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Published on March 23, 2018

Randy Fenger and Jess Moriarty

Randy’s Message: "Get Checked for Colon Cancer!"

People don’t often think of a cancer diagnosis as an opportunity. Yet Randy Fenger of Cottonwood, Minn., saw his diagnosis with colon cancer as an opportunity to encourage others to prioritize their health and get a colonoscopy.

“I want to make sure the word gets out,” said Fenger. “If I’m able to help even one person with my experience, then I consider going through colon cancer worth it.”

In the fall of 2017, 53-year-old Fenger went in for his yearly exam with his primary care physician. Noticing Fenger was overdue for a colonoscopy, typically recommended for the average healthy adult starting at age 50, his doctor suggested scheduling one soon.

Fenger admits he can sometimes be a procrastinator. He’s glad he didn’t put his colonoscopy off any longer.

No fewer than eight polyps were found and removed from his colon for biopsy. The attending physician at the time warned him the polyps appeared concerning; the results Fenger received a few days later confirmed he had colon cancer.

“I was in a kind of shock that something like cancer could happen to me,” said Fenger. “If I had waited any longer, the cancer could have spread to the rest of my body.”

With stage 3 colon cancer, his first course of treatment was robotic surgery. Five small cuts to Fenger’s abdomen was enough to remove 13 inches of colon.

While fortunate enough that the cancer didn’t spread to his lymph nodes, Fenger would undergo chemotherapy at the Avera Cancer Institute in Marshall, Minn., because cancer cells had already escaped the affected colon area.

Mark Huber, MD, Avera Medical Group oncologist from Sioux Falls, who provides outreach services for patients in the Marshall community, prescribed Fenger six treatments of chemotherapy in the facility. Between these treatments, Fenger wore a small device at home that pumped chemo right into his bloodstream for 48 hours straight.

As many others could attest, treatment was a difficult journey for Fenger. However, he feels lucky to have had the support of his fiancé, two grown sons, family and friends. He’s also thankful complete cancer treatment and compassionate experts could be found at Avera Cancer Institute Marshall, about 20 minutes from Cottonwood.

Avera Cancer Institute Marshall opened its doors in early 2015 to allow local patients the opportunity to receive comprehensive cancer care without traveling long distances from home or spending money for hotel rooms. Because patients receive care closer to home, they can continue their lives as normally as possible — benefiting from the support of family, friends or local church community; eating meals at home; and sleeping in their own bed at night.

The cancer institute serves a wide geographical area, from Granite Falls to Windom to Pipestone.

As for Fenger, he’s still on the path to full recovery with a newfound perspective, “I am more positive about life; I’ve been happier and more smiley,” he said. “I want to make sure the word gets out about colon cancer and getting checked. To help another person would be a blessing.”

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

© 2018 Avera, Sioux Falls, SD. All Rights Reserved.