Surviving Three Strokes, One Heart Attack & Cancer

Article Date: Dec 10, 2013

Roger Alger

First Roger Alger had three strokes: one in January, another in February, a third in March. He considered himself lucky because he didn't end up with any mobility or speech problems.

Not long after, he had a heart attack. He went to the Alegent Creighton Health Community Memorial Hospital in Missouri Valley and was rushed by Life Net to Omaha, where he later had a quadruple bypass.

Then in January of 2012—a short month-and-a-half later—Alger was diagnosed with cancer. "I was very, very sick," Alger said. "I was losing weight. I thought it was my heart medications."

A family practice physician heeded the warning signs and ordered tests that showed Alger had Stage 2 colon cancer. The tumor, he said, was "the size of a fist" and had attached itself to his bladder, blocking the urethra.

He was miserable—suffering uncontrollable shaking, feeling very cold, then overheating—but the excellent care he received at Alegent Creighton Health Immanuel Medical Center helped him through. "I don't know why anyone would go anywhere else that wasn't Alegent Creighton," he said.

He spent 21 days at Immanuel and underwent cancer surgery as well as a colostomy. He had a pelvic abscess and a fistula, an abnormal connection between two organs or vessels that ordinarily do not connect. He suffered a great deal of pain.

But Alger remembered more about the care he received on "7 West" at Immanuel than he did his medical ordeals. "The nurses were excellent, superior, whatever word you want to use," he said. "The care was pinpoint perfect. They're real professionals and treat you with respect so you keep your dignity." He rattled off name after name of those who provided "loving care," including Hattie Jackson, R.N., Jane Schraeder, R.N., phlebotomist Nancy Cullen, Chaplain John Brewer, Cecelia Backstrom, P.A. and nursing assistant Cathy Harding.

Head Nurse Vicki Jacobson, R.N. stayed late one night to oversee his preparations for a procedure and even brought in her puppy Scout to see Alger on her day off. "That's the type of people they are," Alger said. "They're patient-oriented. They're family-oriented. They're Jesus-oriented."

He didn't forget his doctors, either. "Every one of them was excellent. They were all excellent. I can't express how incredible the Alegent Creighton experience was, clear down to the people who brought the food in to the people who changed the linens to the lady who mopped the floor."

He had chemotherapy at Immanuel after his hospital stay and his last day of chemo was on September 24th—his birthday. "The nursing staff knew it was my birthday," he said, beaming. "They made a huge card!"

Blood tests were encouraging and a CAT scan in June "looked perfect," he said."I am a kind of miracle that happened. I'm cancer-free."

As he gets stronger, he intends to volunteer at Immanuel to help "pay it forward," he said. "Right now I live in the moment. I don't worry about tomorrow. I can't control it. I'm here today. I'm alive. That's all that counts."

Alegent Creighton Health takes your cancer care personally. When you are sick, you need to be surrounded by people who will give you the best chance to survive—people who will help you clinically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

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