He has a week full with others’ heavy burdens

Tom West, West Words
Tom West, West Words

Some e-mails that I receive come with a quote by a famous person at the bottom, attached by the sender. One such saying that I have seen on several people’s e-mails is, “Be kind, for everyone is carrying a great burden.”

It’s usually attributed to Philo or Plato, but the originator is unclear.

Nevertheless, this was one of those weeks when everywhere I turned, I discovered that someone was, indeed, carrying a heavy burden.

News came first of the passing of Oliver Titrud, 86, of Clarissa. Oliver and I were in Kiwanis together, and the club always looked forward to his talks. His mantra was something along the lines of “You are what you eat.” Oliver spent countless hours reading studies about the pluses and minuses of eating meat or cauliflower or candy.

One thing he told us has stuck with me. Speaking on the importance of exercise, he said it isn’t going to help if you don’t enjoy it. If it adds stress, that will counteract the effects of having a stronger heart and better circulation.

Oliver taught chiropractic medicine most of his adult life, working all over the nation.

Retiring back to this area, where he grew up, I would occasionally run into him at McDonald’s mid-morning, sitting in a booth reading a book.

McDonald’s, like all fast-food chains, sometimes gets a bad rap for the healthiness of its menu, so it seemed odd that a nutritional guru like Oliver would hang out there. I’m guessing he found healthy choices on the menu, plus he enjoyed the ambience and the occasional opportunity to see a friend.

No sooner did that news arrive, than word came from Hutchinson that our daughter’s mother-in-law had passed away.

She suffered from breast cancer that had spread to her lungs. While death, when it came, was not surprising since she had been in hospice care for a couple of weeks, it still was a jolt. She was “only” 72. When I was 22, that would have seemed ancient, but from my current perspective, that’s much too soon.

We had only known her for seven or eight years, but found her to be a warm, engaging person who was interesting to talk to.

Family was important to her, and she especially doted on her six grandsons.

In spite of two downers, however, it was also a week with some good news in the extended family.

My niece’s daughter (does that make her my “grand niece”?), Hannah, has been receiving treatment for a malignant brain tumor.

Hannah, 16, who lives in Rochester, N.Y., had an operation to remove the tumor, but the surgeon couldn’t get all of it. Thus, Hannah has been receiving chemo and radiation treatments for more than a year now.

A couple of weeks ago, the ECM Editorial Board, of which I am a member, made a trip to the state capitol to interview state leaders. One of them was Speaker of the House Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, who is my sister-in-law’s nephew. I’ve known Paul, although not well, since about the time he came up to my waist.

As he went around the room making introductions, the first thing he asked me was, “How’s Hannah?”

With all the things the speaker has on his plate during a legislative session, I was impressed that he made the connection to family.

I told him that the last I heard, she was doing as well as could be expected, but I had no recent information. Then, this week, word came that Hannah’s latest brain scan produced really good news, and the tumor is all but gone.

And that news was followed with a report from my sister that my brother-in-law, who suffers from a rare disease called amyloidosis, has been showing improvement with his latest treatment.

Only about 3,000 new cases of amyloidosis are reported in the United States each year. The disease causes protein deposits to accumulate in major body organs. They cause the organ to thicken, and eventually stop functioning. They often affect the kidneys and lungs. If they get into your heart, the prognosis is very bad.

Seventy percent of people who live to 110, I learned online, die from amyloidosis. Fortunately for my brother-in-law, he’s got 40 years to go.

Although it is not cancer, the treatment for amyloidosis is chemotherapy. In my brother-in-law’s case, the disease was in his lungs, and was first noticed by his voice becoming fainter and more hoarse.

Since getting on the right chemo treatment, however, he has made marked improvement and has become a topic of conversation in Chicago medical circles.

So, this week’s message is twofold: First, “be kind,” regardless of who said it first, because many people are fighting greater battles than you. Second, no matter how fast life comes at you, roll with the punches.


Congratulations are in order for the Upsala girls and boys basketball teams, both of whom had excellent seasons culminating in state tournament appearances.

The chances of having both the boys and girls hoops teams from the same school make the Big Show happens more often than one would think. It’s happened about 70 times since the state began holding both boys and girls tournaments in 1974.

That suggests that the success of one gender inspires the other, but I won’t venture a guess as to which team in Upsala inspired the other.

Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Record. Reach him at (320) 632-2345 or by e-mail at [email protected].