Minn. Air Nat'l Guard vet: 'I don't count the days' - KMSP-TV

Minn. Air Nat'l Guard vet: 'I don't count the days'

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Pancreatic cancer is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in America, and in Minnesota last year, it took the lives of more than 600 people.

A Minnesota Air National Guard veteran is battling pancreatic cancer, and he's not hiding from the reality that he's likely to lose this fight.

Doctors have told Don Widboom he has about 3 months left to live. He instead is focused on the fact that he still has time spend with his family. Meanwhile, they remain faithful a better outcome is possible, despite the statistics.

"I just want to spend as much time with the family as I can," Widboom said.

Even through sad times, Widboom and his family play the hand they've been dealt.

"I've just kind of resigned myself to fighting the cancer," he added.

Last April, the 64-year-old retired Minnesota Air National Guard Crew Chief of Lakeville was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

"Most people live a year after they have a diagnosis of this kind of cancer," he said.

Just a few months shy of a year since his diagnosis, Widboom reflects on his favorite activities cancer has kept from him – fishing and hunting.

"I haven't had any chemo since the beginning of December," he admitted.

Shuffling through perspective, humility keeps his daughter and granddaughter hopeful.

"It's not their time, it's not my dad's time it's in god's time. Nobody knows when they're going to go and anyone could go in a car accident so I feel that I don't believe it," daughter Sarah Loewen said.

"Time just flies so fast, now he has pancreatic cancer, which is really sad, I really want God to heal him," granddaughter Ava Loewen said.

When it comes to pancreatic cancer in Minnesota, Widboom is far from alone. Last year, there were 760 new cases of pancreatic cancer in the state, and it caused 630 deaths. Pancreatic cancer has a 6 percent survival rate.

"75% usually don't make it past the first year," Nancy Marian of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network said, pinning clinical trials as keys to ultimately extending the survival rates.

"It might be a great successful trial, it may not, but the only way to move forward is to complete these trials and know what works and what doesn't," Marian said.

There's no early detection tools or effective treatments for the disease, yet amid all this, Widboom is grateful he has a chance to say goodbye to the ones he loves.

"I don't count the days at all," Widboom said. "I'm glad it isn't one of the deaths where you're here one minute and gone the next."

Widboom hopes to see friends new and old at a benefit held for him next Saturday from 2 until 5 at End Zone in Elko. There a silent auction including big ticket items like four tickets to see the Minnesota Wild will be up for bid. All proceeds will go toward his care.

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