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Greg Stobbe’s life altered by cancer, visual impairment

Greg+Stobbes+life+altered+by+cancer%2C+visual+impairment

Long-time journalism adviser steps away after multiple life altering setbacks.

[/media-credit] Greg Stobbe traveled with students to NYC for more than 20 years to attend the CSPA spring journalism conference. A favorite activity is walking the Brooklyn Bridge.

August 12th: the set date for the beginning of a new school year, and a new start for English and publications teacher Greg Stobbe. This would be his 30th first day of school, which should feel like a walk in the park; however, this year truly was a first. 

One year prior, on Sept 15th, Stobbe lost his wife of 34 years to a debilitating neurological disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP). The journey of caretaking for his wife was a devastating process, slowly losing her to the loss of her voice, her appetite, her sight, and lastly her mobility. As her primary caregiver, Stobbe and his daughters spent every day as if it would be their last together. 

Picking up the pieces and mustering up any remaining hope led Stobbe to the start of a new school year where he would continue to advise a brand-new Feather team, along with revitalizing a former creative writing course as an English alternative. While starting the year strong, ready to re-live his teaching legacy, he soon discovered his own health diagnosis would cut short his year after only a few months.

By the second week of school, teaching felt nostalgic, energetic, hopeful– like before the transition in his family’s life. Stobbe’s start at Fresno Christian began in 1995 and through the years, students got to know this charismatic teacher well. His stories and classroom antics are something legend amongst alumni. Chewing up poorly written papers, singing and dancing through classrooms, duck taping students to class walls, and regular outbursts of enthusiasm. These are known as ‘Stobbe Shenanigans.’

Today’s student body does not know him as well unless they have spent time in the Feather lab, as his last year teaching English was 2014.

His relationship with students is not only one-sided. Encountering a moment or experience with Stobbe will impact someone’s life incredibly. Students know him as a little bit crazy, but also with a whole lot of love. 

Tynin Fries, Fresno Christian alumna, spent four years learning from Stobbe. She said he encouraged her to tackle new challenges and become more curious.

Greg Stobbe has been a major influence on my life and my career. I remember him tearing my first story apart with a red pen, literally putting holes in the page where I made errors. As a stubborn and dedicated student, his brutal honesty motivated me to get better and better. The skills I learned while working on The Feather helped me become a better writer, but also a better person,” Fries continues. “I am just one of the many students he has poured his love into.” 

Student-Athlete, Brandy Penberthy, ’23, was one of Stobbe’s English students this year. She talks about her experience in his classroom and the impact he left on her.

“Stobbe taught me to use all of my senses, to realize what goes on in the world,” Penberthy continues. “Stobbe is wise and worth listening to because what he had to say helped me with almost everything I have done since. He taught by projecting his voice and quieting it, by sitting on a chair or by running around the room. Stobbe taught with passion.”

Video created and edited by Austin Petersen and Micah Friesen

When Stobbe was a kid he wanted to become a professional hockey player. From the age of five to 14, Stobbe lived and breathed hockey. He participated in the club and practiced after school with his friends, playing street hockey for eight-nine months out of a year. Reaching the age of fourteen he was able to continue his dreams, but his dad stopped his little career which, while devastating, turned out to be for the best. With more free time, Stobbe said he became more involved in student government and music, which eventually led to him acting as student body president. 

When Stobbe was two years old, he had a freak accident that ended in him losing total vision in his left eye. Many wanted to believe that a hockey puck flew into his eye at a game, but in reality, it was a devastating incident. Stobbe’s father, Herbert, put him in a sandbox to play while he mowed the lawn. His father ended up mowing over rocks, which led to a piece of rock hitting the center of little Stobbe’s eye. As he grew older, his eyesight grew dimmer, and after the retina detached in 2004, it was removed in a surgery called enucleation, and replaced with an acrylic prosthetic eye. 

[/media-credit] Growing up in Canada, hockey and his love for the Vancouver Canucks had an important role in shaping his identity.

Living his entire life with one functioning eye has been a challenge; however adapted, he said he spent his life hyper-careful of his remaining eye, and never thought he would lose it.

Entering into a new chapter of teaching, Stobbe’s prepared for a new life without his wife. However, in September, Stobbe noticed shimmering floaters in his right eye that led him to see an optometrist. On Sept. 17, one year after his wife died, Stobbe received a cancer diagnosis: Optical melanoma

The oncologist and retinal specialist in San Fransisco explained the rare yet malignant form of eye cancer, in his only good eye, posed as a tumor pressing against the optic disk, which is the channel of nerves which sends images to the brain to see. The only way to destroy the tumor is by surgery and radiation treatments, which were scheduled in October 2021. 

The initial surgery posed few risks. During a relatively short surgery, the oncologist sewed markers around the tumor to guide the radiation oncologist during radiation therapy, scheduled for two weeks post-op. During surgery, he also removed a small piece of the tissue for a biopsy to determine how likely the cancer was to spread. According to the physician, the surgery went according to plan, without concern.

Stobbe, unfortunately, spent 9.5 hours in the Fresno Emergency room on Oct. 8, the night after surgery. He woke up with excruciating pain at one in the morning, and ended up in the ER not long after. Stobbe and his daughter, Brooke, waited until they could contact an ophthalmologist to see what was wrong with his eye; however, due to the extremely niche nature of the procedure, the doctors in Fresno said the issue was beyond their practice. At the time this was happening Stobbe’s surgeon was flying on vacation and luckily they caught him right in time.

Later in the morning, their surgeon examined imaging done in Fresno, and said nothing was too wrong to stress about, but it still aroused minor concern.

The following week, Stobbe’s sight had not returned as predicted; however, he met his radiation oncologist in San Francisco to be fitted for his radiation mask.

[/media-credit] Wearing a thermoplastic mask during his procedures protects his face from radiation.

A Thermoplastic mask is molded on the face to protect a patient’s face from radiation, and also secured to the table to hold patient’s faces in place. His appointment for radiation was on Oct. 11. With all kinds of nerves taking over his emotions, Stobbe requested help with his anxiety. Dr. Mishra, one of the four doctors in the USA that helps treat people with eye melanoma (a rare eye cancer), prescribed two pills to calm him down, which made him a little too calm after all. After a humorous afternoon, reliving his usual classroom antics of dancing around public places and performing in the hotel diner, the following week, he returned for radiation, or proton therapy.

Stobbe’s radiation journey began Oct. 18 leading to a long yet scary recovery. Ending his radiation journey Oct. 22 looking forward to a lucky recovery; however, according to his surgeon, his sigh recovery was not on track.

Although they explained to him that his recovery time has come to an end, Stobbe still believes and has faith that his eye will get better with the strength of God.

Stobbe explains, “If this is where I’m going to be for the rest of my life I will be okay with it because this is what God wants for me.”

Kori James, current adviser and Stobbe’s Feather partner of 9 years feels his absence daily.

“Greg’s larger than life enthusiasm for teaching is unmatched,” James said. ” He was first my teacher in 1995-96 only to become a  colleague and partner in the program. What a team we made! So many memories and stories of our Feather endeavors over the years.  His influence in the lives of students is something to aspire towards and his absence leaves a gapping hole.  I miss my partner, my friend.”

As Stobbe begins to adapt to his new circumstances he hopes to gain training and a new education in living visually impaired. His eyesight allows him to get around his home ok, however at this time he is unable to cook, drive and read most things without a high power magnifying glass. As you can imagine this has drastically altered his life but his hope remains strong. While his future is unknown one thing is certain Stobbe’s influence and impact is not done. As he would say, “How then shall we live.”

Has Stobbe had an impact in your life? We would love to hear from you. Leave a comment or send us an email to [email protected] and we will be sure to share it with him.

To help raise funds for finding a cure for PSP you can make a donation in Geena’s name. Please visit curepsp.org/stobbe to donate.

To read more from The Feather visit, CV Fuego FC under new ownership or Feather earns Digital Silver Crown from CSPA

Slideshow images of Greg Stobbe during his eye treatments for cancer and his time as Feather adviser and English teacher at Fresno Christian Schools.
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  • V

    Vijay StephenMay 28, 2022 at 10:07 pm

    Thank you Maiya for writing this article detailing Stobbe’s journey with this illness. As evidenced from the article, Stobbe is a person of strength and character and I have no doubt he will persevere. Stobbe’s influence spans generations of students and I am reminded of his impact in my life frequently, especially when I recognize an unnecessary helping verb in my writing.

    Reply
  • W

    Wendy GalavizApr 26, 2022 at 9:00 pm

    Great job Maiya!! What an amazing story and what a great job you did telling the story!! You are an amazing writer!

    Reply
  • T

    Taylor BeckworthApr 26, 2022 at 8:41 am

    I have no words. Maiya, you did an amazing job with this article! And you guys did an awesome job with the video. This brought tears to my eyes. Stobbe, I thank you for being such a role model in my life. You have inspired me, and have taught me things I will always remember.

    Reply
  • B

    Bella JohnsApr 25, 2022 at 11:36 pm

    First off, Maiya you did such a good job summarizing Stobbe and his life journey. I’m very proud of you! Boys, you did a great job on this video and just giving us a glimpse into his new lifestyle.

    Stobbe, thank you for your countless amounts of dedication and wisdom to help further and impact your students! It hasn’t been the same without you this year, you are very missed. I’ve known these things about you, but just reading it again and seeing your hope and passion was impactful.

    Reply
    • F

      Frankie MacuerAug 3, 2022 at 8:52 pm

      In the big stage of life where we play the main role, characters come in and out. Some of them come for a full act, some of them for the whole play, some come to play a fundamental roll and tragically leave… Now there are also small roles those that barely have a few lines. Some times they are so small that you are not sure if they are part of your play or you part of theirs.
      I met Mr. Greg Stobbe and His daughter Brook on a train along the west coast this August 3. 2022 all this occurred while we were going through Mt. shasta, one of my favorite places in California. With a lot of significance in my life, little I knew the man seating across the table was about to be of great significance too. I want to thank Mr. Greg and his Daughter for being such beautiful people. We had a brief conversation and just like that they changed my life they gave a whole different sense of purpose to a trip that was not having much meaning at this point. Mr. Greg’s and Brook’s wisdom, generosity and eloquence made me want to know more, made me want to be better. He is an inspiration and wanted to thank him for changing my life in one hour. Some people tell me how can I say they were beautiful in only an hour of talking, my reply is simple when you are in nature and you observe a wild flower doing their thing agains all odds you just know the miracle of beauty is in front of you as an absolute, irrefutable and undeniable act of god.
      Thank you for being that wild flower in my journey!
      Much love Mr. Greg And Brook hope I can stay in touch.

      Reply
      • K

        Kori JamesOct 6, 2022 at 1:52 pm

        Thank you for sharing this. This is a story in itself.

        Reply
  • T

    Tynin FriesApr 25, 2022 at 4:03 pm

    The Stobbe family has been through so much in recent years. Despite it all, they have continued to be great friends to me and my family. So thankful I had Mr. Stobbe to teach me the foundations of journalism that have led to my career in news.

    Thank you Stobbe for all you’ve given to your students! Stay strong!

    Reply