Area woman chooses hope
Despite stage 4 MS, amateur actress lands lead role
February 17, 2010
TRI-CITY AREA — In the span of a single hour Roxanne Wermuth's life changed forever.
Unable to walk or speak, vision distorted and blurred, the left side of her body completely numb, Roxanne thought she may have had a stroke. As it turns out, the truth hit her with even greater force. At 43 years old the lifelong Lapeer resident learned she had multiple sclerosis—an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. There is currently no known cure for MS.
"In that one hour my whole world would change drastically," Roxanne writes in a motivational piece about her experience. "Life as I had known it would now be changed forever. My career was over and as far as I was concerned, my life was over also. Wrong, wrong, wrong!"
Finding out how wrong she was didn't come easy for Roxanne. She spent a year agonizing over her new reality, rife with emotions, obsessed with dying and bitter over her diminished quality of life. Roxanne says she couldn't, wouldn't accept her new reality.
"All I wanted to do is die," Roxanne recalls. "I had no zest to continue on."
The situation took a toll on her family, too. Roxanne says it wasn't until her husband asked her a perplexing question—what choice would she make?
"I didn't understand his question at first, but he explained to me that everyone has a choice in this life on how they will handle their adversities," Roxanne says. "I could choose to be bitter and unhappy or I could choose to make the best of what's happened."
Boiled down to those simple truths, Roxanne made her choice that day—to "fight and press on." That was 16 years ago, and she's never looked back.
Now 56, Roxanne says her zest for life, her faith in God, her outlook and determination are all stronger than ever. Rather than lamenting about having MS, Roxanne says she feels blessed that her life is so full.
"It's a miracle I believe that God is allowing," she says. "Yes, a door was closed 16 years ago but a whole lot of windows have opened up."
Behind one of those windows was the lead role in an upcoming production of 'On Golden Pond' by Lapeer Community Theater.
Despite her stage 4 MS, Roxanne was cast as Ethel Thayer in the acclaimed love story.
She'd been involved with LCT for about five years, but Roxanne says learning she'd landed the female lead was a huge surprise.
"I feel so blessed that I'm able to do this," she says. "When I got the call I was scared, thinking I'll never be able to memorize all that dialogue. But I'm doing it. My attitude is positive and I'm doing it."
She hopes her new challenge will inspire others to flourish in the face of adversity—to choose to make the most of things despite life's pitfalls.
A positive attitude is more than half the battle, Roxanne says. The remainder entails making up your mind.
"I say I'm going to do it and I'm doing it," she says. "Sure I may mess up and make a mistake but I'm doing it. The MS flares up now and then and it gives me a hard time but I can't complain, I push through it."
Roxanne is so charged up about landing the role, she hopes others who have physical limitations or emotional problems will gain inspiration from her words.
"I want to give hope to people that no matter what negative they're dealing with in life, there is a positive on the other side of that negative," she says. "People need to know that there's hope."
Roxanne and her husband Dave have been married for 38 years. They have two daughters, Stephanie and Sarah.
LCT will present On Golden Pond at the PIX Theatre in downtown Lapeer on Feb. 26, 27, and March 5, 6. For more information visit www.lapeerplays.com or call the PIX box office at 810-664-4824.
Catherine Minolli is Managing Editor of the Tri-City Times. She began as a freelance writer with the Times in 1994. She enjoys the country life, including raising ducks and chickens.