“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I WAS TOLD I HAD "ONLY A MONTH TO LIVE" 31 MONTHS AGO

What follows is the story of a wonderful man named Larry Larson. He tells of his journey with pancreatic cancer. It's not only moving it is important to read. Larry Larson's story is an example of a human journey through a terminal illness. -- Mark Davis Pickup 



Diane and Larry Larson


I Was Told I Had “Only a Month to Live” 31 Months Ago!

By Larry Larson

With Julie Grimstad

I was born and raised in a small city in the northernmost part of Wisconsin. My life was uneventful until I fell head over heels in love with a beautiful girl named Diane. The best move I ever made was to ask her to marry me. We’ve been happily married for 43 years. We have three wonderful children and eight beautiful grandchildren.  

In February 2011, I went to my Veterans Administration (VA) doctor for a check-up because I wasn’t feeling well. An MRI was done. Two days later, Valentine’s Day, Diane and I were having lunch at a restaurant when my cell phone rang. My doctor needed to see me immediately. As we sat down in his office, he told me I had stage four pancreatic cancer (inoperable). I knew that was one of the worst types, but I didn’t know just how bad. Diane and I had planned a trip to Florida. The deposit had been paid and plane tickets purchased. We asked if we could still go as it was only a couple weeks away. The doctor responded, “You will turn yellow and be too sick and weak, and have only a month to live.”  

I fainted. Diane told me later that my eyes rolled up into my head, I slumped over, and CODE BLUE was called. I woke up on a gurney. Later that day, I called my kids, relatives and close friends to give them the bad news. Not fun! 

I had to go to the VA Medical Clinic in Minneapolis, 160 miles away, for treatment, the first phase of which was a consultation with the head of the oncology department. She was pleasant and explained my treatment options. Because of its advanced stage, it was decided to attack the cancer aggressively. I could never remember the correct medical name, but because it was a relatively new type of chemotherapy, I called it “The New Kid on the Block.” After the first treatment, I walked outside into a cold misty rain. It felt like a thousand freezing pin pricks on my face. 

For my chemo treatments, we would drive to Minneapolis on Monday and stay in a hotel so we could make it to the VA clinic in the morning. After blood tests to determine if I could have chemo that day, they made up the batch. I’d get my treatment and then a battery operated pump for the second batch. The pump was attached to me for 46 hours. So, we would drive home and return two days later to have the pump removed. The pump was attached to a port, a quarter-size thing they placed in my chest that ran to an artery in my neck. Nobody at the VA clinic back home removes this, hence the 320-mile round trip twice a week, every other week. 

We put over 8,000 miles on the car before I turned 65. Then Medicare took over so I could get treatments closer to home. That made the next year a lot easier—only 60 miles round trip and no fighting traffic. 

My new doctor was a nice young man. We had a great doctor-patient relationship. After several months and several kinds of chemo, a CAT scan showed that my pancreas had calcified, which was unusual, and my lungs were not getting any worse. The doctor pulled his chair very close to mine, looked me in the eye and told me I had been given a gift. He had no idea why I was still alive or why the cancer wasn’t going anywhere.  

That was about nine months ago. Since that time, I have changed chemo again several times. That doctor left for another position. Even though I’m getting weaker, I am still here. My current doctor did the latest CAT scan and found that the cancer in my lungs had started to grow. He told me there is no other chemo to try. 

On June 24, 2013, my doctor told me I had three to six months left. But, who knows? The good news is that my hair has grown back and I’m not beat down by the chemo now. 

That is all the gloom and doom to my story. There are many good things to tell. 

I’ve had lots of fun times golfing. I even made the championship flight in my Senior League the last two years. We’ve also enjoyed socializing with our friends. An old police friend (I’m a retired police officer) said he wanted to get some of the guys together for drinks and reminiscing. I’ve been retired for 20 years, so it was overwhelming to see so many there. We’ve discovered how much people care about Diane and me. Our friends and family have been there for us every step of the way, doing anything they can to help, including praying.  

I also found out I married not only a beautiful girl, but my best friend, soul mate, caregiver, confidante, and a saint. Diane has stuck with me through every mile and has put up with more bad days than anyone should have to endure. One of the most touching moments came one day when we were driving home from the Minneapolis clinic. The news had been bad and we were both really down. Neither of us had spoken a word for quite a while. The radio was playing.

The song “Stand by Me” came on. Diane was driving, as usual. We both reached out and held hands. Though we’d heard that song a thousand times before, it never had so much meaning. We just held hands and cried. 

One last note: Dick, a good friend, had a memorial golf bench made in my name. It now sits in front of the golf course clubhouse. I’m the only living person to sit on his own memorial bench. Dick said he got tired of carrying that bench in his truck for two years, so he just dropped it off.   

I have lived a full and happy life. And it’s not over yet. I am truly blessed!
Larry Larson


4 comments:

Phyllis Provencher said...

great story, even in illness, suffering there is life and love and worth.

Mark Davis Pickup said...

Absolutely, Phyllis. Love is stronger than suffering.

Mark Davis Pickup said...

Absolutely, Phyllis. Love is stronger than suffering.

Unknown said...

When I heard about Larry's illness for the first time, I cried for 2 days straight. We were oil and water, but I loved the man. As I read this again today, I sit in my office crying for him and those who knew, loved and now have to live without him.