SCANDIA, Minn. — When William “Jim” Mendoza survived a blizzard stranded in his car earlier this month, he didn’t think he’d soon begin another fight for his life.
"I've earned early that life is not fair." Mendoza said. “You deal with it. And then you go on to the next."
Mendoza’s troubles began on February 6th, when he was on a business trip to North Dakota. He was driving back to his hotel when he got caught in a blizzard without his phone, and then became confused about where he was.
"I could almost see the other side of the drift, where the road continued.” Mendoza said. "I thought I could make it, but I just couldn't get out."
Jim's wife Vicki Mendoza says the next day she heard from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, which informed her that Jim hadn’t shown up for work and that the interstates nearby were closed due to the cold and drifting snow.
"It's just an indescribable fear,” Vicki said. "It was very hopeless. When you have a loved one missing. It's just the fear of the unknown."
Vicki asked the Sheriff to put out a missing person report and they heard nothing for two days.
"I knew I was in trouble when the gas ran out,” Jim said. "I had no idea if I was going to be there another five minutes, or is it going to be another five days. You don't want to go to sleep because I want to wake up in the morning.”
By night number two Jim only had a blanket to keep warm. Luckily, a telephone lineman working nearby, spotted his vehicle the next morning.
“It's the greatest relief in the world,” Jim said. "The first thing he said was, 'We've got to get you to a hospital. You need medical attention. I was the weakest I've ever been in my life, I think, since the day I was born. I couldn't walk through the snow to his vehicle.”
Despite reaching a core temperature of just 90 degrees, Jim says he suffered only minor frostbite and was celebrating his 59th birthday at the hospital within a couple days.
But his confusion, and disorientation persisted, so doctors decided to run some tests.
"That's when they discovered the lesions on my brain,” Jim said.
"We went from the sheer jubilation of having a God-given miracle, of him being saved in the truck after two nights, to finding out he has cancer,” Vicki said.
Doctors told him that the cancer in his brain had spread from his kidneys, and that it is at stage IV.
"When people say, one day at a time, that's when it starts hitting you,” Vicki said.
But Jim says he’s chosen to remain positive and he’s getting a lot of help in that quest. He’s received many messages of support in the mail and online. A GoFundMe.com page created for him is nearing $10,000 and he’s grateful for all of it.
"The words mean more to me,” Jim said. "That will send me to bed tonight with a smile, which is hard to do right now My faith in humanity is very restored.”
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