Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Minnesota farmer ‘feeling good’ with help from cancer navigator

“I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what,” said Jim Hall. “I couldn’t drive my combine like I normally do."

 Nurse Navigator Kayla Ahrenstorff, left, stands with Jackson County farmer Jim Hall at the bell patients ring signifying the completion of their treatment for cancer.
Nurse Navigator Kayla Ahrenstorff, left, stands with Jackson County farmer Jim Hall at the bell patients ring signifying the completion of their treatment for cancer.
Submitted photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

JACKSON — At 72, Jim Hall thought he’d be retired by now, tending to his garden or repairing old tractors for fun. But that’s not usually how it goes for farmers. Hall rented his first plot of land as a junior in high school and is still farming some 55 years later near Jackson, Minnesota.

MORE HEALTH NEWS
Gay and bisexual men had once been barred from donating blood due to HIV concerns. After easing the restrictions over time, the FDA may significantly ease the restrictions once again to expand the donor-eligible population.
When Avera Worthington Specialty Clinic closed its surgical center on the third floor of its Ryan’s Road facility, it created space for home health and hospice services that were previously provided by Avera’s Sibley, Iowa program.
Students have even gotten the vaping devices smaller by removing some of the elements and using a stripped cellphone charging cord to charge them, meaning a vape device could be just an inch long.

He knows life rarely goes as planned. That became obvious last year when a string of health problems resulted in a scary diagnosis: glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer that often forms in the frontal or temporal lobes.

Hall, his kids and his significant other took notice when he started making little mistakes.

“I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what,” Hall said. “I couldn’t drive my combine like I normally do. I usually make my own breakfast in the morning, and I’d leave the burner on. Little things like that.”

But it wasn’t the slip-ups that first sent him to the doctor; rather an E. coli infection that was causing him digestive distress. After Hall got that cleared up at the VA Clinic in Spirit Lake, Iowa, his daughter insisted something was still wrong. She felt Hall was exhibiting symptoms similar to his father, who suffered mini strokes. On Nov. 17, 2021, Hall had a CT scan at the clinic that detected his brain tumor.

ADVERTISEMENT

He was sent to Sanford Health in Sioux Falls for surgery. They operated on Nov. 29, and Hall was back home in Minnesota by Dec. 2, getting around normally and recovering well.

Navigating the journey

Hall met his nurse navigator, Kayla Ahrenstorff, in Worthington in mid-December.

MORE JACKSON COUNTY NEWS
The designation also includes the contiguous counties of Jackson, Murray, Nobles, Redwood, Brown and Watonwan.
“We just have a small space, but it’s a place to start. It is so totally awesome, though! The church is doing that for us as part of their mission work. It’s wonderful that they are supporting us by allowing us to use that space.”
About 76% of Federated Rural Electric members participate in Operation Round Up. They allow their electric bills to be rounded up to the nearest dollar.

As an oncology nurse navigator at Sanford Health, Ahrenstorff’s job is to facilitate excellent care for cancer patients. She coordinates and attends appointments, translates confusing medical language into digestible information, provides mental and emotional support to patients and families and connects them to outside resources.

“My goal is to make sure that a patient’s cancer journey is as seamless as possible,” Ahrenstorff said. “I oversee their care from diagnosis through treatment, acting as their main point of contact.”

Most importantly, Ahrenstorff represents the best interests of her patients in ongoing communication with their care team. Oncology nurse navigators like Ahrenstorff are an essential piece of Sanford Health’s team approach to cancer care.

As the only nurse navigator in Worthington, Ahrenstorff is especially important.

“It sometimes feels like I’m on an island, but thankfully I know a lot of nurse navigators and practitioners in Sioux Falls,” she said. “We have a great team approach between Sioux Falls and Worthington where everyone works together for the patients.”

Still, some responsibilities fall squarely on Ahrenstorff in Worthington.

ADVERTISEMENT

“With ours being a smaller facility, I do all the chemo education,” she said. “So when a patient starts treatment, I spend an hour or two of my day educating them in person.”

MORE ON SANFORD HEALTH
There are some special characteristics of this virus that allow it to affect the lower respiratory tract. This makes the virus annoying and allows it to cause cough for a long time.
Every year, lung cancer claims more lives than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined.
“I was born on Dec. 19 and I was brought home in a stocking that the Luverne hospital made — just a few years ago.”

At Hall’s first appointment with Kayla, he learned he’d need radiation and chemotherapy to keep his cancer at bay.

He received 30 rounds of radiation and took chemo pills for 40 days to start, followed by his current routine of five days of chemo, four weeks off and five days back on again. He’ll stick to that schedule for a total of six months.

Ahrenstorff said Hall has responded well to treatment. Hall agrees.

“As far as the surgery, chemo and radiation, it’s gone great. I’ve got no complaints about it,” he said.

Mutual appreciation

Hall has gained a great respect for nurses through his cancer journey, noting their resilience and helpfulness in particular.

“I really think highly of the nurses. They’re not scared to do anything with you,” he said. “With some things in the hospital, you lose all dignity. But you learn to respect the nurses who take care of you.”

Ahrenstorff said the feeling is mutual.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The patients are the most rewarding part of this job,” she said. “And Jim is just a great guy to be around.”

Hall is feeling good now. He was back to work in time for spring planting.

“I’m driving, working and doing things I like to do again. Before I went to Sanford, the doctors at the VA thought I might not make it out of the hospital. Well, I’m out and I’m doing just fine.”

What to read next
When your alarm clock goes off, do you hop out of bed feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day? Or are you groggy, tired and would rather hit snooze and sleep longer? A new study shows that the secret to feeling more energetic in the morning is to do three things. Viv Williams has the details in this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion."
What are your favorite holiday foods? In this NewsMD column, a local chef demonstrates his mother's amazing Christmas lasagna. And Viv Williams explores how holiday food traditions can be good for your health.