“It’s been a long journey, but I would be more than happy to do it again.” Lloyd Berglund shared that sentiment with his wife, Marilyn, recently in a card celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary. The journey he referenced took them from their home town of Grand Marais where they met and married, to Cannon Falls, then to Stillwater and back to Cannon Falls in 2012. Together they had fun snowmobiling and curling, owned and managed a motel and a hardware store, raised three children and now enjoy the company of their family, including eight grandchildren, seven of them boys. And they both have cancer. Marilyn, 74, has stage IV lung cancer. Lloyd, 82, has cancer of the colon. Marilyn’s cancer was discovered in May of 2014 while she was undergoing knee replacement surgery. Her oxygen levels indicated compromised lungs. Further diagnostics revealed they were. It was the cancer. Lloyd’s cancer was discovered in the beginning of this year. While accompanying Marilyn on one of her many medical appointments at Mayo Clinic, his legs grew rubbery and weak. A biopsy confirmed it was not a stroke, but a byproduct of colon cancer. For the past year, their lives have been consumed by medical appointments. Marilyn’s calendar is littered with reminders of scheduled tests, consults and treatments. She has needed both chemotherapy and radiation. Surgery is not an option. Lloyd’s cancer is being treated as a chronic condition. He is currently receiving chemotherapy. “It’s never going to go away,” Lloyd said physicians have told him. “We’ll see if we can just hold it where it is.”
The good news is that their lives have been made easier because of the healthcare resources in Northfield. Their chemotherapy has been provided by Northfield Hospital’s Cancer Care & Infusion Center; Marilyn’s radiation treatments by Mayo Clinic Radiation Therapy across the road. They haven’t had to travel the extra miles to Rochester or spend money to stay in Rochester for their treatments. They drive 20 minutes to Northfield, have consultations with their medical oncologist Robert Dalton, MD, or their radiation oncologist Tim McKone, MD, both of Mayo Clinic, have treatments or tests and then drive 20-minutes home. It couldn’t be more convenient. The value added is the staff, the couple says. Across the board at the Cancer Care & Infusion Center and the Mayo Clinic Radiation Therapy, they combine professional competence with emotional sensitivity. They share their patients’ journeys and know how to read their emotional temperature day-to-day. They know when to offer support and when to use some gentle teasing to help restore a patient’s sense of normalcy.
By most measures, cancer treatment has been kind to the Berglunds. Chemotherapy and radiation have made Marilyn tired and food isn’t always all that appealing, but otherwise, she feels pretty good. Lloyd has done well with his chemo, too. He’s had some peeling of skin from his hands. The hair loss, he said, is a function of being Swedish, not the chemotherapy. Caroline Schweitzer, RN-OCN at the hospital’s Cancer Care & Infusion Center, said the couple shows remarkable strength and resilience. Despite being dealt a challenging hand, they take life as it comes, she said. They work as a team, and they are there for one another. They even come to each other’s chemotherapy appointments.
This experience has caused the Berglunds to rearrange their priorities. Every day is a gift and time with family is good medicine. While they are philosophical about their cancers, they continue to look forward not back. And Lloyd says there are days he doesn’t even think about their conditions. “You take what life gives you,” he said. Marilyn agrees. “We don’t have any choice,” she said.
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