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A cancer survivor gets a new lease on life after a shocking discovery

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Valentine 80th party

For the past 24 years, Arthur Dilg did some pretty fun things, including taking his wife, Marilyn, on multiple trips to Germany to visit family. The semi-retired Christ Episcopal Church clergyman also had a chance to be a part of some blessed events, including baptizing the majority of his nine grandchildren and seven great grandchildren as well as countless others outside the family. He performed numerous weddings, and he and Marilyn were able to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary six years ago.

On a not-so-fun-note, in the past 24 years, he has also become a cancer survivor, as he was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014. Through the good and the bad, Dilg has tried to live life to the fullest because the 81-year-old Indiana resident is happy to be alive. And, maybe even a little lucky.

In 1993, he had some back pain, especially during walks up a steep hill from his house to his church. It was significant enough to consult with his doctor. 

Dr. Ruth Woolcock diagnosed it as heart problems and sent him to see some cardiologists at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. It was discovered that he had 95 percent blockage in the main artery to the wall of the heart.

Arthur underwent surgery and says Woolcock’s diagnosis helped save his life.

“She was the one who made the initial discovery and made sure that I went in the right direction to follow up,” he says.

Marilyn says Woolcock’s diagnosis may have defied some odds.

“His pain was atypical for a cardiac symptom,” Marilyn says. “But she picked up that it was not typical. It was in the back and was a very brief pain, and some doctors might not have thought it would be related to the heart. It was so fortunate that Dr. Woolcock picked that up and was astute to do that. The cardiologists in Pittsburgh said that she saved his life.”

Woolcock, who was in private practice at the time and now works in the IRMC Physician Group, downplays her role.

“I don’t think I saved his life — I was very quickly onto the fact that he had coronary artery disease and I just got the ball rolling,” she says.

However, if that ball didn’t start to roll…

“He exercised regularly, and he could have just died on a run one day,” she says. “So, I feel good about being able to find it so it could be fixed.”

In those 24 years of Dilg’s life, he actually had a chance to help out Woolcock in her time of need four years ago when her husband, John, died of pancreatic cancer.

“Arthur and Marilyn helped me with the funeral service and were there to comfort my family, and I have personally benefited very much from their ministry,” Woolcock says.

Arthur Dilg keeps working out three times a week and watches his diet closely. He calls doctors “gifts of God”.

“Pay attention to any symptoms you have because that may be very, very important,” he says. “Diet and exercise are critical. It’s essential whether you have a cardiac issue or not. I think you need regular visits with your doctor and being forthright and honest with any concerns you have is also important. Be direct and let your doctor be helpful for you. And you have to have faith. You have to have a source of faith of some sort. You need it in life. You have to rely on more than just human effort.”

Marilyn has seen how rich their lives have been in the past couple of decades and she has some words to live by.

“Live as much as one can with a spirit of gratitude,” she says. “Live for friends and family and for experiences in life. It’s also important to reach out to others and try to get to know others and understand others. Everyone has issues that they are dealing with and it is better to understand that than to just focus on one’s self. Be kind and understanding. We don’t always know what other people we come in contact with are dealing with.”

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