SIOUX CITY -- The card from Hillary Clinton boosted his spirits. The calls from former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., were boons in a tough time.
As State Rep. Roger Wendt, D-Sioux City, fights a second battle against cancer, he's gratified to have received hundreds of cards and as many well wishes from Sioux City residents, lawmakers he's served with in Des Moines and national Democrats he's supported over the years.
In an interview on Thursday, Wendt, 76, said he feels his battle with cancer has taken a positive turn. He spoke after his morning coffee roundtable with other retired educators, where after he detailed his medical news.
"I'm feeling good," Wendt said. "The main tumor mass has shrunk... The oncologist told me nothing is growing, so that is good news."
Wendt, who has represented Iowa House District since winning election in November 2002, had planned to run for a fifth term this fall. But things changed in March, when he received bracing news from a doctor that cancer had returned for the first time in 17 years. Wendt not only hastily announced he wouldn't run for re-election, he couldn't finish out the session in Des Moines.
"I miss it. I wanted to have one more go-round," he said.
In 1993, when working as a Sioux City Community Schools administrator, Wendt learned he had lung cancer during a routine checkup, He had two surgeries, including the removal of the lower left lobe of his left lung. He received 37 radiation treatments at the time, and after his condition improved, Wendt was instructed to have yearly checkups.
After retiring from his school administrative duties in 2002, he entered politics and rose to be the House Education Committee Chairman, working on a host of issues of concern in that field.
Earlier this year, he had difficulty breathing and found out cancer had returned to his right lung and lymph nodes. Wendt is participating in a clinical trial from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., although he hasn't had to travel because the treatments are given at the June E. Nylen Cancer Center in Sioux City. He'll begin a sixth round of chemotherapy next week.
Wendt this spring experienced problems with his blood cell count and, after a transfusion, had a fever and then pneumonia that resulted in a four-day hospitalization. He feels he's turned a corner.
"When I had the pneumonia, it really knocked me down," Wendt said. "I am gaining strength. I am walking more."
Wendt and wife Anita Wendt are parents to two grown children, both of whom work as school administrators, and grandparents of three. Anita Wendt said the Wendts have been buoyed by an outpouring of best wishes.
"It has been unbelievable and that is what gives you strength to get through these things," Anita Wendt said.
Anita Wendt appreciated the stop by the house Tuesday by former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack.
"I just can't say enough about the kindness of people," she said. "We have just been praying for a miracle and hope things go in the right direction."
Wendt on politics
Even as he battles to beat back a second bout of cancer, state legislator Roger Wendt is still tuned into politics. Some random Wendt thoughts:
-- He likes the young candidate, Democrat Chris Hall of Sioux City, who is vying with Republican Cate Bryan of Sioux City for the House District 2 seat he's vacating.
-- Wendt predicted Democrats in the November election will continue to hold both state chambers with majorities. He said even though 2010 looks to be a good year for Republican candidates nationally, he predicted Democrats also maintain both federal chambers too.
-- Democratic Gov. Chet Culver is in a battle for his political future, having trailed in every poll when pitted with Republican gubernatorial candidate Terry Branstad. Wendt sees the race ultimately going down to the wire, saying Culver could rebound, since he's "a heck of a campaigner."