Another biopsy confirmed that Kevin, then age 47, had Stage C3 Rectal Cancer. Kevin endured abdominoperineal resection (APR) surgery and six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. He later suffered complications from the surgery and wound vac therapy. He underwent emergency surgery, a month in the hospital, and then an additional six months of chemo. Kevin is now cancer-free but this long journey has left Kevin in chronic, nauseating pain.
The trolls were gifted to Kevin following his surgery.
Sitting is painful. So is standing. Moving is painful. Being still is painful. Kevin tries to describe his pain as “if you grabbed the tender part of your rear upper thigh, squeezed until it hurts, then keep squeezing until it made you sick to your stomach…that’s what I feel every day, all the time.”
The pain is slowly eroding Kevin’s quality of life and keeps him from doing the activities he loves, like taking walks with his wife, playing hockey with his friends, and mowing the lawn. He says he feels blessed and grateful. He refuses to let his constant companion of pain dull the love he has for his family and friends and his job.
“The pain reminds me I’m alive. Every day is a gift,” he says. “Lisa and I have learned to take one day at a time. We’re so lucky to have such loving families, so lucky to have two great daughters...I feel badly that I’ve missed out on their life at certain times. I know this impacts them…” his voice, trails off, then regains strength. “Our faith is strong and gets us through each day. We have supportive friends, so much support from Western Michigan University (WMU). Western is like family to us,” he says.
Kevin began his WMU career in 1994 as a residence hall director and has been serving in student advising roles since 2000. Kevin has been director of academic advising in the College of Arts and Sciences since 2006. To get through his demanding work day, Kevin must rely on pain medication. But he worries about this. “Too much makes me sleep, not enough and the pain gets so bad I don’t want to talk or be around anyone.” So he takes just enough to get through the day so he can do a good job advising students and supervising the undergraduate advising office and student success center staff.
By the time Kevin gets home, he has spent every last reserve of energy on his Western family. He feels he has nothing left to give. Refusing, until morning, to take any more pain medication due to all of the side effects, he grows increasingly uncomfortable. “I know this is unfair to the girls. I’m not good company. I can’t converse. I get home and I’m wiped out.”
“Kevin is such a trooper,” says Lisa. “It would be wonderful to look at him and know he is in less pain.”
After much researching, Lisa and Kevin have found a treatment program at Mayo Clinic that may help. Lisa explains. “We aren’t under any false expectations. We know Kevin will always have pain, but with the experts at the pain clinic and their new approaches to managing pain, we are hopeful that Kevin’s pain level will decrease.”
Your donation will help Kevin and Lisa make the journey to Mayo Clinic’s Pain Rehabilitation Program so Kevin can get the treatment he needs. It is a three and a half week intensive outpatient program that runs Monday through Friday, 8-4:30 p.m. Like many nonmedicinal approaches for chronic pain, this $40,000+ treatment program is not covered by their insurance. Kevin will be weaned off his current medications, become physically stronger, learn how to manage his pain, and work with Mayo to develop a game plan to move on with life. On average, patients who go through the program experience 40% less symptoms, 50% more physical functioning, and 60% more daily activity. If you want to learn more about Mayo’s approach to chronic pain, you can watch this video here:
Your donation—in whatever amount you are able to give—is greatly appreciated. By sending Kevin to the Pain Rehabilitation Program, you are giving Lisa the chance to look into her husband’s face and feel relief seeing that some of his pain has been taken away. (Despite Kevin’s repeated offer to turn his raggedy old self in for two healthy 27 year olds, she refuses. “Kevin’s my soulmate,” she says of the man she met in college. “I love him.”)
You will be giving Kevin the chance to “get some of my life back.” While there is much he misses, Kevin would love to “hold hands with my lovely bride and walk through the neighborhood.” He also hopes to become physically strong enough to once again have and enjoy evening conversations with his family without closing his eyes to concentrate because of the pain. “I want to contribute. I need to be there for Lisa and our girls.”
This GoFundMe Kevin’s Relief CamPAIN, is run by Lisa’s book club friends. The $50,000 goal will cover the cost of treatment, related travel, housing, and food expenses. Anything in excess of the $50,000, the Knutsons have requested that a scholarship be set up for WMU students dealing with cancer either personally or with an immediate family member.
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