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Fisherman 'Bearing Down' As He Battles Mesothelioma

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Allen “Al” Christiansen was the perfect retiree. He was never bored or out of things to do. He woke early in the morning and always experienced a full day. He lives with his wife of 36 years Kathy on eight beautiful acres surrounded by corn fields in Hinckley, Illinois. Hinckley is just far enough outside of Chicago to feel like you’re a million miles from the Magnificent Mile but close enough to drive in for a Bulls game or a steak at Ditkas.

When not tending the yard, watching his beloved Bulls, Bears, White Sox or Notre Dame sports Al is either wetting a line or planning his next fishing. You see, Al owns a small home on five acres in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The cabin sits on the shores of a private 4,800 acre lake. In the UP, Al loves to catch walleye, muskie and small mouth bass. Naturally, Al has many, many buddies who just wait for an invite to head north in search of the ‘big one.’

In the evenings, he and Kathy enjoyed attending their son Steven’s basketball games. Steve is the head coach of the mens basketball team at Triton College. Their daughter Kara is a student at the Illinois Institute of Art. Kara lives with her parents and according to Al “I see her every day and for my wife and I that’s the best way to live.”

Al (center) with his buddies doing what they do best
For several years Al has suffered from a shortness of breath. He is a lifetime asthma sufferer and occasionally used an inhaler.

On February 1, 2008 Al suddenly awoke suffering from severe dizziness and some mild chest pain. He traveled to the Kishwaukee Community Hospital emergency room in Dekalb, Illinois. A CT scan of his head and x-rays of his chest were taken. He was diagnosed with vertigo for the dizziness and provided a prescription. However, the chest films revealed a right hilar mass with pleural thickening, a pleural effusion and lung nodules around the right pleura.

A needle biopsy was ordered and took place on February 20 at the Swedish Cancer Center in Rockford, Illinois. The doctors at Swedish Cancer sent the tissue specimens to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota for analysis. Using immunohistochemical staining, pathologists at the Mayo clinic returned a diagnosis of pleural mesothelioma.

Al’s family quickly began to learn as much as they could about mesothelioma. They scoured the Internet and learned of a clinical study ongoing in Minnesota. After sending his medical records to Minnesota, the clinicians informed Al that his mesothelioma was “potentially operable.” The group in Minnesota then referred Al to Dr. Hedy Kindler in Chicago.

Al and Kathy Christiansen
Al met with Dr. Kindler on March 26. Dr. Kindler recommended and treatment program using Alimta. Al completed six rounds of the Alimta on July 23. At that time, Dr. Kindler told Al that the cancer had stabilized and wanted to stop the treatments. In addition she halted the treatments due to Al’s high blood pressure. Al returned for regular CT scans as the doctors wanted to monitor the tumor.

Since then, Al traveled to Bethesda, Maryland and consulted with the doctors at the National Medical Center. After examing his medical records, the doctors felt Al was a candidate for surgical resection but Al felt he would have a better quality of life if he continued with chemotherapy or radiation.

Al returned home and began radiation treatments. His last treatment was March 19. According to Al the treatments “were tearing me up. I have no energy and no desire to eat.” Al is resting at home and beginning to regain his appetite and strength. He will return to his doctor next month to have a CAT scan taken.

We will continue to follow Al’s progress as he battles his mesothelioma.

“Bear down, Chicago Bears, put up a fight with a might so fearlessly.”

Bear down Al. All the way to victory.

*** POSTED APRIL 14, 2009 ***

*** Mr. Al Chrisiansen passed away on June 11, 2009 ***