Fundraiser to assist family fighting cancer

Lee and Janice Freeman

FAIRMONT — A benefit supper and silent auction for Lee Freeman will take place 4-7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Eagles Club in Fairmont.

Diagnosed with lacrimal gland squamous cell carcinoma on May 17, Freeman has undergone extensive testing, and two rounds of six-week chemotherapy and radiation treatment so far, but he is not out of the woods. Lee’s wife, Janice, shared more about the initial diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

“He went in for a blocked tear duct, and we went to Edina,” she said. “In surgery they found a lump and then they didn’t proceed. So they did a biopsy and we found out it was cancer, and then the doctors wanted him to have a PET scan, so we did that in Mankato on May 23 and found out that the cancer had metastasized.

“So then the first week of June we were told that if they did surgery right then he would lose his right eye because they need to make a clean cut and it was in the eye socket. We didn’t know until we had seen another doctor that it was at the back of his throat, his lymph nodes and the side of his face, and there were spots in both of his lungs. There’s more lumps on the left side of his face. They didn’t do a biopsy, but they treated him as if it was cancer on the left side.”

Asked about their reaction after finding out how far the cancer had advanced, Janice said it was a terrible feeling.

“It was just devastating knowing that it was cancer,” she said. “I thought it was just that lump there and then ,on May 23, we found out that it had spread. It was horrible.

“So we went to start seeing the doctors during the first full week of June, and they decided to do chemo and radiation first and then do surgery to try to reduce the lump so we could save his eye. So we started June 13 with chemo.”

In addition to the chemo, there was a drug Lee needed to take once per week that caused a reaction.

“The first time it was fine, and then he started breaking out in blisters from his head to his chest,” Janice said. “It was horrible. We got that calmed down but the second time we had that drug a few weeks later, he went into shock and the doctor said no more. It was really tough to see him react to that.

“We started radiation Aug. 15 at Mayo, and he had the proton radiation, rather than the photon radiation, and that is very precise, and then Aug. 20 we got into the Hope Lodge through the American Cancer Association over at Mayo and it was an awesome place.

“Sept. 27 was our last day of radiation, and the doctor said that two weeks after radiation he would feel even worse, and we wondered how he could feel even worse than he already was. He’s just starting to come around now, but he can’t swallow, he has a feeding tube and even liquid is just tough. It’s so hard to see someone you love suffering, and you can’t do much about it.”

At the end of the month, Lee will get an MRI and a CAT scan. Janice said that what doctors normally would do is give Lee six weeks off after radiation, then three months later they would do an MRI to see if the tumor had shrunk. But the doctors say they do not have the time in Lee’s case.

“So he will have to have surgery, and he will have to have the right side of his face reconstructed depending upon how big those tumors are,” Janice said. “We don’t know yet if they can save his right eye, so it’s a big wait and see.”

Unfortunately, Janice and Lee would undergo additional trials. On Aug. 21, Janice received a phone call stating that her mother had passed away. On Aug. 22, they got a call that Lee’s mother has breast cancer.

“It has been really, really hard to deal with everything,” Janice said. “When we got the call that my mom had passed away, his brother stayed with him for the three days while I was doing funeral arrangements for her. It’s just been so frustrating because he gets sick so much and it’s hard.”

Janice said she is thankful for friends and family.

“They have been phenomenal,” she said. “We need something and someone’s there for us. We couldn’t survive if it wasn’t for the family and friends and co-workers we had, and I can’t even start to list the people or what everyone has done. It has just been absolutely amazing.”

Janice went on to describe Lee as a people person who loves to be around others.

“He’s just so active, so for him to be in bed is just getting old for him,” she said. “He’s used to visiting with people.”

Lee’s niece-in-law, Ashley Freeman, shared that the benefit supper will be a pork loin supper. There will be a grand prize raffle and the silent auction. In addition to the benefit, donations can be made at Bank Midwest to the Lee Freeman Benefit Account.