Thankful: Dave Paczosa

“Life is worth fighting for and it’s worth sharing the story with others who need to hear it’s going to be ok.”

Nearing 60 years old, frequenting the gym almost every day, and in the best shape of his life, Dave Paczosa, a Concentrated Water Technician from Columbus, Nebraska says he has a lot to be thankful for this year.

In 2019, Dave was adjusting to a new normal after having just lost his wife of 33 years. He said things went from bad to worse when the dream home he and his wife had built together flooded due to heavy rains in the area. Then after a routine wellness exam, Dave’s doctor called him with results from a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test. The protein in his blood was elevated and Dave was referred to a local urologist.

After a series of tests and scans, Dave was diagnosed with prostate cancer. As if that wasn’t enough, the scans also showed another tumor on the base of his spine. He was also diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a cancer that forms in the bone or soft tissue of the body. Dave recalls the news being overwhelming. “I reached out to my boys and my pastor. My dad had twelve years of cancer treatments so I had some experience with dealing with a diagnosis. But times were different now.”

Dave underwent prostate removal surgery on December 26th, 2019 and the next decision was what to do with the sarcoma. He did some research and took it upon himself to set up a doctor’s visit in Rochester, Minnesota. His cancer was growing around four nerves on his spine and surgery was a risky option. “I was told that due to the location of the tumor, paralysis was a likely possibility and so were complications from a surgery like this. The doctor I saw in Minnesota said there’s only one doctor in Nebraska I would refer you to see for a sarcoma and that was Dr. Kirsten Leu.”

Dave’s first course of treatment consisted of 8 weeks of chemotherapy with Dr. Leu’s team. “Dave received very aggressive chemotherapy for almost a year and tolerated it, overall, very well. He had a very apparent “let’s do this” attitude that helped him get through the rough spots. By doing so, he has given himself the best possible chance of being cured,” said Dr. Leu.

“Due to the pandemic, I had to receive my treatments all alone,” said Dave. The second course of treatment was 30 rounds of proton radiation, a treatment rarely found in the United States, to shrink the tumor. This was done in collaboration with his healthcare team in Minnesota. Dave recalls these days being some of the most difficult. “Forty-five days to be exact. I relied on social media to keep me connected to loved ones, and calls from friends and family to help keep me going,” recalls Dave.

The last part of Dave’s treatment was another eight weeks of chemotherapy. Dave was fortunate to have family in Omaha for support, but he especially thanks his nurse, Machele, at NCS. “She’s my guardian angel. She called and visited with me every day. She’s one of the main reasons I survived this. The support she provided went above and beyond. She gave the biggest hugs and she was just incredible.”

Machele gives Dave all the credit. “Dave went through a very extensive treatment regimen with IV chemotherapy and radiation. During that year, he never ventured away from his positivity. His optimistic attitude definitely rubbed off on me in my work activities, as well as my home activities. He is a refreshing reminder that our team, our office, and all the support staff, makes a huge impact on patients,” said Machele Dunning, NCS Nurse Case Manager.

In February of this year, Dave’s cancer was in remission.

“The past couple years were a very lonely time. If it wasn’t for my faith, family, and friends who reached out to me and my medical team, I don’t know what I would have done.”

Dave is 100% back to work, working crazy hours. His most recent scans are clear and he says he feels great. “I’m healthier now than I was before cancer. My weight is down, my blood pressure is where it’s supposed to be and I feel stronger than ever.” He spends his days with his friends, sons, and triplet grandsons who are now seven years old. He enjoys riding his Harley, camping, and enjoying his acreage. He’s also become an advocate for others going through their cancer journey and enjoys lending a listening ear.

When asked what he’s thankful for this year, he said that’s easy. “This year I get to be with my family. I’m cooking and having everyone over. Life is worth fighting for…it’s worth sharing the story with others who need to hear, “it’s going to be ok.”

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