On May 5th, 2018, we honored the following families:

Tanya Powell

In October of 2017, Tanya Powell was diagnosed with stage 3C invasive ductal carcinoma, meaning the breast cancer had spread to her lymph nodes and chest wall muscle. Over the course of the next 3 to 4 anxious weeks, filled with blood work, MRI’s, EKG’s, genetic testing and counseling, meeting with a veritable plethora of doctors and medical staff, a plan was eventually put in place to battle this monster.  She is currently a little over halfway through the 20 weeks of chemotherapy, after which will come a bi-lateral mastectomy, 6 weeks of daily radiation therapy, 9 additional months of weekly IV therapy, and eventually breast reconstruction, tentatively planned for early 2019.
Tanya has lived and worked in Owatonna for over 15 years, positively influencing the community as a social worker for Steele County all that time. Her husband, Chad, works full time from home for an events planning and fulfillment company based out of the Chicago area, and together they raise 2 young daughters, Avery (9) and Hattie (2 1/2).
Tanya has shown a fierce optimism throughout the early stages of this fight. While recognizing the intensity and gravity of the situation, she has consistently and bravely met each obstacle head-on, refusing to waiver in the shadow of this deadly disease. The outpouring of incredible support from our family, friends and community have shown us unequivocally, that we are not alone…we walk hand in hand with you, knowing that whatever the future may hold, you will be there to cry with us, to laugh with us, to struggle with us, to triumph with us.


Jim Gleason

In mid-October 2017, Jim started to develop issues reading and comprehending words as well as producing his words through speech and writing. When such issues continued unabated for another week, Jim and his family decided to go to the emergency room in Owatonna where the doctors put him through a CAT scan in order to see what might be causing the issues that Jim was experiencing. The CAT scan revealed a tumor on his brain, which was accompanied by a swelling of the brain that was responsible for his aphasia (his communication issues). On Monday, October 23rd, Jim went to the neurology department at the Mayo Clinic to have an MRI, which then revealed that the tumor detected previously was a high-grade glioma, also referred to as a glioblastoma, which was located on his cerebellum. The results of the MRI prompted doctors to schedule brain surgery to try and remove as much of the tumor as possible. Jim underwent surgery at the Mayo Clinic on October 26th, during which doctors were able to remove about 90% of the tumor. After surgery, Jim spent another couple of weeks at the clinic in Rochester in the rehabilitation ward, undergoing physical, occupational and speech therapy. Following his release from the clinic, Jim continued his recovery at home with his family and friends by his side helping him through this process. Once healed, Jim then began his radiation and chemotherapy treatments to try and combat what remains of the tumor and to try and slow its regrowth. Jim underwent fifteen radiation treatments total, which began on December 19th and will concluded on January 10th, 2018. In conjunction with his radiation, Jim was also taking chemotherapy pills, which he now continues to take even after his radiation treatments are over. This second round of treatment will continue over the next six months, after which his doctors will then look at his response to and progress with the chemotherapy and then reassess his treatment from there. Clinical trials and alternative treatments may then be considered.


Brian Wencl

On October 30th I was diagnosed with Prostate cancer and on February 15th I will have surgery to remove it. I grew up and graduated from Owatonna I also played hockey. Married to Sara and have two sons Trase 20 and Tyler 18. Trase will graduate from Riverland in May and works at Viracon. Tyler is a senior at OHS and plays hockey and Lacrosse. The Wencl Family feels blessed with all the support and love from the Community.


Heidi Smith

After a routine mammogram found suspicious spots, Heidi was diagnosed with Stage IV triple negative breast cancer in June 2017. Additional scans showed the cancer had spread to distant lymph nodes and bones in her arm and hip.

Treatment and care began shortly thereafter at Rochester Mayo, starting with chemotherapy and a clinical trial. The Cisplatin (chemotherapy) was effective in stopping the growth of cancer and shrunk existing tumors to the point of them not being felt during physical exams and not visible on scans. The clinical trial has Heidi taking either a placebo or a PARP inhibitor, and we suspect she is taking the PARP inhibitor due to the impressive results so far. Eventually, she began experiencing worsening neuropathy in her hands and feet; the chemo dose was reduced and then discontinued. Heidi’s providers are confident she is doing well enough to take a break. Taking a break ensures Heidi will have the option to try chemo again in the future if necessary.

We know she is in the best place for treatment. Her oncologist, Dr. Tufia Haddad, has been compassionate and has explained everything step by step. Heidi is especially thankful that her provider identifies as a Christian and understands how important faith and prayer are during this time. Heidi is currently traveling to Rochester every three weeks for treatment. Recent scans have shown the cancer is still stable. She is grateful that the tumors have responded so well to treatment and her providers have been pleased at every appointment.

Heidi (Mussman) Smith was born and raised in Owatonna. She and her three brothers, Steve, Chris, and Mike, all graduated from OHS. Heidi moved to Georgia where her children, Josh and Juli, were born. The three of them returned to Owatonna in 2002. Josh (and wife Lindsay Anderson) and Juli (and husband Matt Herr) are all proud OHS graduates. Because Heidi’s children were heavily involved in sports, Heidi returned to her former love of coaching and coached baseball, softball, and basketball. She used her athletic talents and love of kids to give back to the community. Many people will recall her knowledge and dedication to the athletes.

Heidi graduated college with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She is employed with Rice County Social Services. Throughout her treatments, she has continued to work mainly because of the support and help of her coworkers. It is greatly appreciated. Her family has also stood by her and been her greatest support. Heidi recalls that Rochester Mayo discussed two things in the beginning: they said she has cancer and then they asked if she had a caretaker. She accepted the cancer and gave it to God but she questioned the caretaker portion. When she shared this with her brother Steve, he responded, “we got your back.” Little did she realize at the time the support she would receive from family. “Grandma” Edith Schauble has been her rock throughout appointments in Rochester. Sister in law and friend Amy has provided immense support and Heidi’s grandchildren Sydnee and Will are the joy of her life.

Heidi and her family feel richly blessed by the outpouring of support shown by the Owatonna community since her diagnosis. Heidi has shown us courage, perseverance, humor, and love. She so appreciates all of her blessings.


Joe Wagoner

I was diagnosed with stage 3B melanoma cancer in mid-October 2017. Although the follow-up PET scan had showed that I was clear of any further cancer, my oncologist said that because of my compromised immune system from 8 years of Rheumatoid Arthritis medications I would be required to receive cancer drug infusions every two weeks for the next year. The depth of the melanoma and its aggressive form also indicated that this was a very serious cancer. To date I have had four infusion treatments. On February 15, 2018, I had my first follow-up PET scan. On February 19th, I was informed by my oncologist that it appears the cancer has spread to my liver. I am fortunate to not be alone in this journey. I have Theresa, my wonderful wife of 32 years, 3 grown children, Heather (Jake), Katie (Marcus), James (Anna), along with 3 beautiful grandchildren. I have extended family and many friends who have been immensely supportive. I had no idea at the onset of this cancer that the special support of From the Heart and its volunteers would be such an invaluable part of my future. I am confident that as the days and months ahead come to light, we will take this journey together and I will be forever grateful for the kindness and generosity of so many in the Owatonna community.




2018 Video:


Contact Information:

From The Heart PO Box 853 Owatonna, MN 55060