Prom wish realized
BY STACI WILSON
As the music began to play Heatwave’s “Always and Forever,” Mike and Sandy Schwenk, of Montrose, stepped out onto the floor for the first dance at the Montrose Area Junior-Senior Prom.
Sandy, a 1987 Montrose Area graduate, didn’t attend the prom in high school. It was her husband’s wish to give her that magical experience.
Mike was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis in 1995, an incurable disease where tumors grow on his nerve endings. He has over 200 tumors in his abdomen that cause severe pain. Those tumors were discovered in 2011 with a cat scan, when Mike’s health took a turn for the worse. Every six weeks, they travel to Hershey where Mike receives chemotherapy in hopes to slow the progression of the disease.
“Chemo may be slowing the progress of the disease but to date there is no cure and everything that they are doing as far as treatment is experimental,” Sandy said.
He has now been in hospice six different times. Mike said, “Last year, during my third or fourth hospice, I tried to think of one last thing that I could do to show Sandy how much I love her and how much she means to me. I knew she had never gotten to go to her prom, so that is how it all started.”
Mike contacted the school and asked if they would allow the couple to attend. After several months, the school gave its approval. “They even came to our house to hand deliver the tickets and invite us personally,” Mike said.
But getting to prom was no easy task for the Schwenks.
Mike was in Endless Mountains Health Systems and transferred to Geisinger Wyoming Valley on the Monday before the prom to start taking nutrition intravenously. Because of the tumors and the pain involved with eating, he now weighs about 80 pounds.
“Geisinger Wyoming Valley did so many things in order for his dream of taking me to prom come true,” Sandy said.
“Mike just got out of the hospital Friday morning, so making it there was a dream come true,” Sandy said. “We had people picking up the tux, ordering flowers and even Geisinger Wyoming Valley hospital had someone fill Mike’s prescriptions so we would be able to worry about getting ready.”
Because of his weight loss, the tux pants didn’t fit but he had a white suit at home. The last hour of getting ready was spent hemming pants that would fit with a belt.
From there, the night was magical for the couple who have been married for the past decade.
Montrose Area High School Principal Mike Boccella told the school board Monday night that the Schwenks had a special “sweetheart table” set for them.
As Mike and Sandy danced, the students surrounded the dance floor and joined in at the end of the song, Boccella said.
Returning to school Monday, the principal said that more than several students said having the Schwenks attend was the “highlight of the night.”
“The fact that Mike was able to dance was huge,” Sandy said. “He has gotten so weak in the past week, that for him it was a long three minutes but we both will treasure the moment and the joy of it all being possible. It was like a dream you can only imagine the joy and gratitude felt the moment we were able to share our first dance together.”
Mike a 1985 graduate of Lebanon High School thanked everyone who made the night possible.
“I can only try to explain the joy you have brought us,” Mike said. He also thanked the graduating class. “We truly appreciate their understanding and willingness to make a dream come true for someone else. I only wish there was a way that we could repay them for their kindness.”