By SUSAN TOBIAS Press-Republican
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Dominique Hoffman wakes up each day happy to be alive, but the thought that she has Stage 3 inoperable lung cancer is always with her.
The mother of two children, Justin Sanger, 22, and Sacha Sanger, 24, she is also stepmother to Brittany Hoffman, 22, Timmy Hoffman, 20, and Jesse Hoffman, 19.
“I love them all,” said Dominique, who is 43. “It makes me feel happy to have them around.”
Justin, however, is stationed at Camp Pendleton in California. He and his wife, Merritt, are expecting their first child — and Dominique’s first grandchild — in July.
Dominique had planned to be there for Eero Demotte Sanger’s birth, but those plans had to be changed due to a recent setback in her health.
Doctors have told her a 4,000-mile trip to California is not possible in her condition.
FEARED THE WORST
Dominique’s health challenges began in September 2011, when she was working in the cold room at a local food mail-order business.
“I hadn’t been feeling well — my shoulders and back ached. But I thought it was just the cold affecting me,” she said at the Plattsburgh home she shares with her sister Renee Gauthier.
“It got so bad, I had to go to the ER, and when they said they needed to do more tests, I knew something wasn’t right.”
The Emergency Department doctor called Renee and told her that Dominique shouldn’t be alone there — another of their sisters, Margeau Ashline, was fighting lung cancer, and Dominique feared the worst.
“As soon as I walked in, I knew it wasn’t good,” Renee said, fighting the tears. “I thought, ‘Here we go again.’”
After an MRI, Dominique was told she had a lung tumor that was inoperable because it is against the aorta of her heart. She traveled to Sloan Kettering in New York City, hoping the diagnosis would be better.
Back in Plattsburgh, chemotherapy and radiation shrank the tumor, but it didn’t go away.
“I am very happy with the (FitzPatrick) Cancer Center at CVPH,” she said. “They have taken such good care of me and become like family.”
After her diagnosis, Dominique pushed Renee, 49, and her other sisters, Giselle Acors, 45, and Michelle Parrish, 48, to get medical checkups. So far, everything is good for them.
Sadly, Margeau lost her battle with lung cancer in November 2012. She was 46.
HER SON’S VOICE
Dominique had been making plans to be in California for her grandson’s birth when she was rushed back to CVPH last month after she became very ill.
Following a blood transfusion, she had trouble breathing and was unresponsive.
“She was really out of it,” Renee said. “The doctors told us to call the family because it looked like she wasn’t going to make it through.”
The American Red Cross flew Dominique’s son home from California, and when she heard his voice by her bedside, Renee said, it was like she started fighting to breathe again on her own.
“I thought I was dreaming,” Dominique said. “I kept saying, ‘Is that you, Justin?’”
Justin didn’t know what he would find when he got to Plattsburgh, but his mom got stronger and stronger. After two weeks, she was able to go home, and Justin returned to Camp Pendleton.
She has accepted the fact that she’s not going to California, but would like to be able to have Justin and Merritt, whom she has never met, and their newborn, flown to Plattsburgh for a visit.
Family and friends are planning a fundraiser for Saturday, June 29, at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 125 on Boynton Avenue in Plattsburgh to help with plane tickets and expenses.
“I just knew I had to do something to help Dommer,” said Sandy Fassett, a friend since childhood. “She has gone through so much and keeps on looking forward — it’s the least we can do.”
Sandy and Renee have contacted multiple local businesses that have donated gift certificates and other items for a Chinese auction.
During the day, children will be foremost in Dominique’s heart; she wants the focus to be about family.
“We’ll have piñatas, games and food,” she said. “I want it to be a day for the kids to enjoy, to have families together having a good time.”
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IF YOU GO
The Donations for Dominique event is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 125, Boynton Avenue, Plattsburgh. A buffet lunch is $10 per person, $6 for between six and 12 diners, and ages 5 and younger eat for free. The fundraiser includes a Chinese auction, raffles, games music and other activities. To mail a donation, make checks out to Dominique Hoffman and send them to her at 54 Waterhouse St., Plattsburgh, NY 12901. Proceeds in excess of expenses for Dominique's family to travel home will be donated to the FitzPatrick Cancer Center in Plattsburgh. To give to the Chinese auction, call 310-0124.