Volume 3, Number 19 - August 7, 2003
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When Norm Pape was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1995, he was flooded with fear.
"I was scared just as anyone would be," he said. "This happens to other people; it's not my problem," he thought to himself. "That's what I wanted to believe," he said.
Then optimism took hold of him, and instead of focusing on the fear, he thought to himself, "I'm going to beat this."
Dr. Tom Johnston first recognized a reason for alarm when the results of Norm's PSA (prostate specific antigen) test were rather high. This type of test, in which doctors test blood for PSA levels, is a way for doctors to determine if there is a need for a patient to be checked for cancer. That high PSA reading was a red flag, and Johnston sent Norm to Salt Lake City for a biopsy. A few days later, Norm received a disappointing phone call from the Salt Lake doctor: The results of his biopsy had come back positive for cancer.
Norm and his wife, Barb, then talked with Johnston and the doctor in Salt Lake on a conference call, to discuss the options that were available. No decisions were made at the meeting. The Papes returned home heavy-hearted, with much to think about.
The next day, Norm was out moving cattle, and because the cows were moving pretty steadily, there was "not a lot to do except just sit on my horse and think," he said. He thought about the meeting with the doctors and the options he, his wife and the doctors had discussed. The big decision was whether or not he would undergo a "radical surgery" to get rid of the cancer. Sitting on his horse that day, he decided that it was the radical surgery that would remove that cancer, which was "between me and my saddle," he said.
The decision was made, and the surgery was performed by Dr. Swenson in Salt Lake City . The surgery went smoothly, and other than some side effects which were basically unavoidable, Norm encountered no real problems. Norm was also fortunate in that he did not have to go through any radiation or chemotherapy.
"Thank goodness that [the cancer] was localized," he said.
Norm said he never felt any pain, and as he was going through his battle, there were no significant changes in his lifestyle.
"I was just the same person," he said.
Now, eight years after that devastating diagnosis, Norm's long-term prognosis is very good. He returns to Salt Lake City every year for check-ups, and so far his doctor visits have been seamless.
"Cancer is always a scary thing. Everyone knows it's there, and we're all vulnerable," Norm said.
And once it hits you, he added, you are the only one who can make the decisions under a heavy burden.
Norm mentioned, too, that another member in his family has suffered through a tremendous battle with cancer. His daughter-in-law, Naomi, has had two brain tumor operations.
"As I look at Naomi, she stands as a symbol of courage ... a symbol of what we would like to be," Norm said. "What a trooper."
For Norm, the importance of having a PSA test cannot be stressed enough. Without his PSA test, the doctors would not have caught Norm's cancer as early as they did, and Norm advised any man over 40 to have a PSA test.
He thanks God and his friends and neighbors for their help and support through his struggle. His struggle has given him a deeper appreciation for life.
One day this past year, Norm happened to run into Daniel resident April Lippincott, a breast cancer survivor, at Stanley's Junction. She was bald due to the chemo that she had been undergoing. Norm told her that he, too, had struggled with cancer. The two sat down and talked and shared with each other, and Lippincott told Norm of a goal she had in mind: to start a non-profit organization that would assist individuals and families who are victims of cancer with the financial burdens that come about as a result of illness.
"Here's a lady that has really been through it," Norm said, and Lippincott, with the help of other cancer survivors, has made her goal a reality by forming a non-profit organization, Kickin' Cancer in Sublette County. Lippincott asked Norm if he would be on the organization's board of directors, and, ready to help, he agreed.
"This is all new to her and to us," Norm said, adding that they are just feeling things out as they go, all the time keeping their sights on the number-one goal of assisting cancer victims with finances. The organization's board is made up of cancer survivors, Norm, Steve James and Dr. Judy Boyle, which is unique, Norm said, and positive in the sense that cancer survivors can truly be empathetic to what victims of cancer may be facing.
The organization's first fund-raiser is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 16, at Stanley's Junction and will feature a barbecue, raffle and auction. Volunteers are needed for the event. Please call April Lippincott at 859-8274 if you are interested in helping Kickin' Cancer in Sublette County get off to a successful start.
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