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Zehner has perspective in fight with cancer

October 15, 2010

Don Zehner laughs as Marshall County Junior Football League Chiefs coach Joe McKee is doused by his team after a victory.

PLYMOUTH — A visit for stomach pain turned into surgery.
That is the story of Don Zehner, who thought he might need a doctor’s prescription for some stomach pain and hours after his appointment with his doctor found himself in surgery.
“Looking back on it, I probably would have liked the ability to take some time before surgery,” he said. “I came in having a little gastrointestinal pain – three days later I was still in critical care – four days after that I was still on a feeding tube.”
Zehner went straight from the doctor’s office to the hospital for surgery and has been in chemotherapy ever since. It was a transition that still hasn’t quite sunk in.
“I walked in, had a few tests and they said I had to have surgery,” he said. “It was very much a shock. Then as I was going in for surgery they said there was a 50/50 chance I would come out of surgery and have a colostomy bag. That really changes your way of looking at things.”
While he was a very involved father before, Zehner admits that he has become more focused on his wife and children now.
“I’d work all day and then come home and work some more,” he admitted. “I always thought ‘there’s always tomorrow.’ That changed. I come home now I want to spend all the time I can with my family. I don’t want to miss anything with them. There are things that will wait until tomorrow.”
Zehner is still undergoing chemotherapy, but in keeping with his new outlook on life, it’s hard to see that it slows him down. Even though this past weekend was a “chemo” weekend – he was still on the sidelines for his son’s Marshall County Junior Football League game. At home games he is a constant on the “chain gang”.
“Nobody really sees me at the bad times,” he admitted. “I have chemo every other weekend and I have a bag with me that I have with me for 46 hours. Saturday night and Sunday are the worst times and thankfully we’re usually home at that time.”
His words of encouragement for others mirror his approach to his own treatment.
“Hang in there and get your treatments done. Sometimes it’s a hard fight but you have to do it. It’s not a pleasant thing to go through, but consider the alternative…”

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