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Cancer survivor experiences blessings in dark times

Bobette Batenhorst was so busy.

It was May 2017. She and her husband, Russ, were building a new house in North Bend.

Their son, Ryan, was set to graduate from Wayne State College. Their daughter, Nicole, was graduating from Fremont High School.

So with all that, Batenhorst figured she could wait when her doctor said something was spotted on a mammogram and wanted a second look — and a biopsy.

Her doctor didn’t want to wait, however, and Batenhorst agreed to have more tests, which detected breast cancer.

Batenhorst would have several surgeries between June 2017 and Feb. 19.

She’d go through some tough times. But in the process, she’d become a stronger, more faith-filled person.

And someone who’d experience the presence of God and blessings in the darkness.

She shares her story with the hope of helping others.

“If I can help save anyone’s life, that’s my goal,” she said.

Looking back, Batenhorst remembers when a nurse scheduled her to meet with the doctor to discuss the biopsy results.

Batenhorst, who owns Bobette’s Home Care, was set to meet with a client that day and was running late.

“I can’t do this consultation for the results,” she told the nurse. “I’ll just do it in a couple weeks.”

The nurse put her on hold, then returned to say, “No, doctor needs to see you tomorrow at 9 a.m. You can bring your husband with you.”

Batenhorst didn’t see the need for her spouse to take off work.

“I know it’s going to be just fine,” she said.

The next day, Batenhorst was taken into an exam room. She still thought the results would be OK, because she figured if something was wrong she’d have been brought into an office.

But the oncology doctor told her that cancer had been found.

“He talked for 15 minutes. I honestly don’t really remember anything that he said. It was just a total blur,” she said.

The doctor gave her a 1 ½-thick binder with the word, “cancer,” on it — and two other books about cancer. Batenhorst didn’t think she needed those.

She was in denial.

“I didn’t really grasp the idea that it was cancer yet,” she said.

She sat in her car for a couple of hours, then called a friend, Marnita Walters, who was comforting.

“It will be OK,” Batenhorst thought to herself.

That was June 1.

On June 12, Batenhorst had a lumpectomy and a tumor the size of a baseball was removed. The cancer had been fast-growing.

About two weeks later, she had another surgery to remove more cancer and on July 11, 2017, Batenhorst learned she’d need more surgery to remove additional cancer.

She’d have multiple surgeries. Surgeons would remove nerves, muscle and lymph nodes.

Now, the blood flow in her chest area isn’t the same so it is cold.

Her chest is numb and the feeling in that area may not return. She has some pain in rib bones.

Batenhorst stresses, however, that every case is different — depending on the type of surgery, how much was taken, and other factors.

She remembers a doctor comparing breast cancer to breaking a bone.

No two breaks will be exactly the same. For instance, there might be a straight break or a compound fracture. Some breaks might need pins or screws to be repaired.

Similarly, breast cancer has so many different aspects, she said. There are different types of cancer and treatments for it.

Batenhorst doesn’t talk about stages of cancer.

“I didn’t ever tell anyone the stages, because to me it doesn’t matter if a person is precancerous or Stage 1, 2, 3 or 4 — we’re all going to fight the same,” she said. “We’re going to do whatever we can to save our lives.”

And it’s important for women to have the life-saving treatments and procedures — not only for themselves, but for family and friends.

“You fight for them,” Batenhorst said. “I remember my daughter saying to me, ‘Mom, I want you. I want your life.’”

The situation can be life-altering.

“I know the person I was is gone,” she said. “Through this journey, I will never look the same. I will never feel the same, but I have more faith, more strength and more determination than ever now.”

Looking back through her journal, Batenhorst notes that: “God was by me every single step of the way. I can’t tell you how much.”

She offers tender encouragement.

“I was blessed in the darkness,” she said. “I remember some nights that were really painful. I would be up all night long and I’d be sitting in the recliner, looking out the windows up at the stars.

“And (God) was so prominent that I just knew that he was there for me. I felt him around me. When you are at your deepest, darkest hour, he’s there for you.”

Batenhorst recalled a time when she called a friend, Tammy Niewohner.

“I can’t pray today,” she told Niewohner. “Can you pray for me?’ And she did, and things just fell into place for us that day.

“It’s crazy, but you are blessed in your darkness.”

Batenhorst remembered another time when she was in pain and asked another friend, Carma Dirkschneider, to pray for her. Dirkschneider went to her car, got a Bible and prayed during her lunch hour with Batenhorst.

“And it just calmed my soul. I felt that inner peace. I could relax and I could sleep,” she said.

Batenhorst is grateful for her husband, whom she describes as an “amazing nurse,” and her family, which include her children and siblings, Troy and Vicky, and parents Doug and Diane Harrington.

“I could not have walked through this journey if I didn’t have that,” she said.

She appreciates her friends and employees, whom she describes as “amazing.”

Batenhorst also encourages those diagnosed with breast cancer to find a support group in their community or on Facebook.

Batenhorst is thankful for meals brought to her home. She recalls friend Shelli Novotny saying, “You need to let people help you.”

She encourages people to send cards when they learn someone has breast cancer – even if they don’t know the person that well.

“You don’t know if it’s a dark day or a low point in her day and that little hand-written card can help someone through the day,” she said.

Batenhorst can relate to the pain and suffering of others.

“I tell them I don’t know exactly what they’re going through, but ‘let’s pray about it and let God take the pain away or lift it up,’” she said.

She embraces life even more now.

“I’m going to see everything I want,” said Batenhorst said, adding that she went to view the migration of Sandhill cranes at Kearney.

Her gratitude for life is reflected in her thoughts.

“You can make it through,” she said. “You have a whole new outlook on your blessed life. You wake up every day and you are so thankful.”


Education
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Midland revamps Code Academy

Midland University announced changes to its innovative Code Academy on Friday that will transition the program to a more immersive, and less time-consuming experience for students.

The change will transition the Code Academy to a full-time, immersive program designed to allow students to finish in as little as 12 weeks.

“This is about listening to the needs of the business community and our students,” Dean of the Dunklau School of Business Todd Conkright said in a released statement. “We take a lean startup approach to our pedagogy and we’re continually testing, iterating and pivoting.”

When Midland launched the Code Academy, which is housed at its Omaha Campus, last June, the program originally began with 14 weeks of learning the essential of code and web development.

Students then built upon those skills through a 12-week focus area before wrapping up with a nine-week capstone experience working with local partner companies on actual projects.

The Code Academy’s first class included 20 students — with 75 percent of which identifying as career-changers. The students ranged in age from 18 to 50.

The newly changed program will now launch with an inaugural cohort in March 2019.

Students will now experience hands-on learning from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days per week, progressing together as a cohort from beginner to career-ready in 12 weeks.

The program covers front-end design and server-side code education, with training in databases, UX/UI, and Agile project management in an effort to help build real-world business skills among students.

“The Midland Code Academy is designed for those who are ready to make a career change,” Director of Midland Code Academy Brock Ellis said. “But this is more than just about what happens in the classroom. It’s also about connecting our students to the tech community in Omaha, participating in networking events, and helping to develop their portfolios and resumes so that they leave fully prepared for one of the hundreds of open developer positions in the Omaha area.”

The Code Academy received national attention just months after its launch as U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos visited the Omaha campus and during her “ReThinkSchool” tour in October 2017.

During her visit, DeVos listened to the Code Academy instructor teach students about different coding languages and also talked with students about why they decided to enroll in the course.

“Frankly, I think we have done a disservice to young people for many years by suggesting that the only path to success as adults is through a four-year college or university,” DeVos said during her visit. “We see lots of opportunities. This is a great example right here today, of different pathways and different options and so we are going to continue to build on that theme that there are really great opportunities that don’t require a four-year college.”

More information about Midland’s Code Academy can be found online at code.midlandu.edu.


Colin Larson / Courtesy Photo  

A new Planet Fitness health club will open at the corner of Bell Street and east 23rd Street later this year. The national gym franchise is known for its $10 memberships and monthly pizza and bagel giveaways for members. 


Midland University Communications  

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visits with Midland University Code Academy student Andy Kollath on during her visit to Midland University’s Omaha campus last October. Midland recently announced changes to its Code Academy program that will allow students to graduate in as little as 12 weeks. 


Govt-and-politics
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Dodge County set for new alert system

Dodge County is getting set to roll out a new mass warning and alert system that can notify residents of emergencies and other important updates via cell phone, landline and social media.

The new warning system, provided by the company AlertSense, was approved by the Dodge County Board of Supervisors in a September meeting for $7,125 over five years, and should be implemented by the start of 2019, says Dodge County Emergency Manager Thomas Smith. Leading up to the launch, the county will be conducting a public awareness campaign.

The new system has several different capabilities. It allows the county to send internal alerts within different areas of government, like the fire department. The system also sends emergency notifications to the general public via landlines and social media. And it also sends wireless emergency alerts to cell phones, and through television and over the radio.

“It allows the public first responders to send messages directly to the public without relying on some other means to get their information,” Smith said. “[the public] can receive it directly from a public safety agency in the local government.”

Without this system, the main notification system operated at the local level is the outdoor warning sirens that often sound during tornadoes, high winds and other similar events. But those don’t provide much information, Smith said. Tornado warnings, meanwhile, are sent wirelessly by the National Weather Service and other alerts, like Amber Alerts, are coordinated at the state level, Smith said.

The new system will significantly expand Dodge County’s ability to reach local residents with everything from emergency situations to other important notifications. Potential scenarios could include a hazardous materials release, evacuations, law enforcement warnings, notifications of a dangerous suspect, scheduled power outages, missing people, weather related warnings and others.

Those listed in the phonebook will be automatically added into the system. For those who want to receive non-emergency notifications on their cell phones, they can register through the AlertSense app, Smith said, where they can customize their notifications by factors like location.

At this point, the system hasn’t been used at all and training still needs to be done before the 2019 launch, though Smith said that in the case of an emergency, he’d be able to use the system himself. The office of emergency management will be the administrative agency overseeing the utilization of the system.


Local
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Rebuilding Together, Sears helping veterans group building

Brad Wiese can tell you how valuable a veterans group — and its building — is in Hooper.

The VFW post in Hooper offers camaraderie for veterans, but also raises funds for local projects and provides space for community events.

So the organization, Rebuilding Together, Platte Valley East, is joining forces with Sears to complete renovations and repairs to the Veterans of Foreign Wars David Hargen Post 10535 building in Hooper.

More than 25 volunteers from Rebuilding Together, the VFW post and Logan View High School will complete flooring replacement, debris removal and critical building repairs as part of the Sears Heroes at Home program.

The work is expected to take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and also Nov. 3 in the building at 108 N. Main St., in Hooper.

“It has been great fun listening to stories about their service over morning coffee where several members of the post meet every morning to talk about the community and upcoming post events,” said Wiese, executive director of Rebuilding Together, Platte Valley East.

Wiese applied for a grant from Sears, which every year makes funds available to Rebuilding Together affiliates to complete projects for veterans and veterans’ facilities.

“We’re always very thankful for their generosity in supporting folks, who have served and supported this country and its citizens,” Wiese said. “It’s an honor to be able to give back to those who’ve given to us.”

In his grant writing, Wiese said the Hooper post has community pancake and waffle feeds each year to raise funds for its own expenses and also offers the event to other local groups to help raise money.

Hooper’s VFW is the only post in Dodge County that offers coffee in the morning, five days a week, for anyone who’d like to join them and share in the camaraderie of the post.

The space also is used for many functions such as graduation receptions and the community Fourth of July breakfast.

It’s a staging area for the July Fourth parade and is used by the color guard for storage, practices and events.

The post also provides services on Memorial Day for surrounding cemeteries and decorates veterans’ graves. It donates funds to activities and projects such as Civil Air Patrol and the newly constructed concessions stands at the local ball fields.

Post members enjoy pancake feeds provided for residents of veterans’ homes in Norfolk and Bellevue.

Each year, veterans are brought from these retirement homes to the Hooper post and treated to a pancake feed, presentations and a chance to have fellowship with local veterans.

Wiese said the post is a great asset to Hooper and the surrounding community, but the facility needs repairs.

The most critical need is a restroom large enough for veterans from the retirement homes to enter in a wheelchair and for accompanying nurses to assist them on and off a chair-height stool.

Plans call for removal of current restroom walls and construction of an area that can meet the needs of people with disabilities and medical personnel.

“Chair-height stools, wheelchair accessible sinks and adequate grab bars must be installed to ensure the safety of the veterans,” Wiese said.

He also noted that as current members of the Hooper VFW age, the restroom is inadequate for their needs.

In addition, Wiese cites the need for carpeting in the dining hall to be removed and replaced with durable laminate flooring.

Most of the dining hall is carpeted, which makes it very difficult to move wheelchairs and walkers for older members. It’s also tough to keep clean, has many stains and poses a risk to respiratory health, he said.

Other items include a back door that is difficult to open and close and which should be replaced with a more usable unit to allow access to the alley and garbage area.

Holes in the front façade of the building need to be repaired. Current appliances are old and need to be replaced to help in the safety and efficiency for many community events the post provides.

Wiese also noted that that building’s second level was once an apartment that has fallen into disrepair. It’s filled with old equipment and furniture that needs to be disposed of, he said.

Rebuilding Together, a longtime, charitable partner of Sears, is a national nonprofit organization that provides low-income homeowners with critical home repairs and helps revitalize the communities in which they live.

Heroes at Home, created through a partnership between Sears and Rebuilding Together, is a national program designed to assist low-income members of the military, their families and veterans with needed home repairs and modifications.

Since the program’s inception in 2007, more than $23 million has been raised for Heroes at Home and veteran’s services.

Through more than 1,700 projects, almost 42,000 volunteers have donated 333,000 hours to support veterans and their families through critical repairs to veterans’ homes and nonprofit facilities that serve them.

“With the assistance of Rebuilding Together and Sears, this post will continue to serve veterans and the community, county and the eastern side of Nebraska for years to come,” Wiese said.