Living with Cancer
Dean Tessmer and family fighting prostate cancer; fundraiser to help on April 22
His cancer has progressed to the point where he cannot be cured, but he can prevent it from spreading. Recently he began taking part in an experimental trial with UCLA, but because the drug in the trial is experimental, insurance will not cover the cost.
In order to fund the treatments Tessmer’s friends and family are holding a fundraising benefit from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 22 at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church. The fundraiser will include a pancake breakfast, bake sale and silent auction.
Tessmer’s cancer journey began in 2010. He was 53 years old when he went to New Ulm Medical Center for a routine physical. During the check up his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) was elevated and he needed to come back again in three months for another check. In hiis follow-up appointment Tessmer recorded a higher PSA. He was referred to a urologist in Mankato. In June 2010, a biopsy confirmed he had cancer and his life changed forever.
Since being diagnosed with cancer Tessmer has done everything possible to fight back with support from his wife JoEllen and children Ryan Tessmer and Katie Thayer.
“I can remember being told I had cancer and both JoEllen and I thought I would go in and have surgery and it would be done,” Tessmer said.
His first step was to undergo robotic surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Unfortunately his cancer metastasized, spreading to other parts of the body, and curing the disease became impossible. Instead the goal became preventing the spread.
“I don’t think we realized through the first three years how serious this was,” Tessmer said. It was only after his second surgery they were informed it was life-threatening condition.
Tessmer said that outside of the surgeries he feels fine with minimal pain, but the doctors informed him his cancer was never going away. Fortunately it is treatable.
For the last several years Tessmer has taken hormone therapy every three months. This stops the spread of prostate cancer, which feeds on testosterone.
“Twenty years ago, if I had been diagnosed with my cancer I don’t think I would be here today,” Tessmer said. “With what treatments have come out since I’ve been diagnosed have prolonged my life and kept me going.”
Over the years Tessmer has undergone multiple surgeries, taken different medications and gone through chemotherapy.
For the first five years Tessmer was able to keep working at AMPI, but three years ago his family advised him to take an early retirement at 58 years old.
“That was one of the hardest things I had to do,” Tessmer said. He worked for AMPI for 37 years and may of his co-workers were like family.
Despite the early the hardship and setback Tessmer remains optimistic. Living in New Ulm gives him convenient access to the New Ulm Medical Center Virginia Piper Cancer Institute for his regular checkups and treatments.
“I’ve got nothing but good things to say about our cancer institute in New Ulm,” Tessmer said. “The team they have is amazing.”
Tessmer was impressed with the facility and since retiring has volunteered his time there.
JoEllen agreed. “They are out to take care of the whole person,” she said.
Vicky Hoffmann at NUMC’s Cancer Treatment Center center praised Tessmer’s work with the program.
“He has such a positive attitude and patients like seeing him,” Hoffmann said. Tessmer is one of 25 volunteers working at the Cancer Center. The volunteers cater to the needs of cancer patients undergoing treatments.
Hoffmann said many of the volunteers at the center are like Tessmer and have gone through cancer treatments too, which helps them relate.
“I enjoy talking to people about my story,” Tessmer said. “I think I’ve helped some people with their battle.”
Tessmer is grateful for the relative ease of his cancer treatments. He has met other cancer patients who are less fortunate. Despite his aggressive cancer, he has been fortunate to feel little pain and hopes to keep it that way.
“I’ve had a great life, but I am not ready to throw in the towel yet,” he said.
Tessmer has tried every FDA approved treatment for cancer, meaning he is now looking for experimental treatments.
He was accepted into a clinical trial for a new cancer treatment program at UCLA in California. His first treatment at UCLA was on March 12. The treatment is done every two month. Tessmer will fly back out to California for another treatment on May 7.
“Unfortunately it is not free,” Tessmer said. Since it is not an FDA approved treatment it is not covered by insurance. This is why the fundraiser is needed.
The Tessmers have a GoFundMe account sent up at www.gofundme.com/HelpAndHopeForDean with the goal of raising $70,000. The treatment cost is $11,000 but other expenses, like travel costs increases cost.
Tessmer is hopeful the treatment will pass through the clinical trials and receive FDA approval. If it proves effective and the FDA approves the treatment Tessmer will be able to continue using it.
JoEllen Tessmer wanted to thank everyone who worked hard to put the fundraiser together.
“Thank you to everyone who’s donations are helping make it possible for Dean to participate in this clinical trial,” she said. “We are so grateful for all the prayers and support we’ve received from friends, strangers, family, our church and the community,”