28-year-old prepares to battle brain tumor
A home health nurse came on Friday to draw a vial of Dusty Thiesen’s blood; this is now a daily routine for the 28-year-old.
During the session, they started to chat about blood-thinning drugs. Thiesen currently takes Coumadin.
“Coumadin is basically rat poison,” he said.
The nurse asked about Lovenox, a new anti-coagulant.
“I hate Lovenox shots,” Thiesen responded.
Thiesen never expected to know what Coumadin and Lovenox were. In 22 years, he had never pondered his international normalized ratio. Now it’s a daily concern to get his INR below 3.0; it was at 1.3 on Thursday.
“This is all new to me,” he said. “I’m learning as we go.”
Thiesen feels incredibly unlucky and lucky at the same time: unlucky that he has a brain tumor — lucky that he is still alive.
He knows he has tempted fate. Thiesen lived with testicular cancer for five years, enduring daily agony. He thought he had suffered a hernia simultaneously lifting two 100-pound sacks working at Orshelin’s. He did not have health insurance and hoped the pain would subside. At one point, his right testicle swelled to the size of an avocado.
Thiesen could no longer take the pain and saw a doctor right around his 28th birthday. He told the physician what he thought the problem was. He was shocked when the doctor came back with a cancer diagnosis. Worse, the cancer had spread to his lungs.
“I was floored,” he said. “I didn’t know what to think. I felt healthy. I never had any trouble breathing.”
Thiesen went through four rounds of chemotherapy. Mercifully, the side effects of chemo were mild — his hair fell out.
To show solidarity, Thiesen’s best friend Weston Kirk shaved his head.
“It brought tears to my eyes that he would do that,” Thiesen said.
In March, Thisen was declared cancer-free, receiving a remission slip from his doctor. Since, he had only missed one week of work at Dwight Flaming’s Dairy — he had surgery to remove benign cancer cells from around his lungs.
Thiesen was feeling as healthy as he has been in his adult life before he went into work on April 21. He was performing his normal routine — milking cows and checking on calves — when he suffered a sharp headache, lightheadedness, and blurred vision.
He remembers asking co-worker Zach Showalter to wash out the barn, one of Thiesen’s usual weekend tasks. The next thing he remembers is waking up in a foreign hospital bed connected to machines. He was so disoriented he got the year wrong. He thought it was 2003, the year he graduated from Goessel High School. He said he did get the president right, naming Barack Obama on his first try.
Thiesen’s mother, Donna Spoonemore, remembers everything. In Thiesen’s haze, he called Spoonemore, telling her something was wrong. She rushed to the dairy and met Thiesen on the opposite side of a pipe fence.
Spoonemore was not appalled at Thiesen’s condition; he seemed coherent, conversing with her for 30 seconds. Then his head dropped to one side and he started to shake violently. Spoonemore reached over the fence and held Thiesen at the beginning of the seizure.
They stood like this for a moment or two, but Spoonemore knew she could not help Thiesen from this position. She had to let him drop. Waiting at the end of his fall, was a floor of solid concrete. She said the worst part of the entire ordeal was listening to the cold thump of Thiesen’s head hitting the ground.
She vaulted over the fence and held Thiesen, immediately noticing he was not breathing. She started screaming for help, as Thiesen turned from purple to blue to gray. Soon, Dwight Flaming sprinted out from a barn and performed chest compressions.
Thiesen said his chest hurt two weeks later from Flaming’s forceful pushes. It took several bursts before Thisen coughed and breathed.
“It was just like you see on TV,” Spoonemore said.
In the hospital, Thiesen was told he had a brain tumor. He had surgery April 25, a large horseshoe-shaped scar visible on the back of his head.
Currently, Thiesen can’t work because he can’t drive. His vision has been greatly affected by the tumor and seizure. The surgery won’t be enough; chemo won’t work. Thiesen is dreading the most likely treatment — direct radiation.
“I tell everyone, I’m not afraid to die,” he said. “If it’s my time, then I’ll go.”