SALISBURY — The patients of Dr. Myron A. Goodman consider Cherie Gollnick their friend.
She’s the calm voice they hear on the telephone when they call for an appointment. She handles the paperwork connected with their insurance.
She talks with them in the waiting room.
Goodman’s patients love Gollnick, and the feeling is mutual.
“He’s got some pretty awesome patients,” Gollnick says.
Over the past four years, Cherie Gollnick has quietly been coping with chemotherapy and radiation treatments for stage 4 breast cancer, which has spread to her lungs and brain.
In other words, she has been a patient, too.
“She wouldn’t tell you, unless you ask her,” says Mary Goodman, the physician’s wife and office manager.
It may seem a simple thing, but Gollnick has made work a focus. She might be taking eight pills a day for her cancer and wondering where all her energy has gone, but getting to Goodman’s office Monday through Friday is important to her.
When she accomplishes that, when she see those “awesome” patients of Dr. Goodman’s, she feels better.
“I don’t worry much about what’s going to happen next week,” Gollnick says.
Until a pink flier went up recently in Goodman’s office, announcing a July 29 fundraiser at the Spencer Moose Lodge for Gollnick, most patients didn’t realize she was sick.
“So many people don’t know what to say because they’re uncomfortable, and I understand that,” Gollnick says of a general attitude toward all cancer patients.
What’s the best thing to do for Gollnick?
“When people tell me they pray for me, that means a lot,” Cherie says. “… I believe that’s a big part of why I’m still here.”
Mary Goodman confirms that her husband’s patients have been praying for Gollnick, who confronts her illness like an obstacle that every now and again deserves attention.
She addresses it, whether it’s a radiation or chemotherapy treatment, an MRI or CT scan, or a trip to the oncologist or hospital.
Then she moves on to more important things in her life, such as her husband, Dennis; their two grown children, who live near Fayetteville; and their 3-year-old grandson.
“Don’t get me wrong,” she says, “I get scared.”
Gollnick lived most of her life in upstate New York, where she was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000.
A mastectomy and chemotherapy treatments followed. The cancer went into remission, and Gollnick was having good reports from her doctors for several years.
Meanwhile, her life was changing in other ways. Her daughter moved to North Carolina near Fayetteville. The job Cherie had 16 years with Ames Department Store disappeared, and three months later, Dennis lost the machinist’s position for a company he had been employed with for 26 years.
The family decided to take a chance and move south to be closer to their daughter. Dennis landed a job at Lane Punch in Rowan County. (He now works for Elizabeth Carbide in Davidson County.)
“Of all the places we could have ended up, Salisbury is just the best town, I think,” Cherie says.
Dennis also joined the Spencer Moose Lodge, which has led to friendships for the couple.
“They are so supportive,” Cherie says, “I don’t know what we would have done without them.”
Nine years ago, not long after the Gollnicks arrived in Salisbury, the Goodmans hired Cherie through a temporary employment agency. She was filling in for a woman out on maternity leave, but it eventually led to the Goodmans’ asking her to come back full-time.
“Cherie is such a joy to work with,” Myron Goodman says, “even though she has been getting treatments and so forth, which are not always making her feel good, she continues to go on.”
He adds that she’s usually pleasant to everybody she works with. “She never gets high-handed with people,” the physician adds.
Mary Goodman says she can’t say enough good things about Cherie as an employee.
“She patiently keeps Myron straight and finds what he can’t find,” Mary Goodman says.
The Goodmans say Cherie is like family, endearing herself to their own children and grandchildren. Again, there’s a mutual admiration at work here.
“They’re wonderful bosses,” Gollnick says. “I guess they’re not really bosses, they’re my friends.”
When the cancer returned four years ago, Gollnick didn’t recognize it at first. She had a pain in her shoulder and she tried to address it with Tylenol and Motrin. She later thought it might be a pulled muscle, but the discomfort didn’t go away.
She asked herself whether it was a torn rotator cuff, and should she see an orthopaedic specialist?
“Then all of a sudden, it just hit me,” Cherie says, and she scheduled an appointment with an oncologist. A CT scan showed that her breast cancer was back, at a serious stage 4 level, with tumors in the lungs.
The cancer spread to her brain, and possibly to her liver, though a biopsy hasn’t been done.
Since last October, she has had three separate precise radiation treatments at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The radiation was designed to destroy small tumors in her brain, and each procedure cost $35,000, Cherie notes.
She missed a day of work for each treatment, but was back at the office the next day.
“They zap them,” she says, “but they keep coming back.”
Depending on the results of an August MRI, Cherie could face more expansive radiation in the future — a prospect that doesn’t thrill her.
Cherie has been taking various chemotherapy treatments for the past four years. They make her feel tired and nauseous, besides dampening her appetite.
“The biggest thing is not having any energy, but I’m not complaining about that,” she says.”
Gollnick had a severe reaction to a particular chemotherapy treatment last November. Dr. Bill Brinkley, who she adores, had warned that one possible side effect of the treatment could be a bad lung infection, though he had never seen it happen.
But it happened with Gollnick. She had double pneumonia on top of the infection and missed a month of work.
Gollnick has a port imbedded near her left shoulder to help with taking some of the chemotherapy drugs, though now she is on the oral regimen of pills.
Gollnick acknowledges she may not tackle everything outside of the office — the laundry, grocery shopping and cleaning — with the same energy she once did.
She tends to do one home chore at a time now, then rest.
With cancer, Cherie says, people naturally focus on the sick person. But she thinks the spouse of a cancer patient needs attention, too.
“Even though I’m going through this, he is, too,” she says of her husband, Dennis.
Myron Goodman says Dennis has been the best of support to Cherie.
“They stick together,” Goodman says of the couple. “I think it helps that she has wonderful relationship with her husband.”
Besides the financial help it will provide, the Moose Lodge fundraiser July 29 will mean a lot to her emotionally, Cherie Gollnick says.
“It really touches my heart deeply — my husband’s, too,” she adds.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@ salisburypost.com.
for Cherie Gollnick
When: 11 a.m.-3p.m. July 29
Where: Spencer Moose Lodge family center.
Details: Tickets are a $10 donation, which includes a barbecue plate with slaw, beans, rolls and a dessert. Dine in or take out.