Local Man Attributes
Article in NMU Horizons Magazine To Saving His Life.
Article by Kristi Evans, NMU and Horizons news director, Northern Michigan University.
February 27, 2013 - "The Horizons article you wrote saved my life." There was stunned silence on my end of the phone when Don Clewley uttered those words. My colleagues will confirm it's not easy to render me speechless, but Don managed to do it-at least for one treasured moment on a Friday afternoon in late September. He was calling from his lake home near Pembine, Wisconsin, to share the remarkable story of how he is now cancer-free, despite an initial diagnosis that he had an inoperable brain tumor and only six months to live.
Don suffered a stroke and began having seizures over Memorial Day weekend. He was rushed by ambulance to his local hospital, then to Green Bay. An MRI revealed hemorrhaging in his brain. When a physician told him a tumor also was detected and that nothing could be done, Don went home prepared to plan his funeral and get his affairs in order.
"I was willing to accept that's what I had and didn't want to dwell on it," he said. "I wasn't despondent because I have a firm belief in God and eternal life. I also knew I have a network of friends and family who would support and pray for me."
As a graduate of the former NMU-affiliated Northern Michigan School of Banking, Don is on the mailing list for Horizons. The summer issue included what proved to be a timely story on NMU's involvement in the Upper Michigan's Brain Tumor Center. When Don learned about this collaboration with Marquette General Hospital's Brain & Spine Center, he called neurosurgeon Rich Rovin's office on the same day he received the magazine.
"Friends had been urging me to get a second opinion and I figured I owed it to myself," Don said. "At my appointment three days later, I had another MRI and Dr. Rovin told me the tumor was in fact operable. When I met him and his staff I was totally impressed. They were friendly, laid back and took time to talk with me. I felt encouraged and confident they could do something for me and they did. The quality of care I've received in the U.P. is excellent."
Don underwent surgery on Sept. 12 and was cleared to return home two days later. He requires no follow-up radiation or chemotherapy, functions completely on his own and returns to the center every six months to ensure that the tumor doesn't reappear.
"I've been called the miracle man because I had an earlier stroke last January (2012) and almost died then, too," he added. "My local doctor said it's like I've won the lottery twice. With the first stroke, I lost 130 pounds and some of my ability to talk, walk and use my right hand. That all returned to normal, but the second stroke was more serious and limited those abilities to a much greater extent. I had been with hospice after the inoperable tumor diagnosis. When a volunteer came to pick up the things I didn't need anymore after my successful surgery, he said, 'We don't usually have people leave hospice on these terms; you graduated!' The power of prayer does bring miracles. I am a walking testament to that."
My byline may have appeared on the Horizons article, but I can't take personal credit for Don's 180-degree health turnaround. If I hadn't volunteered for that assignment, one of my colleagues would have. We've written many stories with the simple goal that some people read them-stories to inform, enlighten or perhaps entertain. But save a life? That's a new one not likely to be repeated. I am humbled and grateful that Don made an effort to track down my phone number to thank me. It's the most rewarding reader feedback I would imagine. Don plans to do some writing of his own in the near future: a book about his experience. We already know it will have an awesome ending!