Benefit planned to help Winnie Ellis

| February 5, 2016
Winnie Ellis

Winnie Ellis

COSHOCTON – Anyone who knows Winnie Ellis knows she is a hugger and after what she’s been through in the past five months she deserves quite a few hugs.

Ellis, who lives in Coshocton, was diagnosed with cancer in September 2015 and not long after that found out the plant she worked at was closing. In order to help her through this difficult time her son Nathan Holmes is planning The Hug The Momma Benefit for Winnie Ellis from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13 at Turtle Creek Tavern, 5571 N. Hamilton Road in Columbus, which is where Nathan and his brother Jonathan both live.

Life was good for Ellis through Sept. 1, 2015. She had lived in the same house for the last 28 years, worked at WestRock for more than 10 years, was on the United Way Board for six years was involved with the Smurfit Stone/RockTenn campaigns for 10 years, and also has served on the parish council at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

“I have always been a firm believer in giving back to our community where we live and work,” Ellis said. “That’s why I was so involved with United Way.”

Her world, however, was turned upside down on Sept. 2, 2015 when she found out she had cancer.

“I noticed a lump on my neck which wasn’t going away,” Ellis said. “In August, I was seeing an ENT specialist who was going to remove it surgically, but sent me for a PET scan to make sure there was nothing else that was going on. The results showed that I had cancer in my parotid gland (in my jaw), in my lymph node (on my neck), and in my lung. He then referred me to the head of the otolaryngology department at The James.”

She had surgery on Oct. 2, 2015, and had a golf ball-sized mass removed from her jaw and a racquetball-sized mass taken out of her neck. The diagnosis was spindle cell melanoma – a rare form of skin cancer.

“I wasn’t surprised about the neck, but the jaw and especially the spot on my lung floored me,” Ellis said. “I had no idea. But from the time of the scan, I had already been praying, not for what I wanted, but for God’s will to be done and His grace to help me through whatever His will would be. So, while everyone around me was unnerved by the news, I had the calm and peace that only faith can provide.”

On Oct. 9, 2015 she received the news about WestRock closing, on Nov. 16, 2015 she started radiation and on Dec. 21, 2015 was informed that the melanoma had spread to her lung and the spot had more than doubled in size. Ellis then started Keytruda treatments on Dec. 28, 2015. This is a form of chemo immune therapy that boosts your immune system to help fight the cancer. These will continue for every three weeks for the next year. If they don’t work, she will probably have more radiation and possibly more surgery.

“The hardest part of this journey has been to come to the realization that I cannot go-go-go like I’m used to,” Ellis said. “I have worked all my life and no matter what I am going through, the sun has always shined in my little corner of the world, just sometimes brighter than others. The standard that I hold myself to, my work ethic, I would not be able to do even if I did have a job to return to. That’s been the hardest thing of all… to listen to my body and rest when I need to. I don’t give in easily.”

A wonderful support system has helped her conquer those tough times.

“That’s my husband, John, sons, Nate and Jon, mom, Agnes Bechtol, and of course, my faith in God above,” Ellis said.

The benefit on Feb. 13 at Turtle Creek Tavern will include a 50/50 drawing, drink specials, pasta bar, auction prizes and music by Acoustic Mayhem.

“We are very grateful for any donations of auction items,” Winnie said. “If they can contact me, I can arrange to pick up the donations and take to Columbus.”

She can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].Winnie also noted that proceeds from the benefit will be used to help her with bills.

Both Winnie and John are overwhelmed by all the support she has received since her diagnoses.

“John keeps saying, ‘I didn’t know you had so many friends!’” Winnie said. “I am so very humbled and completely blessed!”

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Category: People & Places

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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