Canova family grateful for so much support in 2 bouts with cancer
Todd Glanzer was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer in 2018, and his daughter was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in August. The father and daughter have been grateful for the amount of support from family, friends and the surrounding community.
CANOVA — It was five days before Christmas, and while most students were counting down until the start of winter break, Howard High School senior Mia Glanzer couldn’t have been more excited to be back in school.
In August, the 17-year-old was diagnosed with thyroid cancer that was followed by surgery on Sept. 28 and then low-dose radiation treatment on Dec. 8. It wasn't until Dec. 20 that Glanzer was able to return to school full-time.
“It was awesome. Everyone was, down — like, 'I'm over this, I want to get out of school’ and I was like, ‘Guys, this is like my first day. We're having a blast, let's go,’” Mia said. “Everyone told me I was way too excited to be back in school, but it was just like nice seeing all my friends again.”
Just heat exhaustion?
Back in June, Mia was competing in the Class B state golf tournament in Brookings when she wasn’t feeling well but finished the tournament and went to the doctor afterward.
Initially, health care workers thought it was just heat exhaustion. But when Mia still wasn’t getting better, the family kept looking for the answer, which eventually led to an ultrasound of her thyroid showing a tumor.
Given Mia’s age, thyroid cancer wasn’t really on the doctor’s mind in the beginning.
“Our family doctor says, ‘When I treat your family, I have to remember you are not textbook. You are zebras in the horse pasture.’ And we laugh because it's how it's been,” said Mia’s mom, Brenda.
On Aug. 24, the Glanzer family of Brenda and Todd and their four kids — Isaiah, Kiara, Adyson and Mia — received the diagnosis that their youngest, Mia, had thyroid cancer.
When it came time to break the news to Mia, Brenda decided that the best person to do it was the "rock of the family" — Mia’s oldest sister, Kiara.
“I kind of have to chuckle because Kiara is our strong-wheeled, doesn't-cry child. And it was very, very hard for her. We had told Kiara first and Kiara’s like, ‘What do you need?’ And I said, ‘I need you to help keep Dad and I together. When we break the news to Mia you’ve always been a strong front. You've always been that don't cry over spilt milk.’
‘OK, I can do that.'
“So Kiara is at the house. And we break the news to Mia and of course, the tears come and Kiara and (Mia) go off in the room. And all of a sudden we kind of look around the corner and they're just both bawling and hugging. I'm like, ‘Kiara, you're supposed to be our strong front’ and she's like, 'But she's my sister.'”
At first, Mia said she struggled with the diagnosis and didn’t want to tell anyone until she had to because she was afraid of being judged or feeling pitied.
“I didn't want to go to school and get made fun of or have the old ‘poor Mia,’ I didn't want the attention,” she said. “I wanted to still live my life the way I was living it at the time.”
That’s a feeling her dad knows all too well.
Just three years earlier, Todd was diagnosed with stage two Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma or better known as salivary gland cancer .
“It’s a battle. Probably the worst is mental,” Todd said. “There is no normal. You have to find a new normal because everything changes.”
Todd, who felt a lump on his neck that led to his diagnosis, said the treatment for his cancer was intense and easily kept him in a funk.
Todd’s treatment included removal of the tumor, along with 33 radiation treatments over six weeks and chemotherapy over eight weeks.
At the start, the stress took its course on Brenda, but she remained strong. As the treatments continued to progress the burden became less and less.
“That's where, the family, the community comes in — because as a caregiver, you don't ask for help. You're like, ‘Nope, that's my husband. That's my child.’ We just buckled down. We do what we got to do,” Brenda said.
“I did learn with Todd that you have to ask for family help. Because there are days, whether you're the patient or the caregiver, that you need a timeout,” she said. “I learned with him that you've got to have family support. And so on those days when things were a little more difficult, having Kiara, having Adyson, Isaiah around, and Uncle Tim and grandma. It was nice because there was always somebody there.”
In the process of his radiation treatment, Todd lost a portion of his hair, something that had Mia terrified would happen to her.
“I told them that if I was going to lose my hair, I was not doing any of it,” she said. “My hair, it's a big deal for me.”
To help Todd and Brenda with some of his care needs, they said their daughter Kiara was a big help with the in-home care as she was studying to become a nurse from South Dakota State University.
She did undergo a more intensive surgery than she originally anticipated.
“What the doctors had told me what I was gonna go through was nothing compared to the journey I have actually gone through,” Mia said. “It's been complete opposites what I would say — they told me that I would have a little incision. So I went from a little incision to waking up to a gigantic one. They told me no drain tubes, I woke up with drain tubes. They told me recovery, one to two days. Mine was two weeks and I was finally starting to be like a normal person again.”
It wasn’t that Mia was misled. Rather once the surgery started, the doctor discovered more than had been revealed by the ultrasound.
“(The doctor) had prepped us when he came out of surgery, he's like, ‘I apologize. It took longer, It went well, but it didn't go as planned because there was so much more in there,” Brenda said. “He was confident he got it all. And her scan showed that he got what was closest to all the nerves that he could and then the radiation pill was supposedly supposed to take care of the rest of it.”
After Mia had recovered from her surgery, next came radiation treatment.
For a week, Mia went into a quarantine kept separate from the rest of her family as her immune system was weakened from the low-dose radiation pill she was given.
That didn’t mean the house was any quieter.
“There was a lot of, ‘Mom!,” Brenda said with a laugh. “There was a lot of screaming through the walls.”
After the quarantine, Mia began socializing with people again and after her uncle Tim hosted a family Christmas with 33 members on Dec. 18, life is closer to normal for Mia and the family.
“As a senior, she's supposed to be stressing us out and giving us gray hair by being a rowdy, senior rebellious teenager,” Brenda said. “It's good to see her spunky side coming back out.”
A showing of support
Howard, Canova and surrounding communities wanted to make the Glanzer family know they were in Mia's corner.
Brenda is the owner/operator of Animal’s Bar & Grill in Canova where both her daughters Adyson and Mia worked.
As she spent most of the time taking care of Mia, that left a lot of the stress of running the restaurant on her family and staff. So on Dec. 1, Brenda closed the restaurant with the intent to open up again on March 1, 2022, so she could focus on the family for a while.
At school, Mia’s classmates showed support in a number of ways.
While waiting to figure out what causing her ailment, Mia decided not to go out for volleyball her senior year.
At the start of the school year, Mia was full time at Howard High School until her surgery. Then she attended part time, off-and-on, in a limited capacity. But during the volleyball team's regular dig pink benefit match, a common fundraising effort to support families that are impacted by cancer, the team donated the proceeds to the Glanzer family.
“Every year we do a big dig pink night and I told my friends I didn't want them to give me the money — again for the attention sake,” Mia said. “They all said ‘OK, OK. We won't, we won't,’ and went behind my back and still gave me the proceeds.”
As a member of the school’s National Honor Society, her peers donated a quarantine basket to help past the time while she was in her seven-day isolation.
Even other schools in the area have shown support, such as McCook Central, which held a benefit soup/supper benefit ahead of a doubleheader basketball game between McCook Central/Montrose and the Howard Tigers on Dec. 17.
Not just in school but the community has helped out as well. Brenda said support has included monetary donations along with gift cards for gas and for groceries. She also said a number of churches in the area have reached out in support and have included the family in prayer lists.
Brenda said the financial help pays for the trips to Sioux Falls for treatments, with groceries and expenses when she wasn’t working, along with medical expenses that weren’t fully covered by insurance.
“Definitely hasn't gone to a big trip that we've been planning or something memorable,” Mia said with a laugh.
Now, Todd is in his fourth year of remission. He'll have a five-year follow-up visit, but he will be on his own after that.
“Hopefully it just comes in twos,” Todd joked of his and Mia’s diagnosis.
Mia said she isn’t embarrassed by her cancer diagnosis and scar and she's anxious to get back to school to finish her senior. Mia’s next appointment is scheduled for March.
“I have my family back, intact,” Brenda said.