Supporting Joe the Plumber Wurzelbacher Family

Campaign Created by: Elizabeth Strang

The funds from this campaign will be received by Katie Wurzelbacher.

Goal: USD $200,000
Raised: USD $ 167,915

Toledo native, Joe “The Plumber” Wurzelbacher, was recently diagnosed with Stage 3 Pancreatic cancer. Joe is a Military Veteran and is receiving treatment at the Ann Arbor VA Hospital as well as the University of Michigan Hospital. Joe’s wife, Katie, explains: “Joe had been having stomach issues for about 3 months, which eventually became painful. On December 26th, he'd had enough of the pain and we went to the VA emergency room in Ann Arbor. They ran tests and performed scans which showed a mass in the head of his pancreas. The mass was restricting one of his biliary ducts, so they classified it as Stage 3 cancer. They also found that his SMV had a large blood clot. His current treatment plan is 6 months of Folfirinox chemotherapy and surgery to remove half of his pancreas and reconstruct the vein with the clot.”

Katie continues, “The treatment has been a little tough so far. He deals with fatigue and weakness daily, which makes it hard for him to go to work. The oncologist has made adjustments to his chemo which has provided a little relief of the constant nausea he had after his first two treatments. Since all his issues and treatment began, he's lost 70 pounds.” 

Joe and Katie married in 2011 and have 3 young children together: Samantha Jo, Henry, and Sarah Jo. Joe also has an adult son, Joey, from a previous marriage. Joe works as a plumber in Toledo and Katie is a stay-home mother. Joe picked plumbing as his AFSC during his time in the Air Force and has always enjoyed plumbing. Joe was instantly propelled into the world of politics after a surprise encounter, in front of his house, with Barack Obama during a campaign visit to Toledo in October of 2008. Joe spent many years traveling across America giving speeches on hard work and cutting taxes. It was during one of those speaking events that he met Katie. Katie remembers, “I was working for a non-profit in Milwaukee, and Joe was flying into town to be a speaker at one of our events. I was his designated chauffeur for the weekend, so I got to pick him up from the airport. Outside of the event, we pretty much hung out and talked all weekend. I moved to Toledo a month later!”    

After leaving the political field, Joe happily went back to plumbing. He truly enjoys working and loves solving all kinds of plumbing problems. Joe has always had a deep respect for his parents and family. Katie describes their current situation, “One of the reasons I knew he was a great guy was because he treated his mother so well! It had always been part of his plan to care for his parents when the time came. His Dad had a brain aneurysm, accompanied by experimental brain surgery, when he was in his 30's. The doctor gave him 10-15 years to live, but he's now going on 30+! Sadly, we lost his mother to lung cancer 2 1/2 years ago. We had been looking for a house that would fit everyone (including his mom) for a few years but she passed before we could make that happen. We finally found a great property with 3 bedrooms and a large unfinished basement, which we thought would make a great living area for his dad. We moved into the home in July of ‘22 and once we got settled, began finishing the basement ourselves. Unfortunately, since Joe's been sick, work on the basement has significantly slowed down. We are thankful to have great friends and family who have mentioned they are ready to come help finish the project when we need it. Despite the basement not being finished, it was important to get Joe’s dad into our home because he requires daily help. So, we have made the best of the situation and will bunk all three of our kids together to give grandpa the 3rd bedroom until our basement can be finished.”  

This is an amazingly generous family! Not only do they help their family members in need, but they also donate time and resources to their children’s school. For example, last year Joe was instrumental in raising funds for the school's capital campaign and Katie volunteered as a soccer coach. Joe and Katie are blessed to receive support, donations, advice, and encouragement from the Pants Off Racing Charity in Toledo, which supports families with pancreatic cancer. 

As a community of friends, we have set up this Medical Campaign to support Joe and Katie during these months when Joe is not able to work. We are hoping to raise funds for monthly expenses and are asking for the incredible blessing of helping secure funds and volunteer skill workers to help finish their basement for Joe’s dad. From Joe, Katie and all their family and friends, “Thank you so much!”


Eternal rest grant unto Joe, O Lord, and let Your perpetual light shine upon him. Amen.
August 27, 2023
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It's with great sadness that I post this update: Joe passed away earlier this morning and entered our Lord's heavenly home. Joe had been too sick/in too much pain to get out of bed lately and his goal was to get Katie and their kids moved to her hometown surrounded by family. They moved a week ago and Joe got a huge smile on his face and told Katie, "We did it!" Katie says: "I won't forget that smile he gave me. It brought him peace knowing we were all together by family. And everyone who helped us move also brought Joe that peace. Truly, Truly Thank You!" Recently, Joe made this comment during a Faithwire interview and it sums up his life journey: “God doesn’t promise us an easy road. He just promises to be there for us when we go on these roads.” ––Joe Wurzelbacher 

Update #5--THANK YOU!
August 21, 2023
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Last week was a whirlwind of activity for Joe, Katie & kids! Joe & Katie have been praying about what is best for their family and they decided to move back to Katie’s hometown. Although this move was unexpected and several states away, it will allow Katie and Joe to have support from Katie's parents and sisters during this difficult time. (Joe’s dad was able to move with them as well so Katie can continue to care for him.) Katie and Joe would like to express their heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has helped them during this transition, including: Joe's Toledo family, Toledo friends Dan Silvers, Dave Dixon, Jeremy Johnson who helped with basement/house work, NOCA school families, Redemption Church, Klumm Brothers Construction, Sandman Sales Yard, Bayer Tree Service, Shank/Key Realty, Perron Trucking, Mastin Site Services, Four Horseman Cleaning, Perron Trucking Inc, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Drexel Building Supply, Roberts Homes, Mueller Excavating, and many individual families & friends who helped on move-in day. Katie would also like to thank her NOCA school mom friends: "I just can't find words big enough to express my gratitude to you all! Your prayers, love and support have helped carry me this far and I appreciate all of you and will miss the heck out of this group of mom's! From the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything!" Continued prayers of healing and hope for Joe & Katie. 

Update #4
August 2, 2023
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As many of you know, Joe was interviewed last week by national conservative radio host, Glenn Beck. It was a powerful and emtional conversation. After the interview, this headline appeared on The Blaze: "Glenn Beck’s audience blows past $50K fundraising goal for Joe the Plumber's cancer treatment in just 30 minutes! Thanks to the outpouring of generosity from around the country, the Goal" for Joe & his family has been raised! You can watch the interview here: Legendary Obama Challenger "Joe the Plumber" Fighting for His Life

From Katie Wurzelbacher:  "I find it hard to write this update, as I'm not even sure how to begin to convey our gratitude to you all. We're sitting here in awe and just speechless by the outpouring of support from everyone. The prayers, the encouragement, the donations- they just mean so much to us. We truly feel a community behind us, supporting us along this journey. You all are wonderful, kind, and generous people. We've been praying that God blesses every one of you, as you all have blessed us! The words just don't seem big enough to show what your support means to us, but Thank You!!"

Update #3
June 22, 2023
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From Katie: Where to begin? It feels like so much has happened in such a short amount of time that I don't know where to start. After we learned of the lesions on Joe's liver, we honestly felt pretty defeated. The folfirinox chemo had taken such a toll on him, that it was hard to believe it could all be for naught. This got me thinking that maybe he was already a stage 4 at diagnosis.

When you first get that kind of news, it feels like it's taking so long to get things started, but in reality things moved very quickly. It was only about 2 weeks from official diagnosis, to having a port put in place, to his first chemo treatment. Well the first treatment knocked him down pretty hard, and he was unable to do his "proper staging scans" that week up to Ann Arbor. Unfortunately, the scans never got rescheduled leaving us without a good baseline report. Add in the fact that his pain was pretty much non-existent after 4 rounds of treatment (the doctor told us this was a positive sign that it was working because of the way pancreatic cancer wraps around blood cells causing significant pain), and that helped solidify my thinking that he was at stage 4.

Fast forward a little, Joe’s Dr at the VA put in a referral to their program "Community Cares" so we could seek a second opinion/other treatment at City of Hope (formerly Cancer Treatment Centers of America). She honestly didn't have much faith that it would happen because the VA could provide the same kind of treatment that they would. The only difference was that we have the potential opportunity to get on a trial through City of Hope.

We were assigned a care manager through the VA and from the way they made it sound, they roped in a lot of people to try and get us this approval! Once we heard the approval went through, we definitely felt this was the door opening for us. Now we just had to get an evaluation. 

After doing more scans at City of Hope in IL, the new doctor shared my opinion that he was likely stage 4 at diagnosis. This was a little frustrating because that likely meant the folfirinox chemo had been working! But, Joe took 6 weeks off from the chemo (equivalent of 3 treatments) which had caused his cancer to progress further. We wondered if his cancer was progressing because the pain was intensely returning. 

So, onto the new plan! The new doctor put him on another chemo combination Gemcitabine/Abraxane as this has been shown to be better tolerated (we are trying to build him back up since he's down about 100lbs). We are also on the waiting list for a Phase 1 Clinical Trial that will target the KRAS gene mutation. Additionally, we are adding in our own "treatment plan" with high dose Vitamin C, mistletoe infusions, and many natural supplements. These are common treatments used in Europe and many people who have used them have seen positive results. We are trying to attack this from every possible angle! 

As we have to constantly remind ourselves with the ups and downs that come along, this is a marathon, not a sprint! And we have to take it day by day. We can't possibly thank you all enough for the love, prayers and support sent our way. You all have helped make this a little easier to get through. It's not as lonely with a community like you all behind us! Thank you!

Update #2
May 6, 2023
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Wow! Our campaign to help Joe & Katie has officially surpassed the half-way mark! Thank you so much to everyone who has donated and shared Joe's page. Let's keep the momentum going and continue blessing them with gifts of healing/guidance prayer, love and monetary support!:) 

Joe & Katie would like to share some positive news with you about a door that has been opened for Joe and it surely is due to so many faithful prayers from around the country! "The VA has approved us to go to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Zion, Illinois for a year! I’ve been praying for guidance and for God to open or close doors and our case manager was so happy because she had to enlist lots of help to get it through. We have an evaluation appointment set for the City of Hope hospital already on May 16th! At that time, we’ll meet with a team of different doctors and they’ll decide what tests/scans they want to run. Once the results are reviewed they’ll recommend a treatment plan for us moving forward. There is also a hotel connected where patients can stay. It's already given us some hope for more options! It's also only 2 hours from Katie's parents/family in WI so we're planning on summer fun with cousins.” 

Update on Joe
April 25, 2023
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updateImage Joe and Katie are so incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support through donations and prayers! Your generous donations have helped ease Joe's mind because he is, of course, frustrated that he can not be out working at his plumbing job to support his family. Please continue praying for Joe, Katie and their kids! Prayers for healing and discernment as they navigate treatment options. Prayers for hope to remain strong in their hearts. Finally, please consider sending this link to family and friends and posting it on your social media. We'd like to continue blessing Joe and Katie because alternative treatments can be extremely expensive.An Update from Katie: "Unfortunately, we didn’t get good news this week. It looks like the MRI picked up a few spots on Joe's liver. Because of those spots, the doctors suggested changing up the chemo to another one since the folfirinox wasn’t working. Before we go that route, we’re taking some time to think about things and considering alternatives. There are many success stories for people who do these alternative treatments, we just need to figure out what course to take. He’s not sure he wants to continue chemo, if it’s not going to work.” Finally, some exciting community news for Joe and Katie: A team of volunteers from the community are putting together an Action Plan to renovate their basement so Joe's ailing father will be able to move in. "We're researching permits/regulations right now and scoping/drafting our plan. We did a quick site walk with Joe, and have begun to narrow down the path forward. It's a big project, but many hands may make for light work once we get started! There is a lot of labor and manual digging involved, but it can be done!"


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