Kehr now takes the time to stop, smell roses

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 9, 2002

For 15 years, Randy Kehr has been grateful that he had a family doctor who was wise enough to say, &uot;I’m not sure.

Saturday, March 09, 2002

For 15 years, Randy Kehr has been grateful that he had a family doctor who was wise enough to say, &uot;I’m not sure.&uot;

Email newsletter signup

In 1987, while living in Blue Springs, Mo., Kehr was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that develops in the lymph system. A tumor in his small intestine actually stopped the intestine from working.

&uot;My family doctor insisted on tests, and that same night I had surgery,&uot; Kehr recalled. &uot;He literally saved by life just by being cautious.&uot;

A year later, seven tumors were found, and after surgery, Kehr was left with only two feet of small intestine. Even though doctors believed they got all the cancer, he took chemotherapy treatments as a precaution.

In 1993, he was still cancer-free, but had to undergo surgery to remove scar tissue. His intestine collapsed, and he literally lived on intravenous supplements for a year.

&uot;I spent 24 hours a day with my backpack on,&uot; he recalled.

About that time, a liquid for AIDS patients was developed. &uot;I drink eight to 10 cans a day,&uot; he said, adding when he travels, he takes cases of it along.

&uot;If I don’t take it, I will lose 5 or 6 pounds a day,&uot; Kehr said.

Just 36 years old when he was diagnosed, Kehr said he found out who his friends were. He was coaching a girls’ softball team at the time, and to this day believes it was one of the best things he could do to aid in his recovery. &uot;The girls didn’t care if I didn’t have hair or if I had to bring a chair to sit on if I got tired,&uot; he recalled. &uot;That’s the beauty of being surrounded by young kids. You’re you.&uot;

Kehr’s own two children were just 12 and 9 years old when he was going through treatment. &uot;They rode their bikes to the hospital to see me,&uot; he said. &uot;I didn’t realize how much the whole thing bothered my daughter until later when she wrote a short story about it for school.&uot;

Still, giving her father injections of Heparin helped her believe she was aiding him in getting well, he said.

Through it all, Kehr continued to work. He worked at a hotel in Kansas City, and his employer, who was self-employed, kept him working for the company. But there came a point where work was taking its toll, and because he couldn’t eat, his wife, Ellen, argued his case at the Social Security office and had him put on disability status.

&uot;It took me a while to get over not working,&uot; he said.

The couple moved to Albert Lea in 1997, where they purchased All-Continents Travel from Ellen’s mother, Lorraine Quinlivan. &uot;I can help my wife here, but I can go home and lie down when I need to,&uot; Kehr said.

And he keeps busy doing other things, including being involved in his church, the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce, the Cloverleaf Lions Club, Downtown Association and Holiday Lighting Committee.

Having cancer has gotten Kehr to look at life from a different perspective. &uot;It’s a shame it takes something like this to get us to stop and smell the roses,&uot; he said. &uot;I figure every day’s a bonus.&uot;

And with those bonus days, Kehr tries to do things that he knows are good things.

&uot;The anesthesiologist said he didn’t think I would make it the first time they found tumors, but he said there is probably a reason why I made it. I’ll never know what little thing I do that will be the thing that I was kept here to do.&uot;

He admits that he does feel sorry for himself sometimes, and longs for a big lettuce salad with Ranch dressing. But he also knows that the people who get well in situations like his are not the ones who have sat around and asked, &uot;Why me?&uot;

He feels blessed to have had great surgeons and oncologists, and to have had a type of cancer which has gone from being the most fatal to being the most curable. &uot;Physicians have immediate access to something that works. That’s the beauty of the research,&uot; Kehr said.

&uot;There are still people who die from it, &uot; he said, adding that now if he is remotely suspicious of anything himself, he goes right to his doctor.

&uot;There are so many people who have survived so much more,&uot; Kehr said. &uot;I had God looking over me, and a family who was there for me.&uot;