Fight Against Cancer and For the Environment

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Ok as for Cancer!

Posted by Anne Tarantino on March 4, 2010 at 9:22 PM

This is my childhood friend Don Knaack writing about his battle with cancer. I'm very blessed to know this man.


Donald Knaack March 4 at 5:34pm

Ok, as for the Cancer.

I had Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. For a couple years leading up to the diagnosis, I started getting red lumps on the back of my shoulder. They weren't big at first, and I thought they were just pockets of fat called granuloma's (or something like that anyway) - nothing to worry about. Well, they progressively got larger, and distorted in shape and began to itch, still about the size of a 1/2 dollar.

It was the end of winter in 2002-2003. We just moved into a new old house on 3.5 acres. We had a lot of work to do on the old place. Knowing we would be doing a lot outdoors in the coming months, my wife told me to go to the Dr. to have the lumps removed because spring was coming, and I planned on being in a tank top the entire summer - or shirtless. I love the sun!

I went to the Dr., then did a biopsy. That was a Friday later in the day. The Dr.'s office called me the following Wednesday at home around 5:00pm. The nurse said "You have Cancer." "What? I have Cancer? What kind?" She said Lymphoma, but we don't know what kind, we need to do more tests. I asked a series of questions after that, such as "Am I going to die from this?" She didn't have an answer. I asked how I got it and her response was "Well, if we knew that, we wouldn't be having this conversation." as if to imply the would be able to find a cure.

That night, I drank a ton of Brandy. I waited until my family all went to bed, and I wrote two letters to my kids in the event I would die from it. I mean, they were young, and I had some fathering left to do. I had to tell them some of the basics. You get the picture.

Trying to get an idea of exactly what I had, they did a Bone Marrow test (from the hip), and they did a Spinal Tap. The Spinal Tap was a real bummer. I started out on my stomach. They inserted a HUGE needle into my spine. The Dr. said, I can't seem to get enough fluid, I need to elevate the table a bit. This happened like 3 times, and by the time he was able to get fluid, the table was almost in the upright position - I was hanging from the top of the table, feet off the ground- with a HUGE NEEDLE IN MY SPINE! That sucked.

It took about a month before they could tell me exactly what I had, and how they planned to treat it. That gave me plenty of time to prepare myself for whatever they were going to tell me. I was ready if they were going to give me the worst news possible. The day we went in for the "great reveal", I had what is known as White Coats Disease - My bloodpressure was "off the charts". They attribute that to nerves, etc., although I felt just fine. They told me I had Large B Cell Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. The Dr. told me because I presented (the way the cancer showed itself), above and below the diaphram, that I was a stage 3-4. That's always good to hear! Ok I said, how are we going to treat it. The Dr said we are going to do Chemo AND Radiation.

Non-Hodgkin's starts in the Lymph Nodes and works its way to the vital organs, rather than the other way around like most other Cancers.

I went through 6 months of Chemo. Once every other week. I would go in to the Oncology Department at 8:00am, and leave at 5:00pm. I.V.'s all day. My wife came with me everytime. She made friends with all of the nurses, and many of the patients. She would go down to the gift shop each time and buy one or two die case miniture cars for me - they were neat. Back to the Chemo, I never vomited from the Chemo drugs, which I attribute to being stubborn, and staying active - as well as drinking a ton of water and eating Klondike bars... My wife found a fake I.V. Bottle with a sticker with the word Vodka on it at a rummage sale, complete with the line and all. We brought that once and hung that with my other I.V. bags. The nursing staff got quite the kick out of it.

After the Chemo was done, I went into radiation. I had that for another three months or so. Good times.

I often talk to other people who have just heard they have Cancer, and answer some of their questions; What was it like? Did it hurt? etc. How could I not. Its scary. But at the same time, I was able to cope with all of the possible outcomes. That really helped me.

They have come along way with the different types of Cancer treatments now days. Non-Hodgkin's is treatable. Others not so, but keeping your mind in the right place really helps. Having a supportive wife really helped me too. She got my butt out of my chair, and we moved wood chips into the gardens and stayed active. I was told NOT to do that stuff by my Dr., but who listens to them anyway! ;-) Two years later, I have a clean bill of health!

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Reply Tammy Nickel-Roethle
11:09 AM on March 5, 2010 
I have known Don Knaack for years, but only since joining facebook in September have reacquainted myself with him. He still is the same goofy, but caring guy he always was and now knowing his story, I have even more respect for him. No one should go through what he has alone, but yet many do. Don is very lucky to have a loving, caring wife who supports him and I applaud both, for the people they are. Don you are blessed in so many ways. Hope to be able to come to the fundraiser on June 12th and see everyone!