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Selberg to share cancer journey at Relay for Life

WORTHINGTON -- In early March 2017, Dennis Selberg was at the Center for Active Living in Worthington to play a game of pickleball when a couple of his fellow players convinced him to go to the emergency room.

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Dennis Selberg of Worthington will be the 2018 Nobles County Relay for Life Honorary Chairman. He will speak during Saturday evening's program about his journey with bladder cancer. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - In early March 2017, Dennis Selberg was at the Center for Active Living in Worthington to play a game of pickleball when a couple of his fellow players convinced him to go to the emergency room.

Selberg hadn’t been feeling well for months - since late 2016. He wasn’t necessarily in pain, but he was making more frequent trips to the restroom. Though he noticed some blood in his urine, his regular doctor thought it might be a kidney infection.

When pickleball players Denny Hale and Julie Haas insisted on March 8 that either Selberg go to the emergency room or they’d take him, Selberg went.

“It’s a good thing,” he now reflects. “I may not have been there the next day.”

Not long after his arrival at the ER, Selberg went on an ambulance ride to Sanford Medical Center in Sioux Falls, S.D. There was a blockage in his bladder - a cancerous tumor so large it was blocking flow from his kidneys and they were in danger of shutting down.

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At Sioux Falls, a urologist attempted to scrape the tumor from Selberg’s bladder, but it was too large. The decision was then made to begin chemotherapy treatments to try to shrink the tumor.

Selberg had a series of shorter and longer chemo treatments, ranging from 2-3 hours or 4-5 hours. The shorter treatments were in Worthington, and the longer treatments were done in Sioux Falls.

“Week one I had long infusions, week two was shorter and three was an off week,” Selberg said of his weekly Wednesday appointments.

He made it through most of them before becoming sick, leading his doctor to stop treatments.

“It wasn’t as many treatments as the doctor planned,” Selberg said, adding that while a lot of people get sick or nauseous after chemo, he felt good - good and cold.

“I’m still chilly all the time,” he said. “I’ll sit in the house with a blanket and Judy (his wife and caretaker) has the air conditioner on.”

He attributes the chills to the loss of muscle - he sported an average weight of 176 pre-cancer, dipping down to a low of 118 pounds. Fifteen months post-diagnosis, he’s now at 161 pounds and still working to rebuild muscle mass he lost.

Selberg underwent surgery last August, during which surgeons removed the lone tumor they found, along with his bladder and prostate. He spent a month in the hospital, and after a brief visit home, returned to the hospital for nearly four weeks due to an infection in his colon.

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“I spent much of 2017 in either Worthington or Sioux Falls hospitals,” Selberg said.

He now sports a colostomy bag and a urology bag.

“It’s a little unhandy, but it beats the alternative,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about getting to the bathroom.”

Selberg had a CT scan in late May and everything looked good. He’ll have another scan in late July, and one more before the end of the year. He visits Sanford Worthington Medical Center once a month for a blood draw and to have his port flushed.

With no family history of cancer, Selberg said he is appreciative and grateful to the medical staff at both Worthington and Sioux Falls for the care he received while hospitalized and undergoing chemo treatments.

“I thought chemo was chemo, but probably every person has a different recipe of what they put together, depending on where the cancer is and the stage,” Selberg said. “I wouldn’t wish chemo or cancer on my worst enemy. It’s not fun, but I got through it and I’m getting along pretty well now.”

As Honorary Chairman of the 2018 Nobles County Relay for Life, Selberg will speak during the June 30 evening program at Worthington’s Chautauqua Park. All are welcome to attend to celebrate cancer survivors, remember those who have passed and cheer on those who are walking cancer’s journey.

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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