Benefit planned for Stangls
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Due to a diagnosis of brain cancer, its treatment, and several surgeries for ensuing medical problems, friends and family have organized a fundraiser to benefit Francis “Franny” and Karen Stangl of Buckman.
It’s been a long six months since the first diagnosis July 25, 2011. He is on a first name basis with many of the doctors and nurses at St. Cloud Hospital.
Franny’s type of cancer, glioblastoma multiforme, is very common, very aggressive and is terminal.
The cancer involves the glial cells in the brain which help hold neurons in place, supply nutrients and oxygen to them and insulate one neuron from another. Glial cells also destroy pathogens and eliminate the neurons which die.
Glioblastoma multiforme tumors occur mostly in men. Outside influences have not been linked to this type of cancer, but evidence for a viral cause has been looked at.
Franny, who retired in 2002 from his civil service job at Camp Ripley, had his first hint that something was wrong in June 2011. He had back aches and his balance was just not right.
“I kept running into things,” he said. “I first went to the chiropractor, and in July, to my own doctor in St. Cloud.”
Franny and Karen’s regular doctor was booked that day, so they saw his physician’s assistant. And they are glad they did.
“With Franny’s symptoms, Dr. Margaret Erickson wanted to look at his head before his back,” said Karen. “The magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) found the plum-sized tumor.”
Four days later, Franny was in surgery and most of the tumor was removed.
“The doctors got what they could, safely,” said Franny. “If more had been removed, my ability to move may have been impaired.”
The doctors were amazed at how well he was doing after surgery and sent him home in three days. In another three days, he was driving and headed to the Rich Prairie Sales Barn in Pierz for dinner.
“I was feeling OK,” he said.
The next step was radiation. But it couldn’t start until both the swelling in his brain was reduced and the staples from the surgery were removed.
“So they gave me a steroid to help reduce the swelling faster,” said Franny.
The Stangls took a short trip to Duluth to celebrate their 40th anniversary, an event that occurred in April 2011. When they returned, Franny was in pain. He went back to the hospital where the doctors found he was bleeding from a separated fuscular connection (the area between the urinary tract and the colon). They said it may have occurred either from diverticulosis or from the steroid treatments.
He spent five days in the St. Cloud Hospital for the separation, but did not have surgery. Franny said the doctors wanted him to begin radiation treatments. Another surgery would have hampered their start. He received antibiotics to keep from getting an infection and the radiation started while he was still in the hospital.
“For the remaining two days in the hospital, I was taken to the Coborn Cancer Center in St. Cloud for my first two treatments. I had a total of 30 treatments in 30 days,” he said. “Each treatment lasted about 20 minutes.”
During the radiation treatments, Franny was also taking oral chemotherapy daily.
On Oct. 3, 2011, before he went to his radiation treatment, he was experiencing more pain. After returning home that same day, he lost consciousness and Karen called an ambulance. Another four days in the hospital with a diagnosis of a bowel obstruction.
“Franny then had major surgery and another six days in the hospital,” said Karen. “The doctors removed his appendix, fixed the fiscular connection, removed six inches of his intestine and he now has a colostomy.”
All through that, he continued with his radiation treatments. And, he lost 50 pounds.
In November, Franny was hospitalized twice again. Once due to a bacterial infection in his colon and another time due to internal bleeding.
Getting used to reading his body’s signals, Franny knew he needed to get to the hospital still again Dec. 9, 2011, when he was suddenly in pain. This time he stayed seven days after a surgery to repair a torn intestine.
The radiation treatments are now over and Franny has his appetite back. But his most recent MRI has showed the cancer is slowly progressing.
“When my last surgery heals, the next step is intravenous chemotherapy,” he said. “The chemo is supposed to starve the blood to the cancer and hopefully inhibit its growth.”
Franny and Karen live on a hobby farm south of Buckman, raising beef cattle and some crops. They have four children who live nearby, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
The benefit to help with bills will be held Saturday, Feb. 4, from 4 p.m. – 9 p.m. at the Pierz Ballroom. There will be a sloppy jo supper and both a silent and a live auction. Auction items may be dropped off at Mike and Monica Kapsner’s home at 18484 330th Ave. in Pierz. Donations may be made to the Francis Stangl fund at the Farmers and Merchants State Bank.
For more information, contact Kapsner at (320) 468-2606.