Wrestling with Amputation

Yesterday morning we woke up with big plans to get on the road and head north on Highway 1 to absorb more of the incredible rocky coastline.  Because I still had an open wound that was continuing to drain, Shannon helped me bandage it up really well.  As I stood up to start getting ready my elaborate bandage system didn’t hold, it bled through  within minutes.  With such an active leak, it didn’t take long to come to the conclusion that today would be another zero day.  Feeling stranded in the hotel, we contacted Dr. O’Keefe again with several concerns that came down to how do we stop the bleeding, and once stopped will the fluids just re-accumulate and cause extreme pain again?  After a couple calls with Dr. O’Keefe the realization set in that the only way to fix the leak is another elaborate surgery taking a back muscle as a flap; even afterward, the fluids will continue to accumulate, my leg will remain stiff and can’t be fully extended, my foot will be swollen, numb, and burn, and I will still have two tumors that are close to breaking through the skin…in summary, I’ll never walk on two legs again.  That’s why when Dr O’Keefe broached the subject of amputation, I was finally ready to talk.  This has long been my fear and very difficult for me to even consider as an option.  However, I now see this as a means to eliminate my tumors and all of the pain that goes with them.

However, there are important things that I feel I need to accomplish before this happens.  Aaron is here for the week, Dad flies in Wednesday, and I want to do everything in my power to ride my motorcycle with each of them one last time.  Riding motorcycles has been the backbone of this trip, and is extremely important to me.  Ironically, the most difficult decision and time of my life, amputating my leg, comes at the same time that I just learned of a one-legged wrestler, Anthony Robles, who just became the NCAA Champion.  This is a huge source of inspiration in a time of desperate need.  No doubt this will be an emotional battle, but I plan to move forward, get back on the road as soon as possible, and continue traveling.  With terminal cancer, I will not have time to feel sorry for myself.  Thank you all for your support, I will need it more than ever these next few weeks!


About bhoefen

Going on a road trip.
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51 Responses to Wrestling with Amputation

  1. Aaron says:

    WOW Bret! You continue to inspire me everyday. Your will to make the best of everything that is thrown at you is amazing. Keep moving man!

    Love you Brother!

  2. Shannon Hoefen says:

    Bretly, you inspire me everyday! YOU are my inspiration! I love you so much!

  3. Carol burke says:

    Hey Bret, The boy McShane that is living in my home had his leg amputated over a year and a half ago. He too first struggled with the idea. Although fumbling with his new prosthetic leg, one day he smiled and shouted “look!, I am doing it”! Next thing you know he landed against the door. He and the rest of us roared with laughter. His courage, good attitude, sense of humor and strength has gotten him to where he has driven my car and has also sped around on a electric “razor”. You will do it to, just like McShane. I have faith in you.

  4. eslocura says:

    “When you have come to the edge Of all light that you know And are about to drop off into the darkness Of the unknown, Faith is knowing One of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or You will be taught to fly” This is one of my favorite quotes and it has helped me through some rough patches. I have faith you will “fly” or in your case “ride” : ) Sending lot’s of positive thoughts from clear across my side of the blue

  5. Betsy Hoefen says:

    I should know better than to worry about you…you never cease to amaze. Keep teaching and inspiring us, Bret. Your courage and strength is such a gift to all of us.
    If you can be so strong – how can we be less?
    How we love you…..

  6. Emily T. says:

    Bret, we will be here with you for your whole journey – every step, hop and hobble of the way.

    …And a little research finds that losing your leg doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to lose your bike…whatever modifications your bike needs, we’ll figure out how to make it happen.



  7. Brea says:

    You are such an inspiration. I will run on my own two legs and love it even more having read this! None of us has time to feel sorry for ourselves!

  8. Julie Grogan says:

    Hi Bret,

    We’ve never met, but I’ve been following your blog ever since the story about you and your family was published in the D&C in Rochester. I wanted you to know how impressed I’ve been with how you’ve been handling such a difficult situation. You have incredible courage and I suspect that you’re inspiring many people to face their own terrifying situations, whatever they may be. Whatever decision you make about your leg, please know that there are many people out there, many of whom you don’t know, who are thinking about you as you go through this.

    Looking forward to your next entry….


  9. Ken Worden says:

    Bret, Bonnie and I wish you luck thru all of this!I know you have alot of determination (from your days of pee wee wrestling!) I thought I had it bad after 2 total knee replacements (same knee), but that is nothing to what you are going thru. (tell your mom and dad we said hello and we have you in our prayers!)

  10. Michelle Lindsey Piedmonte says:

    Hey Bret-
    Sounds like this decision has come with much courage behind it. However, I beg of you, NOT to have the courage to start walking around in a wresting uniform if you can help it.

  11. Uncle Lee and Aunt Sharon says:

    YOU are such a blessing! Your courage, strength and attitude are humbling. Your ability to continue to rise above the most challenging adversities is awe inspiring to all of us who love you, to all who know you through this blog or who have heard of your story. Messages of hope and fortitude resonate through your words and teach us to accept what we cannot change and have the courage to forge ahead. YOU are such a blessing!
    Maybe there’s a reason this is happening now, difficult as it is…..hopefully, you will soon be able to travel more comfortably and with a better quality of life to continue on your journey. Your zero days will be less and more days will be spent on the road. Sometimes difficult roadblocks turn into bends in the road that only make the journey better. Hold onto that thought and this other that I recently read: “All men fall. The great ones get back up.” You’re one of the great ones, Bret. You will get back up and continue on in a good direction.

    All our love, support and prayers are with you always,
    Uncle Lee and Aunt Sharon

  12. Chrissy Kid says:


    EVERYTHING you post is inspirational. Kiss, kiss, hug, hug (that is for both you AND Shannon). You still have a chance to make us all happy. Bless you, and know that you are in this person’s prayers. (OK, Shannon, you BOTH are!)

  13. judy gratz says:

    God Bless you Bret! I read your blog everyday. Keep on riding in a good direction!

    Judy Gratz
    Saline, Mi

  14. Pam says:

    I want you to be free from pain and mobile. Would a prosthesis allow you to ride your motorcycle? There’s bound to be a way, and the sooner you have the surgery, the sooner you will heal, and be back on the road again. Keeping my fingers crossed for you.

    Tandy’s mom, Pam

  15. Aunt Bo says:

    Bret, you continue to inspire and motivate all of us to be better people and to appreciate all that we have. We love you and are so proud of your courage and strength.
    I am also impressed with the newest MD in the family…Dr Shannon Hoefen. Where did you learn all of your skills? Have you been going to med school all along? Going to class while you travel?

  16. Mike Gratz says:


    You are more than capable of handling this challenge. You have an incredible attitude. You will keep “riding in a good direction.” Today is your best day!

    “The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.”

  17. Wendy says:

    Hi Bret,
    Hey fellow co-worker. I’ve been following your blog since Emily and Dan made it available to Ginna workers. Your blog has made me laugh, cry and extremely hungry. 🙂 I feel like I have come to know you, Shannon and your family just by reading your daily entries. I wanted you to know how impressed I’ve been with how you’ve been handling such a difficult situation. You are my inspiration while I am dealing with my own cancer diagnosis. Your attitude for living can make anyone more positive during difficult times. Whatever decision you make about your leg, please know that I’m cheering for you and always thinking about you.

  18. Uncle Lee and Aunt Sharon says:

    You exemplify the quote that Mike Gratz posted. Your vision is a beacon of hope that illuminates so many lives!

  19. Dad says:

    Bret – we are all in awe of your strength. But realize that for all of us who love and admire you so much, we take our cues from you – we are able to keep moving forward and not be destroyed by this because you are carrying us on your shoulders (and feeble legs) – you are keeping us riding in a good direction with you.

  20. Debbie says:


    Like your friends and family have said before me in this string and others, you are a source of inspiration. What has always been amazing to me when you post pictures of you, your family and Shannon–you’re smiling. I’m sure there are days when the last thing you want to do is smile, but there it is.

    This past weekend, I watched “The Long Way Round”–which is a documentary style show done by Ewan McGregor (Obi Wan Kenobi!) and his friend as they road their motorcycles from London to New York going through Russia and Mongolia, then taking a short flight to Alaska and then motoring across the US.

    I was riveted to the marathon of hours I spent watching each episode because watching this made me feel closer to you and Shannon. As in episode number 13 they finally made it to Alaska, I smiled because I KNOW you’ll be there this spring.

    One leg–two legs–on crutches or even in a side car, I know you’ll get there.

    Because you have the courage, the tenacity, the outright cajones to make it so.

    And when doubt creeps in to your mind and heart, when you feel the weight of what might come and the dark seems near; remember that your friends and family have enough strong arms and legs to hold you up. If you gathered all that have posted on your blog and those who love you, that’s got to be around 200 pairs of legs for you to lean on. And we will always be there for you to hold your hand.

    But know and realize, it is through your courage that you hold US up as well.

    Keep riding in the right direction bro-in-law and we’ll keep the light burning.

    Love you!


  21. Dani Solberg says:

    Hey Bret!

    Thank you for your posts on everything going on. If you want to talk about the possible amputation please feel free to call or e-mail me. solbergdj@hotmail.com. As you know almost a year ago I had an amputation to get rid of the CCS and I am glad I went that route. It is scary and an emotional time but it will be ok I promise. I am here for you and I am glad you have people who can support you as when I went through it I was the first person to have an amputation and I had no one to talk to. Hang in there.


  22. Uncle Kevin & Aunt Judy says:

    Bret, We have no doubt that you can meet this new challenge just like you have done all of the others–with bravery, a sense of humor, and a smile. We will all be carrying you, as you have been carrying all of us on your journey. There is NOTHING that you can’t do and do with class. It’s no accident that news of Anthony Robles entered your life yesterday. That’s the kind of inspiration you have given so many along the way. Our love to you all.

  23. Cousin Mark says:

    Bret it’s very unfortunate to read the recent struggles you are encountering with your leg as I am accustomed to you being able to overcome all obstacles to continue this great journey. I expect that as you have faced each obstacle before this, you will overcome yet another obstacle with strength and resilience. To say your journey and stories have been inspiring would be a grand understatement. You have truly showed me what holds the greatest value in life: family and happiness. In whatever decision you make concerning your future I no doubt expect it to merely be a hindrance to your goals and aspirations. Stay strong cuz. Love, Mark

  24. Sherri Kennedy says:

    Wow…the strength and courage you have is remarkable and truly an inspiration. You are in my thoughts and prayers every day. I can’t wait to get to this time of night and read about your day. I often think about what adventure you are on as I sit in a meeting or struggle with business issues…that in the scheme of things really do not matter.

    I do need to tell you that our 2 year old grandson (Aidan) is spending the night at Nana’s and Pop’s tonight (I’m “Nana”), and he wanted to wear your ‘baselet’ to bed tonight and of course, I let him. I talk about you often with our family and explained the bracelet I wear to them the other day. Aidan was there – I wonder if he thinks it’s as special as I do…and as special as you are. Thanks for sharing this with all of us. I feel like a student learning so much from you.

    Chin up…..It is what it is….Ride in a Good Direction.

  25. Makiko says:

    Bret, I just can’t even begin to imagine what your thoughts and emotions at this moment must be like, except that it must be utterly more profound than anything I could fathom. I’m just amazed by how you continue to try focusing on the positive, the ride in a good direction, your appreciation for family, love, and life during a situation when most people might otherwise turn only to despair, self-pity, and inability to function (let alone write a blog entry!)… You’re a role model for your nephews too! Ryan and I are constantly thinking about you.

  26. Muhammad says:

    Bret –

    You’re truly an exceptional man; if anyone can overcome these adversities, I’m confident it’s you. Just remember that your strength doesn’t come from your body alone; it comes from your mind and those that love and surround you…not to mention the ones that follow you via this blog. As always, my thoughts and prayers are with you. 

  27. Cousin Mike says:

    I’m not exactly the most poetic person, so I’ll try my best to explain my feelings…
    At first, I was sad when I read your post. After a little while, I started to wonder why I was sad–this move will take away your pain and improve your quality of life. Right now your leg is slowing you down (it obviously never got the memo on how hard it was to keep up with Bret Hoefen!). Maybe, like several people are saying, this is a blessing in disguise–it’ll stop the pain, get rid of the tumors and help you live longer and happier.
    Then I thought about your discovery of the NCAA champion wrestler–never doubt that you’ll always be able to do extraordinary things. I thought about how it makes me stronger knowing how strong you are (like your dad said).
    Then I got mad, thinking about how many people waste their abilities and gifts with laziness (this may have also been amplified by the fact that I took Matthew to McDonalds and there were a ton of fat people there).
    Bret, you’ve clearly out-lived people twice your age.
    In the last 15 minutes I’ve watched the trailer for “127 Hours” three times. You do what you have to do to live.
    “Obstacles are what we see when we take our eyes off our goals.” Keep looking at Alaska. We can deal with anything. I love you, buddy.

  28. Pat says:

    Bret – This quote from Theodore Roosevelt seems especially apropos as you consider this next challenging decision: “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” You’ve been the “man in the arena” for all of us at Ginna, your family, and your friends, Bret – and whether it’s on one leg or two, you will continue to experience those feelings that come only with the triumph of high achievement.

  29. Cousin Michelle, Mario, and Simona says:

    WOW, Mike said it really well. Bret, I was overwhelmed with a lot of emotions when I read your post. I didn’t quite know how to sum it up into a response. I still don’t but I do know that you have a lot of love and support behind you… just read all these comments and you have so many followers. We all love you and want to be a part of your journey. This is only a mear obstacle at the moment that will open up a whole new set of opportunities. You are one amazing person who has inspired so many. Thank you for that. We love you and are with you the entire way. 🙂

  30. Ray Ferran says:

    The emotions of this blog are extreme! Every day I read it I’m left laughing, crying or hungry….most days all three.

    Anyway, in my travels I’ve had the good fortune of meeting many kinds of people. Some have amazed me by being defeated with just the slightest hardship. and others have amazed me by overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Both teach us a lesson.

    You and your journey(good direction journey, not antiek), are obviously in the latter group. You face the issue, sort it out, make a decision and go forward. Going forward is the key. I keep thinking how you are surrounded by good people, and they are good people. But I’ve come to the reality, their love and support is brought out by your presence. You are the Michael Jordan of life… you make everyone around you better.

  31. Scott says:

    Bret, we’re sorry to hear about and “see” your blowout. Another setback, and yet, you grab down deep, examine your options and do your best. What more can be asked? This video draws parallels for me. You are in a battle against a viscious enemy that you must face. You lead by example – all these wonderful friends, family members and followers. You fight for them as much as you fight for yourself. You get knocked down, and get right back in the fight. You live strong for us all.

    You have this courage to fight your fight. And if you ever feel you need some help, Tango Mike Mike

  32. Brew says:

    Clear competitive advantage

    From the summer of 2008

    “…double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius is ineligible to compete in the Beijing Olympics because his prosthetic racing blades give him a clear competitive advantage.”

    Your cousins and fam and I were really close, and I know that you and I have bumped into each other a few times at a few of the little red cabin lakeside bonfires. I’m one of the silent partners on your blog; read but don’t write. I do read it every day, and have shared your blog with everybody at my job. They ask me for updates every day, so I know they’re all thinking about you and wishing you the best with everything, as am I.

    Bret. Keep your chin up, brother. Keep riding in that good direction. Know that we’re all pulling for you.

    The Durham Brew

  33. Brew says:

    And perhaps the corny theme song of the day should be Tubthumping by Chumbawamba…

  34. Ryan B. says:

    Bret, sincerely hope your decision does not cause you much anguish…us average folk can’t possibly comprehend how you must feel. The inner strength honed from conquering adversity is one of the greatest sources of beauty and inspiration in this world. Something to be truly admired.

    Thought you might like this story I remembered from the ESPYs a year or so ago:

    As always, you and Shannon are in our thoughts and prayers.

  35. Ryan B. says:

    Oh yeah, I almost forgot:
    Duke?! over Ohio State?! ……….. dude!
    not this year – your bracket is as good as busted brother.

  36. Laurie says:

    What does it take to fly?
    It takes knowing we have our work cut out for us.
    If you ask any pilot they’ll say one of the first things they learned in flight school is if you run before the wind you can’t take off.
    You have to turn into it.
    Face it.
    The thing you push against is the thing that lifts you up.

    (Yes, it’s from a Delta airlines commercial)

    Keep pushing.

  37. Donald & Laurie Fox says:

    Many days your blog posts leave us speechless – today is one of those days. We truly believe that there are many many Best Days ahead for you, and your strength is an inspiration to all of us.

  38. David and Laraine says:

    Dear Bret,
    You, your beloved Shannon and your wonderful family are in our thoughts and prayers as your journey continues….
    We will add a quote along with those you have received so far. It is from “amazing grace” by philosophy:
    how you climb up the mountain is just as important as how you get down the mountain. and, so it is with life, which for many of us becomes one big gigantic test followed by one big gigantic lesson. in the end, it all comes down to one word, grace. it’s how you accept winning and losing, good luck and bad luck, the darkness and the light.
    All our love to you!

  39. Daniel says:

    When a star loses mass, it’s still a star. Bret, you could lose every appendenge and still be the strongest and brightest star in the sky. I can’t imagine the darker moments you experience during quiet repose but I am certain that they are eclipsed by the passion and optimism you’ve shared with us every day on your blog. You occupy a place in the hearts of an ever expanding phallanx of folks out there and each of us will do our part to keep you riding in a good direction.

  40. Bree Miller says:

    You, Shannon, and your families are in our thoughts and prayers every single day!

  41. Nanette Hance says:

    Thinking of you Bret and your courage that continues to amaze the world. While you are faced with a difficult and emotional decision, I am confident that your choice will be the right, and best, choice for you. Please know that my thoughts and prayers continue to go with you and yours and that I, like everyone else, want you to be comfortable. There is no doubt in my mind that you will continue your journey. While it just might take you a little longer to get back on the road, you will continue to ride in a good direction. All my best … Nan

  42. Bob Cownie says:

    Knowing your mom and dad as I do, I guess I should not be surprised by the strength of your being and the beauty of your soul……and yet each time I read your blog, I shake my head in humble admiration. I know you will continue to ride in a good direction – you are simply incapable of taking any other path.
    In the words of Christopher Reeve, “Once you choose hope, anything is possible.”
    Keep believing….

  43. Marianne Borrelli says:

    Bret , I’ve never read so many wonderful inspirational thoughts at once. THese people are all here for you for a reason , just as you read about the wrestler at this particular time. You have an enormous amount support that will hold you up as you recover from this obstacle in the road. I get so much strength from you. I just wish I could give you all of my positive energy. ( You know I’m full of it!!)THis will all be good. You will see. Lean on people who can help you. Contact Dani. You will make it to Alaska and we will all love you know matter what!
    Love your courage.
    Auntie Cuz

  44. jean loughran says:

    Laughing and crying at the same time.
    You are incredibly strong, positive, and have such an amazing ability to re-direct your goals with each change. Anthony Robles would be so impressed with you.

  45. Matt Boss says:

    Bret – When reading today’s post I thought back to one of my favorite speeches ever. I couldn’t write (say) it any better myself so decided to let someone else do it.

    “To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.”

    “Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.” – Jim Valvano

    You embody both.

  46. Matt Boss says:

    Bret –

    When reading today’s post I thought back to one of my favorite speeches ever. I couldn’t write (say) it any better myself so decided to let someone else do it.

    “To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.”

    “Cancer can take away all of my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart, and it cannot touch my soul.” – Jim Valvano

    You embody both so well.

  47. Elisa says:

    We are here for you! Stay strong and know that you are loved so so much. You daily blogs help me be with you and the family everyday. Thank you for keeping and reminding me to ride in a good direction.

  48. Cousin Geoffrey says:

    Hey Bret – I want you to know that we support you no matter what you decide, but I truely believe that this is the right decision. I agree with Mike in that the leg is holding you back. You’ve got too much to do to let it slow you down.

    There have been some great examples in these comments of the things that can be accomplished with an amputated leg. I’m sure these only scratch the surface of what is possible and I’m sure that you will take push the limits even further.

    I also don’t think that this means the end of the Fat Bob. Put that Mechanical Engineering know how and that Industrial Design talent to work and come up with an apparatus to allow you to continue riding without your leg. Then put your business knowledge to work to patent, market, and sell it (that is if someone reading this blog doesn’t beat you to it)! I think EVERYONE on this blog would agree that if there is anyone that could do it, it is Bretly Hoefen!

    I skied with a race instructor for years and was always impressed with his technique and abilities. It wasn’t until recently that I found out that he has a prosthetic leg. Anything is possible. I plan to make some turns with you next winter!

    You’re awesome, man! Ride on!

  49. JoEllen (Fahy) Schubmehl says:


    You have helped me accomplish the three things to do each day (Thanks, Matt!). I have laughed, thought and been moved to tears. I’m grateful to you for enriching my life-what gifts you give to those around you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

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