By Robert Lucke
Technical Services just east of Havre is a busy place. The shop is crammed full of autos being repaired and the office is full of customers explaining sick car symptoms. For owner Cal Brown it is a busy and exciting life. There was no time to come down with cancer. Then get it cured only to come down with it again.
Cal Brown is a native of Park Grove, which is a suburb of Fort Peck. He came to Havre in 1976 and has been here ever since. Divorced, he is the father of two children, Leila and Johannas. He started work in Havre with the Abercrombie pipeline. In 1983 he went to work for Tilleman Chevrolet. Then in 1998 he bought Technical Services from Les Blair. Last year they moved into a new building just east to town.
Does that all sound like a busy life? It is. There just was no time for sickness. And it was a complete surprise to Brown when in May of 1999 he was diagnosed with a tumor in his kidney.
"There were no symptoms at all. I had lost weight and felt pretty good about that. In fact I felt real good," Brown said, laughing. "Then I started passing blood and found out I had a tumor so I went to Mayo Clinic in Rochester. They operated, removed the tumor and a kidney, and sent me home, telling me to come back every six months for a checkup."
Back he came and he could not believe just how that clinic is growing all the time.
"If you happen to go by there, be sure and look at the place,"
he said. "When I first went there they were adding on to the clinic an addition that was five stories high. Now that addition is 19 stories high and they are thinking about going higher."
So Brown returned to Havre with every reason to think that his surgery had been successful and that he could go on with his life.
"In May of 2001 when I was back there having a checkup, they found a spot on my lung. It was related to what I had before. They operated again and took the lower lobe off. The prognosis this time that it will reoccur is about 50-50. And I don't think I will be going back to Mayo again in May," Brown said, joking.
In looking back on the two bouts with cancer, Brown sees some differences.
"The first time I had cancer, I was devastated because you think you are invincible," Brown said. "I felt I had my feet kicked out from under me. And you know, the hardest of all was watching the people close to me. I was handling it fine but they were having a tougher time with it than I was."
The second bout was not nearly as tough on Brown.
"I said, I am here, let's get the job done.' And the next morning we were doing the surgery."
Remember that 50-50 chance of a reoccurrence? Well, those were Mayo Clinic's odds, not Brown's.
"I think we have got it whipped," Brown said. "First time the tumor was really huge and they were nervous about the operation. This time on the lung, it was smaller and there were no lymph nodes involved."
Brown has plenty of advise for those with or without cancer.
"The whole secret of cancer is early detection and don't let your immune system get down," Brown said.
That and attitude.
"You have to have a positive attitude. A lot of faith in your doctor and a lot of faith in the Lord. Those three things are really important," Brown said. "In fact I think you have to have all three to survive. When I first came down with it, a friend asked me if I was in denial because I was so blase about it all. But it was one of those deals. A little bump in the road. You get it handled. You don't want to sit around and let it eat you up."
And then there is the smelling of the roses along the way. That figures in as well.
"You take a second look at your life," he said with a smile. "You enjoy life more, rather than working a hundred hours a day."