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Published on June 24, 2019

Robert Klinsing and Dr Vinod Parameswaran

Two Bouts of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Facing cancer once changes your life. If you face it a second time, that’s when you truly show your grit.

That’s the story of Robert Klinsing. In 2002, a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma shocked and devastated Robert and his family, but he was successfully treated with R-CHOP chemotherapy. He endured side effects of distasteful food, gravelly eyes and sore muscles, but he was thankful for neighboring farmers who finished his harvest.

Thirteen years later in 2015, the diagnosis returned. However, the R-CHOP therapy that was previously used years before would prove ineffective this time around.

“I was told there is a limited quota of the R-CHOP medicine allowed for the body,” explained Robert. “We used up most of my quota during the first diagnosis, so we had to try something new.”

A stem-cell transplant was recommended as an initial strategy. Stem cells can either come from the patient or a donor; Robert assumed the role as his own donor. In a stem cell transplant, blood cells are drawn out of the individual’s body, counted and frozen. Chemotherapy is then administered, which kills both bad and good cells in the body. Then, the stem cells are re-introduced to the body.

Soon afterward, however, physicians delivered the sobering news that the procedure didn’t work. Robert felt hollow, an almost hopeless feeling.

Vinod Parameswaran, MD, FRCPath, MRCP (UK), hematology and transplant expert at Avera Medical Group Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, suggested a clinical trial called PNT2258, or the Wolverine Study. Robert appreciated the less severe side effects — and the return of hope.

His team of providers also gave him hope. Parameswaran, Michaela Bertram (cancer research supervisor), and all the medical nurses on the second floor of the Prairie Center walked Robert through the entire three-year process toward recovery.

“Dr. Vinod was wonderful,” said Robert. “Even though he was probably the most intelligent and caring person I’ve ever met, he was more than just a doctor; he was my buddy. He’s family-oriented and wants to know how you and your family are doing. Never once did he ever rush through one of my appointments.”

As treatment came to a close, Robert felt like he was losing a second home and family. He traveled from Ihlen, Minn., to Sioux Falls, and would receive treatment for a whole week every month for three years. He finished treatment on Friday, July 27, 2018.

But there’s more to Robert’s story.

Sprinkled over the years, Robert and his family faced a number of health concerns that tested and strengthened their family. His son, Grant, was also diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2004, right after Robert was deemed cancer-free for the first time. Grant eventually recovered after his own stem cell transplant. Then in 2007, Robert himself suffered a heart attack toward the end of the year. Fast forward to 2015, Robert received hip replacements on his right side.

“The research side of treatment is extremely important,” said Robert. “I believe cancer can be genetically passed on to the next generations, as I saw in my family.”

As Robert embarked on the last six months of treatment, his wife of 37 years, Peggy, discovered she had gastritis of the digestive system at the beginning of 2018. Her conditioned worsened to point of stomach cancer and pancreatitis. On Monday, July 30, 2018, a day after her birthday, she woke up early feeling awful.

She needed help, so Robert and Peggy went to Pipestone County Medical Center & Family Clinic Avera. She was then transported to Sioux Falls. The whole family arrived soon afterward. Peggy passed away Monday evening, just a couple of days after Robert finish treatment.

The sudden change in health caught the whole family off guard. Peggy was a CPA and college instructor. She enjoyed sewing, crafting, girl time with her sisters, spending time in God’s Word, teaching vacation Bible school, and loving and doting on her family. Robert and Peggy renewed their vows in September 2017. Together, they had four children and seven grandchildren.

Today, Robert continues attending church, working in his shop and backyard, spending time with family, and investing in relationships. He also still maintains a real estate license. Everywhere he goes, he strikes up conversations and enjoys making new connections.

“I love and miss my wife, so I try to enjoy as much time with family and friends as possible,” said Robert. “I am extremely thankful for every person who supported me on this journey, which includes the lab and scan techs, Social Services and Accounting departments, and all the nurses and doctors. They made a difference in my care.”

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