Learning to depend on others was a hard, but important, lesson

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 11, 2002

Doug Claussen’s always been an independent person. So it was hard when cancer made it necessary for the 46-year-old Freeborn County man to turn to his family for care.

But family and friends have willingly rallied around Doug, and are not only helping to make his life comfortable, but are also planning a benefit to help with medical bills.

The benefit will be held from 11 a.m. -3 p.m. Sunday, May 19, at the Albert Lea Union Center. There will be a hog roast luncheon and bake sale during those hours, and a silent auction from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Cost for the luncheon is a freewill donation. A portion of the funds raised will be matched by Modern Woodmen of America; Aid Association for Lutherans Branches 2300, 4608, 4824 and 11184; and Lutheran Brotherhood Stateline Branch 8972.

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In addition, medical trust account donations can be sent to the Doug Claussen Trust, Security Bank, 437 Bridge Ave., Albert Lea.

&uot;So many people were asking, ‘What can we do?’&uot; said his daughter, April.

The family has received support from businesses, individuals and &uot;people we don’t even know,&uot; added his daughter, Amber. &uot;We’ve been able to get everything (for the benefit) donated.&uot;

An atypical mole on Doug’s chest was discovered and removed in 1992. A biopsy indicated Stage Five (advanced) melanoma. His treatment began with removal of a large area of skin surrounding the original mole and removal of lymph nodes in the area.

For nearly 10 years, he received regular checkups and kept getting clean bills of health. But it was determined in February 2002 that the melanoma had metastasized. When it spreads internally, melanoma is one of the most malignant and incurable cancers. According to statistics, melanoma accounts for about 4 percent of skin cancer cases, but causes about 79 percent of skin cancer deaths. About 7,400 people in the U.S. are expected to die from melanomas in 2002.

Doug was admitted to a Rochester hospital on Feb. 7 and discharged on Feb. 19. He stayed with his friend, Ronae Schumaker, after that until he had to be admitted to Naeve Hospital. When he was discharged from there on April 19, he went to stay with his parents, Dell and June Claussen of rural Albert Lea. His siblings, Dan, Jeff and Janelle, are close by. He entered Crossroads Community Hospice’s program at that time as well.

&uot;Hospice has been a huge help,&uot; said Schumaker. &uot;There are daily visits from the home health aide and nurses two or three times a week.&uot;

&uot;And we can call anytime if we need anything,&uot; Dan added.

The illness has pulled the already close family even closer. Doug’s nephew, Jordan Tuttle, 10, rode all 100 miles in the American Cancer Society Bike-A-thon, and carried the benefit flyer in his pocket.

Schumaker said through all of his illness, Doug’s spirits have been excellent and he’s well aware of his surroundings.

&uot;He’s always said, ‘What do we do from here?’ Not, ‘Why me?’&uot;

Before his illness, Doug worked as a third-generation construction equipment operator. He worked for Sorensen Brothers Inc. until seasonal layoffs in December. &uot;It was right after that he started getting sick,&uot; Amber said, adding her father was unable to eat, suffered from headaches, and then experienced back and hip pain.

Doug has always been an outdoorsman. He’s taken a lot of pride in the acreage he purchased between Twin Lakes and Emmons in 1992 and planted over 100 trees, food plots and prairie grasses at the &uot;ranch&uot; every year. He has enjoyed hunting, and is a member of the Freeborn County Pheasant and Habitat Group. He also loves motorcycles and snowmobiles.

Doug is also extremely fond of his dogs, two German Shorthairs named Sassy and Pupper.

&uot;And he’s an excellent grandpa. He loves being a grandpa,&uot; added April. April has a son, Zane, 1 1/2, and Amber has a daughter, Alyssa, 3 1/2.

&uot;I’ve been lucky to have him as my dad,&uot; Amber said.

Said Schumaker, &uot;He’s the kindest, most caring, good-hearted man I’ve ever met. He will be with my always.&uot;

His mother, who worked at St. John’s Lutheran Home for 27 years, said the family makes the most of each day. &uot;The days are precious to us,&uot; she said. &uot;We’re lucky to have hospice.&uot;