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Gaylord man honorary chairperson of Relay for Life

June 18th, 2009

Michael Sprandel

Michael Sprandel

Cancer can strike at any age. And family history doesn’t always make a difference.

Gaylord resident Michael Sprandel, 43, found that out five and a half years ago. He was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at the age of 37. He has no family history of the disease.

Sprandel has been selected as the honorary chairperson for Sibley County’s Relay for Life June 19-20 at the Gaylord City Park.

“I had a symptom that I didn’t ignore,” Sprandel said. “One morning I went to the bathroom and there was bright red blood in the toilet. I felt, deep down, that something wasn’t right. I didn’t ignore it and went to the clinic the same day.”

Sprandel went to the Gaylord Clinic and was then referred to the hospital in Arlington. His stomach was scoped, and he was admitted to the hospital to prepare for a colonscopy. “They put you almost all the way out, and I remember the exact moment they saw it. I saw it and it was big and ugly.”

Sprandel received his diagnosis on Nov. 3, 2003. His cancer was considered Stage III and was not quite through the wall of the colon. “They figure the tumor had been growing for about 10 years,” he recalled.

Typically, a patient is not recommended for a colonscopy until the age of 50. For Sprandel, however, Friday, the 13th of November was a lucky day for him. That day, he underwent surgery at the Glencoe Hospital. “It was a lucky day for me. The cancer hadn’t gone through the wall and they were able to get it all.” Sprandel had one and a half feet of bowel removed.

“I was pretty lucky,” he admitted. He was hospitalized for about a week after surgery. It took three days to be notified that the cancer had not spread to the lymph nodes. It took about three months to recover from surgery.

Because the surgeon was able to remove all of the cancer and it hadn’t spread, Sprandel did not have to undergo chemotherapy or radiation.

There is an 85% chance of recovery from colon cancer if it is caught early, Sprandel said.

Colon cancer may cause different symptoms. According to the American Cancer Society, most colorectal cancers develop slowly and over many years. Most begin as a polyp, a growth of tissue that starts in the lining and grows into the center of the colon or rectum.

Not counting skin cancer, the American Cancer Society reports that colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer found in men and women in this country. The risk of a person having colorectal cancer in their lifetime is about 1 in 19. There are 106,100 new cases of colon cancer diagnosed in the United States each year.

Because of his young age, Sprandel was asked to participate in a Mayo Clinic study.

Having cancer was a “wake up moment” for Sprandel. “In between the diagnosis and actual surgery I had time to think. We take too much of life for granted,” he said.

Since his surgery, Sprandel has been tested periodically. At various times a couple pre-cancerous polyps were removed.

When Sprandel’s cancer journey began, he was employed at Micro Tech Computers. Five years ago, a job opportunity came up at the Glencoe Hospital. He is now employed as a network administrator at Glencoe Regional Health Services. “I feel they saved my life and I wanted to pay them back in some way.” This year, Glencoe Regional Health Services is one of the corporate sponsors for Sibley County’s Relay for Life.

Sprandel was treated by an oncologist that came to Glencoe so he did not have to travel to the metropolitan area. Now he has periodic appointments with his family physician.

Since the experience, Sprandel says that he has a different perspective on life. “I realize how fragile it is and enjoy every moment.” He said that he looks at each sunrise and sunset a little differently now.

Sprandel said that he was fortunate to have seen the right person at the right time. He advised others that “if you have a bad feeling, respect it and find out what’s wrong.”

Sprandel and his wife, Jodi, and daughter, Sonja, have been active in Sibley County’s Relay for Life since his diagnosis. He recalled their first team name was “Flushing Out Cancer” and now it is “Fishing for a Cure.”

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