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Rod's Story

Top photo - Rod and daughter, Diane, take a moment to catch up over a cup of coffee. Lower photo -

Taking time to laugh, Tim and his grandpa, Gene Nelson. Gene and his wife, Jan, are both volun­teers at UnityPoint Health - Trinity. Jan donates her time to the Cancer Center.

 

 

UnityPoint Health - Trinity
802 Kenyon Road
Fort Dodge, Iowa 50501
515.573.3101

A Champion for the Cause

 

 It has been said that it is on the most ordinary of days that the careful pieces of life break away and shatter. For Tim Case and his family those words ring true. Tim Case was an ordinary teenager. He was a sophomore at Prairie Valley School in Gowrie, Iowa. He was 16, driving, involved in school activities and life was good. But shortly after return­ing to school, Tim noticed a lump in his forearm that rubbed on his desk. Tim's family doctor, Dan Cole, recommended the lump be removed.

 

It has been said that it is on the most ordinary of days that the careful pieces of life break away and shatter. For Tim Case and his family those words ring true. Tim Case was an ordinary teenager. He was a sophomore at Prairie Valley School in Gowrie, Iowa. He was 16, driving, involved in school activities and life was good. But shortly after return­ing to school, Tim noticed a lump in his forearm that rubbed on his desk. Tim's family doctor, Dan Cole, recommended the lump be removed.

 

"We thought it was just a nuisance," said Rod Case, Tim's dad. "Our thought was to remove it so Tim wouldn't be bothered by it." The lump was removed and a few days later, Dr. Cole called. "I still remember the day like it was yesterday," said Rod. "It was October of 1996. There was no school because of an early ice storm and Dr. Cole called and said 'Rod, you won't believe it, but that lump I took out of Tim's arm - that darn thing came back cancer.' It took my breath away - I couldn't believe he was saying those words to me - my son had cancer."

 

Life was ordinary - until that moment. Tim was diagnosed with malignant fibrous histiocytoma with metastasis to the lungs - a rare form of cancer typical­ly found in older farmers. On Dr. Cole's recommendation, Tim went to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN for treatment. During the first year, Tim endured extensive chemotherapy and radiation. During his last chemo treatment the doctors noticed a problem with his blood work. Tim had developed chemo induced acute myelogenous leukemia. His doctor recommended Tim go to the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis for a bone marrow transplant but unfortunately, Tim didn't have time to wait for a donor and so stem cells were used instead.

 

Following the transplant there were more com­plications, more procedures and more tests. Despite a hard fought battle, Tim died at St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, MN on April 4, 2001, a few months shy of his 21st birthday. Tim spent the majority of his four year battle with cancer between St. Mary's Hospital in Rochester, Fairview Hospi­tal in Minneapolis, MN or the Ronald McDonald House in Rochester, MN awaiting treatment.

 

At the time, Trin­ity Regional Medical Center did not provide cancer treatment. "We tried to work with Trinity to coordinate some of Tim's treatment locally, but it just wasn't an option," stated Rod. "As a result, Tim and his mom, Deb, lived in Rochester and I lived in Fort Dodge with our son, Matt and daughter, Diane. Tim would beg to come home, if only for one night, so he could sleep in his own bed and see his friends."

 

Tim's cancer changed everything. Tim was not able participate in class activi­ties or sports, and never took a class trip. He did not graduate from high school. For Matt and Diane, life changed too. Instead of spending weekends with friends, they spent time visiting Tim and their mom.

 

"I remember doing homework at the hospital on weekends," said Diane Walstrom, now a registered nurse at UnityPoint Health - Trinity. "It took until I was an adult, to see how different it really was but as a teenager I never questioned it. Grandpa and Grandma Nelson spent time with us and would video high school activi­ties so mom didn't miss out," comment­ed Diane. "Certainly my decision to become a nurse was influenced by Tim's illness and death. My parents worked in healthcare but the time I spent with Tim was very influential," stated Diane.

 

"As parents, it was hard," said Rod. "We both did our best but sometimes there just wasn't enough of us to go around - it was always a matter of where you wanted to be versus where you needed to be," said Rod.

 

In 2000, Rod's dad was diagnosed with prostrate cancer. "I panicked because my mom does not drive so I didn't know how we would get dad to treatment and keep up with our family too," said Rod. As it turned out, Rod's father was able to do radiation therapy locally in Carroll, Iowa. "Dad's routine was never interrupted and he was never away from home for more than 45 minutes - he rested in his recliner and spent every night in his own bed. I couldn't help but think how nice it would be if Tim could have that luxury," stated Rod.

 

It has been nine years since Tim's death and although it has not been easy, life has returned to a new ordinary. One thing that has not changed is the desire for Trinity to provide comprehensive cancer treatment. "Diane and I work here and we see the need for cancer ser­vices every day. There have been many improvements in the last nine years; we now offer chemotherapy and surgical treatment, many support services and the Trinity Cancer Center is an accredit­ed cancer program through the Ameri­can College of Surgeons, Commission on Cancer. Radiation therapy will be the last piece of the puzzle," said Rod. "I know what it would have meant for Tim to be able to have some of his treatment at home with family and friends by his side. Tim would be proud of what Trinity is doing so that other families don't go through what he went through."