Waterloo comes together for coach’s husband

Amber and Jim Hensiek with their two young children, Cannon and Jadyn. (photo courtesy Dennis Bullock Photography)

It was a year ago this month that the Hensiek family of Waterloo found out Jim had cancer.

Jim’s wife, Amber Hensiek, who is also a seventh grade math teacher and the Waterloo High School cheerleading coach, has been supporting her sick husband and two young children in a time that hasn’t always been easy.

Jim was diagnosed with rectal cancer in October 2012, and immediately began chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Since then, he has had multiple surgeries and types of treatment, including close to 60 radiation treatments.

He has also been fighting post-operative infections.

“The radiation treatments have damaged the healthy tissue, so it is slow to heal,” Amber said. “We are waiting to get scans, but the oncologist feels strongly that we have gotten all of the cancer.”

Friday night, a silent auction was held during the WHS home football game to benefit the Hensiek family, organized by the cheerleaders of both the junior high and high school.

Kim Thaggard, one of the coordinators of the event, said that although they don’t have an exact total, they do know more than $4,000 was raised.

Amber Osterhage (left) and Kim Thaggard (right) work at the Fifth Quarter Silent Auction booth on Friday night. The WHS and WJHS cheerleaders helped organize a basket auction to raise money for the Hensiek family. (Greg Stanek photo)

Amber said the community support has just been amazing.

“I have told so many people that I can’t imagine living anywhere other than Waterloo,” she said. “In big cities, people and their struggles go unnoticed, but not in Waterloo.”

Amber said she and her family are not the type to ask for help, but she is grateful every day for the fundraisers the community has put together to help her family. Co-workers at school have helped the Hensiek family by making family dinners, organizing fundraisers and contributing in any way they can.

“Everyone is always asking what they can do to help, or just simply telling us we are in their thoughts and prayers,” she said. “It validates that living here, working here, and raising our children here is the perfect place to be.”

When her husband was first diagnosed, Amber said they wanted to keep things as normal as possible for their children. Jim continued to work, and she continued to teach and coach. As time progressed, Amber realized the Waterloo School District community understood what her family was going through.

The Waterloo High School cheerleaders gather with their coach during Friday night’s football game. (Greg Stanek photo)

“Everyone understood that I might miss things, be a little frazzled, or need to change our schedule,” she said. “For me, continuing on with my daily routines as much as possible is how I have gotten through.”

The Hensiek family has an optimistic attitude about Jim’s future as he continues to heal, and the Waterloo community heals with him.

“I think the biggest thing I have learned from this journey is to relax and have faith,” Amber said. “We know we aren’t alone in our journey.”

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