessels. This inflammation restricts blood flow to various organs… This disease often affects the kidneys, lungs and upper respiratory tract… The first Wegener’s Granulomatosis symptoms usually involve areas of the respiratory tract, such as the sinuses, throat or lungs. However, the condition often worsens rapidly, affecting blood vessels and the organs they supply, such as the kidneys… The cause of Wegener’s Granulomatosis is unknown. Besides affecting the upper and lower respiratory tracts, Wegener’s Granulomatosis may affect other organs, including the skin, eyes, ears, kidneys, spinal cord and heart… Complications may include hearing loss, skin scarring, heart attack, and kidney (renal) damage… Kidney failure is a leading cause of death from Wegener’s Granulomatosis. (Information obtained from www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/wegeners-granulomatosis/basics/definition/con-20028113)
When asked how she was diagnosed Josie shares the following. “On January 5th of this year, an Ear/Nose /Throat doctor diagnosed me with Tracheal Stenosis. He said ‘I don’t know the cause but it could be a super rare disease that I can’t believe you would have, but I think we should have you tested anyway.’ He told me that I could get the test at my leisure just so we could formally rule that scenario out. Devastated that I had Tracheal Stenosis,” Josie says, “and hearing that I had to have surgery two times a year for the rest of my life, I started researching immediately.”
“I took the blood test for the rare disease scenario, and called the doctor a week later to get the results. The nurse answered and checked and said everything came back negative and everything was fine. I was so relieved and overjoyed.”
But then the very next day the doctor called and told me that the test results were abnormal and I did, indeed, test positive for Wegener’s Granulomatosis. My world stopped, I was so scared, as in the 1970’s people died within five months of being diagnosed with this disease. I thought ‘I have two babies, I have to live!’ So back to the computer I went. In a support group online I found the name of a doctor in Boston, Mass. I called him not knowing what to ask or what to expect.”
“Within five minutes the nurse had the doctor on the phone. He started me on medication that afternoon and said he wanted to see me ASAP. So at 6:00 am the next morning I was at his office. Jody, mom, dad and I had driven 14 hours to get there as fast as we could.”
Josie says “This disease affects every organ in your body; mostly the upper respiratory system, lungs, and kidney areas. It affects your T-cells causing your immune system to attack your body. In simple terms, it shreds your blood vessels.”
“So far my kidneys are not affected, but my lungs, sinuses, heart, trachea, ears, and brain have all been impacted. My eyes are in question as well.”
“I am taking steroids and chemotherapy, in both pill and IV form. These medications should halt the disease unless I flare.”
“Wegener’s Granulomatosis can go into remission, however medicines are required to keep it there. Unlike cancer, in which medication can normally be stopped, that is not the case with this disease.”
“The doctor says that by following his protocol, I should have a normal life expectancy. So part of that is that I have to travel to Boston every four months for the rest of my life for the IV infusions.”
Josie says she is going to fight and she is going to live to celebrate her 100th birthday with a card shower. She says “ It sounds dumb to say that, but when you are faced with a time limit on your life, you think about these things and are faced with decisions. “
“I know God is teaching me many things through this situation that I am facing. Most of all He is teaching me to trust Him.”
“I feel that I am blindfolded and going on a scary adventure, and around the bend is a triumph, even if they are small triumphs, one at a time.”
“My strength is in God and He gives me encouragement. I pray that maybe someone will be able to conquer their own struggles because of how they see God working through me.”
“A scripture that means so much to me is Philippians 3:14 which says, ’I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’ In other words, I press on!”
It is so encouraging to see Josie set the example she is setting during this unbelievable crisis in her and her families’ lives.
She agreed to do this interview to share the story of the disease she is fighting to help educate the public. Josie was very emphatic that the story be about that and not her as an individual. What a special young lady.
In chatting with her mother Gail about looking at this from a parent’s standpoint, you could immediately see the tears of love and concern for her daughter. “As a parent you would love to trade places and take on all of the burden, heartache, and pain of that child. But since this is not possible you take a strong stand to be side by side through every step of the process and help and support that loved one in every way that you can.”
As folks see the opportunity to help with the traveling costs to Boston, Mass. for Josie, please consider assisting in any way that you can, as they are going to be profound over the years.
We never know what life might throw at us, but the attitude and the way we face those challenges makes all the difference in the world and Josie has adopted the correct approach to this huge challenge that she is facing.
We wish her nothing but the best.
John may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org