One word has the ability to change it all – cancer. The fear and the shock of the unknown leaves people with a cancer diagnosis faced with an overwhelming amount of questions and decisions. Why me? What next? How did this happen?
But for Gale Forward and his wife JoAnn, a cancer diagnosis meant they had to do one thing. “I just had to deal with it.” And deal with it they did. After 55 years of marriage, they had one of the most important success factors when it comes to beating cancer: a strong support system. At the age of 16, a few girls from Long Lake invited a few guys from Birchwood to a party and the story of Gale and JoAnn began there. After they were married, they lived in Ham Lake, Minnesota where he was a welder for 40 years and she worked for the Boy Scouts of America. Like many other typical Wisconsin/Minnesota families, they enjoyed traveling out west and fishing in Canada. In 2001, they decided to come back to their roots and retire in the town of Long Lake.
Gale’s cancer story begins like a lot of people. He had no signs or symptoms of anything amiss. After being a long-time smoker, he discussed getting a chest x-ray as part of a normal routine checkup with his primary care doctor, Dr. Jeff Eichten at Essentia Health – Spooner Clinic. He had his diagnostic imaging done at Spooner Health and the scan would confirm the worst: lung cancer.
After completing radiation therapy in Rice Lake for 30 days, Gale started chemotherapy infusion treatment here at Spooner Health. After 18 months, Gale says “I can’t say enough good things about the staff at Spooner Health. They were always wonderful and went over and above for me.” JoAnn echoes the same sentiment. She says “The nurses made it comfortable. I was always comfortable.” Gale especially recognizes the Culinary Department along with Tim Bassett, Director of Pharmacy and of course, the infusion nurses. He recalls one day making a remark about how much he loved the cheesy potato soup they served him and then two weeks later at his next appointment, there was his favorite soup just waiting for him – and a bonus to-go container for him and JoAnn take home. Both Gale and his wife were very impressed with not only the staff remembering this detail about him, but also coordinating the effort to go above and beyond a routine infusion appointment.
Both the Forward’s know that a strong support system both in and out of the hospital and an even stronger attitude is critical in getting through the long road that cancer takes you down. After 18 months of infusion treatment and a cancer-free outcome, both Gale and JoAnn have found a family at Spooner Health. When faced with cancer, compassion matters and at Spooner Health, compassion is what we deliver: always.