by Dennis Dalman
The first shock that entered Deb Bollig’s mind after she found out she had cancer is that she would not be able to see her new grandson, 2-year-old Owen, grow up.
That was just one of the many sorrowful, unthinkable thoughts that went through Bollig’s mind. Even though cancer is not necessarily a death sentence, everyone after the initial diagnosis has a barrage of thoughts about mortality, about extinction.
Bolling gave time for an interview with the Sauk Rapids Newsleader while she was attending the Relay for Life fundraising event last Friday (see related story).
Bollig was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma on June 16, 2006. Fortunately, since then, she has experienced the many joys of watching Owen – now 11 – grow up, and she’s hoping to see him graduate some day, among the many other pleasures of life she is now enjoying.
Almost 10 years ago, Bollig was getting prepared to have cataract surgery, and pre-surgical tests had to be done, including a blood test. That test showed certain blood levels were way down. At first, doctors gave her infusions of vitamin K, but they had no effect. Then they had to do a bone-marrow biopsy, and that is when the lymphoma was discovered. The news was doubly devastating because it was a Stage 4 cancer, meaning it was advanced so far it had invaded her spleen.
A series of chemotherapy treatments began. To the joy of Bollig and all of her loved ones, the chemo treatments brought about a remission from the awful disease. Now she has to do chemo infusions once a month, as a safeguard against the cancer returning.
Bollig said she is fortunate to be able to get her infusions and follow-up treatments so close by – at the CentraCare Coborn Cancer Center in St. Cloud.
“I’ve been cancer-free since 2010,” Bollig said, “and I feel so good about that.”
As good as she feels, however, cancer still has the gloomy power to scare her. There are two close and personal reasons why. Her sister, Sandy Smunk, 49, of Sauk Rapids, did not survive a fierce battle with uterine cancer. She died three years ago. Bollig’s brother, David Smunk, 57, of St. Cloud, is now fighting brain cancer. He, too, was at the Relay for Life event, walking with his sister and other loved ones to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
“He’s doing well,” said Bollig, with a smile blooming on her face. “He can even still go to work. There’s no sure cure for cancer, but it’s highly treatable nowadays.”
Bollig and her husband, Jed, have two children: daughter Nicole Sandlund (husband Clint) of Robbinsdale and their son, Owen; and Jeffrey Bollig of Sheridan, Wyoming.
Bollig doesn’t waste time or words in giving her advice to anyone diagnosed with cancer:
“Talk about it,” she said. “That really helps. Also rely on prayers. Develop a network of support and share your thoughts and fears.”
Bollig knows she is living proof that someone should never sink into despair after a cancer diagnosis, no matter how bleak it may seem at first.