FAIRMONT - It all started with a suspicious mole on the outside of Chuck Rudolph's leg.
"At first the doctors thought it was nothing," he said, recalling the beginning of his melanoma fight. "But it was right where the seam of my pants would catch it. So they removed and sent it in because it was protocol. Then two weeks later, the doctor was calling me back and saying, 'We need to talk.'"
It was a four-and-a-half year battle with a deadly cancer that cost Rudolph and his wife Evelyn nearly everything they had. The East Chain couple moved back here from Denver, Colo., to be closer to family and Mayo Clinic during Rudolph's fight against cancer.
Chuck and Evelyn Rudolph
After a surgery when doctors learned the cancer moved into the lymph nodes, the doctors in Colorado were unsure of what to do.
"They basically said there was nothing else for me, and sent me home to die," Rudolph said.
But the Rudolphs, who have spent their lives working as part of the Youth For Christ movement, weren't about to give up. After looking at other cancer-treatment facilities and finding long waiting lists or no acceptance, Rudolph began treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
"Within two weeks, they were able to see me," he said. "We moved most of our things to my mother's house in East Chain. We're both originally from the area, and my mother had moved to Goldfinch the year before but we still had her house. The rest of the family agreed that it was better to have someone living there instead of it sitting empty."
In two and a half years, Rudolph had 125 trips to Mayo Clinic, eight cancer-related surgeries, two rounds of radiation and a round of chemotherapy. He has also participated in three new clinical drug trials.
But the epic battle against melanoma was waged earlier this year.
"I had major surgery in January," he said. "Then during a check-up after that, a PET scan revealed three new tumors, and two of them were close to major organs. The doctors didn't think I could handle any more surgeries, so they eradicated the third. I was in the hospital for five-and-a-half weeks. I don't have any memory of most of that time."
"He was in such great pain," his wife Evelyn remember. "Just the slightest touch would make him cry out. He was close to needing dialysis. The only time he would respond is if someone said his name, he'd open his eyes for a moment, and then he'd close them again."
But something began happening after about three weeks. The trend reversed, and Rudolph began to recover.
"We thought we would need to have nursing home care for awhile," Rudolph said. "But we bucked the odds. Two and a half weeks later, we were able to go home."
Another PET scan for cancer in mid-June showed something the Rudolphs didn't expect: No signs of cancer.
"Even the oncologist called it a miracle," Rudolph said. "And I believe that's exactly what it was. When we first learned about this, we were committed that we weren't going to go through it alone. We had an e-mail list of about 250 people, and that was forwarded until we had about 600-1,000 people praying for us on a regular basis."
But there is also a scientific explanation to Rudolph's current cancer-free status.
"When they radiated that tumor, it ended up becoming infected," Rudolph said. "It was an infection that went through my whole body, and that's why I was in such pain. But it was that infection that killed the other two tumors. Back in the 1800s, that was used as a technique, although a lot of times the infection killed the person as well. But we have a lot more available medically now."
The Rudolphs know there is no guarantee that the cancer won't come back, and the years of fighting have taken their toll.
"I'm still dealing with the side effects, problems with my thyroid and adrenal glands, but from where we've come, that's almost easy," Rudolph said.
The battle has also left the couple financially drained.
"We used up our retirement income," Rudolph said. "Providing I stay cancer-free, we're basically starting over."
But the Rudolphs are receiving emotional support from family, friends and the community.
"We are overwhelmed and so humbled by all they are doing," Rudolph said.
A free-will offering will be accepted for a pork loin feed, bake sale and silent auction for the Rudolphs 4-7 p.m. Saturday at United Methodist Church in Fairmont. Donations are also being accepted at State Bank of Fairmont and online at: