‘Don’t ignore the signs’: Longtime former radio host facing multiple health concerns, including cancer

Published 9:29 pm Thursday, November 16, 2023

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For decades, Albert Lea’s Darrel Amundson was a popular voice on KATE Radio who provided a public service to the community that many people relied on and loved.

Though he spent such a large part of his life in the public eye because of the radio station, Darrel in recent months has quietly been enduring challenges out of the limelight.

In January, his wife, Pat, said she noticed her husband was losing weight without even trying and over the course of the next six months lost over 50 pounds. He was having problems with his bowels, and she said she knew he needed to have a colonoscopy.

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“I kind of knew it before he went in — that it was cancer,” she said.

The colonoscopy was completed in September, and Pat said Dr. Daniel Paley removed nine polyps. Two were left behind that he suspected were cancerous, and Darrel was referred to doctors in Rochester. About two weeks later it was confirmed: He had Stage 3 rectal cancer.

So far, she said, the cancer is contained to the pelvic area and was not detected in his lungs, liver or bones.

Darrel is set up for eight cycles of chemotherapy every two weeks in Albert Lea, followed by radiation and chemo pills after that. Radiation will take place Monday through Friday for 28 days in Rochester. The goal is to reduce the size of the two cancerous polyps and ultimately have surgery to remove them.

Pat said Darrel had his first chemotherapy treatment Oct. 24, but matters were made worse because of potential problems with his heart. He has had chest pains and previously had multiple stents put in.

His cancer treatment has been placed on hold for him to meet with a cardiologist and determine if he may need heart surgery.

“They don’t want to do anything until his heart is looked at,” she said.

On top of these concerns, Darrel this year was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“It’s a roller coaster,” Pat said.

Referencing his diagnosis, Darrel said he didn’t think anything was going on at first, though he admitted he had some problems. When asked about previous colonoscopies, he said he had never had a colonoscopy done before the one that determined he had cancer.

He said after first hearing the diagnosis, he didn’t want to go ahead with the treatment. He was actually against it until speaking with his family doctor, John Grzybowski, who shared with him his family’s own personal experience and told him he didn’t want Darrel to regret it later if he decided against the treatment. He then changed his tune and decided to give the treatment a try.

The couple has also worked to get a health directive in place in the event it is needed.

Pat said cancer is one of those topics she thinks people still don’t want to talk about, though people need to take it seriously.

“I just want people to realize to not ignore the signs,” Pat said. “Don’t ignore the signs that something is wrong.”

The couple’s niece posted a GoFundMe account to benefit the couple, who live on Social Security and who are now facing increasing costs associated with Darrell’s appointments and medical supplies.

Pat said though donations through the GoFundMe account would be helpful to cover some of these expenses, even a card of support would be uplifting.

“I want the people in the community who listened to him to know,” Pat said. “I think the community needs to know because his life (for many years) was an open book on the radio.”

She recalled the community growing up with their twin boys and talked about her husband’s role in raising money for the annual fireworks and how he spent countless time at the station during instances of inclement weather making it a priority to inform others if bad weather was on the way.

“He never got a goodbye at the station,” she said. “He never had a retirement party, and I think the community needs to say thank you, I really do.”

Darrel is not supposed to be out in areas where there are large groups of people because of his health.

Cards can be sent to their home at 605 E. Sixth St. in Albert Lea.

The GoFundMe page is here.