OLIVIA — With the COVID-19 pandemic at full tilt and health care systems stressed late last year, Renville County Commissioner Randy Kramer thought he should postpone the routine physical scheduled for him.
When he called the Olivia Hospital and Clinic to postpone his physical, he was urged to keep it. Physicals are important, he was reminded.
Keeping that date proved to be a lifesaving decision.
The physical went well, and shortly after he told his daughter that he was “as fit as a horse.”
But Dr. Jon Kemp, his primary physician who had urged him to keep the date for the physical, noticed a slight abnormality in a standard blood test. He recommended further testing.
On Dec. 20 Kramer was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
Thanks to the early diagnosis, Kramer, age 62, has the means of keeping this disease at bay. It’s a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow, and is the second most common blood cancer.
He is about to undergo a stem cell transplant this week as part of his treatment.
He learned that he’s not alone on the journey ahead.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Renville County Board of Commissioners, fellow board members came wearing T-shirts proclaiming: “In this county, nobody fights alone.”
Organizers of the surprise sold 76 of the T-shirts to show support for Kramer and raise funds for the Renville County Walk in the Park campaign. More than 40 T-shirt wearing supporters joined the meeting via Zoom. Staff in the health department sang a song to express their support, and staff members told him they would keep him in their thoughts and prayers.
“Thank you,” said Kramer. He told the West Central Tribune that he was totally surprised by the display of support.
He has lots of support from family and friends, and it’s all-important. Kramer farms in eastern Renville County. He has lined up plenty of helping hands while he undergoes the stem cell transplant, which will sideline him for at least six weeks.
He said doctors are confident the stem cell transplant can knock the cancer into remission. They will be harvesting bone marrow cells and freezing a portion of them to make it possible to perform at least two more transplants in future years as well.
The decision to keep the date of that routine physical made all the difference. “Absolutely,” said Kramer.
Health providers told him that in too many cases, multiple myeloma is not diagnosed until a patient comes in with a broken leg or other bone, and wondering why. The cancer carves holes and weakens bones as it progresses unbeknownst to the person.
Thanks to the early diagnosis, Kramer said they found only pinholes in his bones, having caught the disease in the first of its three stages. He began chemotherapy in early January, and it has proven effective, he added.