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Survivor’s rocking horse a symbol of hope at WellSpan cancer center

November 15, 2021

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Woody Rupp, a cancer survivor, made this rocking horse that sits in the lobby of the WellSpan York Cancer Center.

Woody Rupp, a cancer survivor, made this rocking horse that sits in the lobby of the WellSpan York Cancer Center.

When patients enter the WellSpan York Cancer Center, they see an unusual sight.

An adult-size rocking horse sits in a glass case in the main lobby.

The horse took an unexpected journey to the cancer center.

It was crafted by Woody Rupp, a York man who is a cancer survivor and WellSpan patient.

Woody is an active member of the WellSpan York Cancer Center’s Head & Neck Support Group. In 2019, the group formed a team of walkers for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in York County. For their team’s fundraiser, Woody donated the rocking horse, to be raffled off at the event. The team raised $4,000, which benefited the American Cancer Society.

The raffle winner was the director of the WellSpan York Cancer Center.

And that winner, Susan Stokley, could think of no better home for the horse than in the newly renovated cancer center, which opened its doors earlier this year after a $45 million expansion. The center offers holistic treatment through a patient’s entire journey, from cancer prevention, screening and diagnosis, through treatment, to support and recovery, all in one location, in a calm, healing environment.

“Woody’s horse, to me, is a symbol of hope,” Stokley said. “It was handcrafted by someone who has walked the journey of a cancer patient and survived, and continues to build things, enjoy his life, and live each day with joy – to me that says everything about what we hope for our patients.”

“I could not be more honored,” says Woody, 75, a retired carpenter, of the special place where his rocking horse now resides. “I build these rocking horses, and I often wonder if they will outlive me. I know this one will.”

In 2014, Woody’s cancer journey began with some numbness in his tongue. He went to the doctor, who took a biopsy, and later diagnosed him with squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common cause of skin cancer.

“I had no clue it would be anything that major,” said Woody. “It floored me when he told me I had cancer.”

Woody underwent surgery to remove a tumor from his tongue and a tumor from the floor of his mouth. He also had a skin graft on his tongue, as well as 101 lymph nodes removed. He then began receiving chemotherapy and radiation at the WellSpan York Cancer Center.

“I did not meet a single person at WellSpan who I wouldn’t sit down and have a meal with,” Woody said. “Everyone was just so wonderful and professional. Their main goal was to make sure I was okay. From the dietitian to the radiation oncologist to the person who administered my chemo, I could not have asked for better care.”

“I think the newly expanded WellSpan York Cancer Center is going to be absolutely fabulous for the community,” said Woody. “Having everything right there is amazing for the patients. No matter who comes there with cancer, they can rest assured that they have the best team to be treated by, and the best facility to be treated at.”

And they can see a lasting testimony from someone who is just like them.

To learn more about the newly expanded WellSpan York Cancer Center, go here.