The family of Dan Kuntz can now say he really is one in a million.
Kuntz, a 1987 graduate of Cambridge-Isanti High School, was diagnosed with stage 4B thymus gland cancer on Sept. 13, 2012. This type of cancer is an inoperable type of cancer because it has spread to the surrounding lymph nodes.
According to the American Cancer Society, this type of cancer occurs at a rate of 1.5 cases for every million people each year in the United States, which leads to approximately 400 cases per year.
“When I received the phone call about Dan’s cancer, I was in shock,” Linda Swanson, Dan’s sister, said. “I immediately called my mom, and she couldn’t talk about it. I called my sister, and she couldn’t talk about it. But overall, I think my mom is taking it the hardest. She did go through this with my dad, but this is different because it’s her son, and she never wants anything bad to ever happen to the family.”
A benefit for Kuntz and his family to help with medical expenses will be held Saturday, March 23, at the Dalbo Fire Hall. Dinner will be served 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. with a cost of $5 per plate and will consist of sloppy joes, beans, potato salad, chips, bars and beverages. A silent auction will be held 5 to 7 p.m., with a live auction being held at 7 p.m. The band “The Suspects” will perform 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.
The live auction will be hosted by Joe Pike and will items such as quilts, elk antler carving, a treadmill, a leaf blower, a turkey rotisserie cooker and more. Silent auction items include quilts, movie baskets, gift certificates to local establishments, kids baskets, wine baskets, bath and body baskets, printed pictures and more.
Kuntz and his wife Karin currently live in St. Joseph. Their son, Zach, is a student at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.
“I think we are getting through this the best we can due to the support we are getting from our family, friends and our church family,” Swanson said. “We all try to stay in touch the best we can and give each other a call when we need something or someone to talk to.”
According to the American Cancer Society, thymus cancers are uncommon cancers that start in the thymus. This small organ is located just behind the breast bone (sternum) in the front part of the mediastinum, the space in the chest between the lungs. The thymus sits just in front of and above the heart.
“My brother is continuing to look at the positive side of things, but this has been hard,” Swanson said. “He really has touched a lot of lives and has always given himself to others through serving in the Army, Boy Scouts, Jaycees, church and other organizations. He is the kind of person who would do anything for anyone. He’s a loving husband, father, brother, uncle and son. He’s touched a lot of lives.”
Swanson said the family lives each day with the unknown, uncertain of the situation’s outcome..
“Dan is living each day to the fullest as best as he can. Karin and Dan both take time off work when Dan’s going through chemotherapy,” Swanson said.
Dan had been going through chemotherapy every three weeks until recently.
“He was given two months off from chemotherapy because his white blood count had gone down,” Swanson said. “But after Easter, he will be going back to every three weeks.”
Kuntz works for the Department of Natural Resources in information technology and his wife Karin works for Marco. Dan works when he’s able, and Marco has allowed Karin to take time off work to go with Dan to his cancer treatments.
“Karin tries to be strong for Dan and the family, but you can hear it in her voice that it’s hard,” Swanson said. “She tries to be his protector but also knows he needs his space as well.”
Dan’s father, John Kuntz, lives in Cambridge, and his mother and stepfather, Lorna and Carol Bursch, live in Grandy. Besides Linda Swanson, he has one other sister, Vicki Schroeder.
To donate to the silent or live auction, contact Linda Swanson at 763-238-8861 or Lorna Bursch at 763-689-9760. For those unable to attend the benefit, checks payable to “Dan Kuntz Benefit” can be mailed to Minnco Credit Union, 235 First Ave. West, Cambridge, MN 55008.
Kuntz was diagnosed with Lyme disease at the beginning of April 2012 and had symptoms including high fever, cold spells, extreme joint pain and lack of energy for about two months.
Next came a shortness of breath that lasted from the beginning of June through the first week in July. At this point, Kuntz said the coughing was under control and the shortness of breath was limited to when he would exert himself beyond day-to-day activities.
Kuntz had a bronchoscopy with biopsy on Aug. 21; however, the doctor wasn’t able to get enough tissue for the test so the next procedure was scheduled.
On Sept. 4, Kuntz had a CT biopsy where a doctor inserted a needle through his sternum. The doctor first injected some saline to move his lung out of the way, and then inserted a second needle to take a biopsy of the lymph nodes between his lungs and heart.
Kuntz received a phone call on Sept. 13 from his doctor informing him that the results from the CT biopsy showed he had thymus gland cancer.
Kuntz said on Sept. 18 he had a PET/CT scan to determine if he would be able to have surgery to remove his thymus and the surrounding lymph node tissue to remove the cancer and to determine if the cancer was contained in single area.
However, after the tests were done, Kuntz learned the surgeon wouldn’t be able to perform the surgery because the cancer had spread beyond the thymus gland into the surrounding lymph nodes.
To follow Dan’s prognosis, visit his Caring Bridge page under the name Dan Kuntz.