Team Van Westen

Cavell Van Westen and Barb Schuster, both of Sibley, discuss the upcoming benefit for Van Westen who was diagnosed with Stage 3 rectal cancer in June. 

SIBLEY—The community of Sibley is getting behind lifelong resident Cavell Van Westen.

He was diagnosed with Stage 3 rectal cancer in June.

WeCare of Osceola County is hosting a pork loin meal and a silent auction on Sunday, March 10, as a fundraiser for him and his family with medical expenses.

The diagnosis was a shock to Van Westen, who is self-employed in residential construction.

“It was surprising for my age being younger than 50,” said the 48-year-old. “It was a hard pill to swallow. I never thought it would happen to me.”

Van Westen was experiencing symptoms such as blood in his stool and discomfort for nine months before his diagnosis.

“I am not one who goes to the doctor easily,” he said. “I thought it was just me getting older. This made me get a colonoscopy sooner than when I was going to do it.”

Since the discovery, Van Westen has gone through radiation, surgery and chemotherapy. Through it all, the residents of Sibley have supported him and his family.

He said ongoing meals have been delivered. People have helped Van Westen with some work. He received a handmade blanket from St. Andrew’s Catholic Church and uses it frequently.

The chemo treatment Van Westen is going through has made him sensitive to cold. Water has to be room temperature. He said anything cooler feels like he’s swallowing shards of glass.

“My skin feels prickly whenever I touch something cold,” Van Westen said. “I’m not even supposed to breathe cold air. I have to put something over my face so I do not spend much time outside.”

He has had to cut back on his workload. Van Westen receives chemotherapy treatment every other week through a chemo pump. While he is receiving the chemo he has to take steroids which is a problem. Van Westen also is a Type 1 diabetic and has an insulin pump which provides him with a steady supply of the hormone. Steroids increase insulin resistance and creates higher blood sugar levels.

This chemo treatment does give Van Westen some nausea but he has kept all of his hair.

He might not have to get chemo treatments much longer. In November, Van Westen traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, for surgery to remove the cancerous tumor, 22 lymph nodes and his colon. Since the surgery, indications of cancer in Van Westen have decreased and he has been in recovery. He recently started taking small construction jobs on the weeks he does not have chemo.

Van Westen’s wife, Emily, helps keep him on track as she is a registered nurse at Sanford Worthington Medical Center in Minnesota. Their three children — sons Carson, 18, and Keagan, 15, and daughter, Kennedy, 12 — also keep him busy.

Brad Willemssen is a member of WeCare which is an organization dedicated to helping Osceola County families in need by donating 100 percent of proceeds to them. He and fellow member Barb Schuster are in charge of the benefit for Van Westen.

“He has had such a good attitude through it all,” Schuster said. “We are so thankful to everybody for everything they have done for him and his family.”

Willemssen said in addition to the pork loin, there will be hot dogs, cheesy potatoes, chips, green beans, salad, dinner rolls and ice cream. Donations for the meal will be accepted and given to the Van Westen family. Carryout is available but not delivery.

Along with the meal, Shirley Brandt of Ashton will provide musical entertainment, a bake sale will be held and Willemssen said they are expecting roughly 30 items in the silent auction. Some of the larger items include a 12-gauge Benelli gun, metal “Iowa” signs made by the Sibley-Ocheyedan High School FFA Chapter, two Alaska gift baskets and a fire pit. Due to concerns about the weather forecast for Sunday, Willemssen advised people to keep an eye on the event Facebook page in case it is rescheduled.