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BISMARCK, N.D ()— According to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, approximately every nine minutes, someone in the US dies from a blood cancer. Leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma are the causes of death for about 57,000 people in the US this year. The estimated new cases in cancer overall in North Dakota is about 4,000, with 1,300 deaths in this year alone.

When it comes down to blood cancer in particular, there are 160 cases of leukemia, and 70 deaths this year in North Dakota.

According to lls.org, one in three people can’t actually identify the symptoms, but blood cancer gives itself away through swollen gums, recurrent infections, excess bleeding, shortness of breath, low back pain in the elderly, generalized weakness, and prolonged fevers. It is highly encouraged to see a doctor if you’re feeling any of these symptoms.

Some may ask, what is blood cancer? “Blood Cancer is pretty prevalent, it’s one of those things that can sneak up on you” explains BSN, RN, OCN Samantha Wagner at Sanford Medical Center. Most blood cancers start in the bone marrow, where blood cells are produced and
they often spiral when abnormal blood cells grow out of control.

September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, and KX News visited with Larry Brenno, a blood cancer patient at Sanford Medical Center.

It’s been a great challenge for patients like Brenno, who is fighting multiple cancers with one of them being blood cancer. Larry has stomach cancer, blood cancer, and lung cancer, and although some may hear this and think the worst, Larry says he lives a pretty normal life.

“I worked the next day after chemo and I was sick, was pretty sick,” Larry says, “but I was at the shop looking after people. You can’t quit. The main thing in life is if you got any kind of cancer just work, keep going.”

Larry was actually diagnosed with blood cancer first, but with the treatment we have today and his doctors catching it at a good stage, he says it’s what saved him.

And although, Larry has to take a trip to Sandford Medical Center every two months to do chemotherapy, he says having the condition made his heart bigger and he will continue to work with others and show them, “no matter what, you cannot give up.”

“We can’t go sit on a couch and feel sorry for ourselves and in two months you’re all crippled up and then you’re done, so for the people out there who have this problem, fight it!” Larry says.

Samantha Wagner, a nurse at Sanford Medical Center for over eight years, says working with blood cancer patients is extremely rewarding when you get to see how far they’ve come.

“We get to be a part of their journey, we get to be with them beginning to end, we get to see their fight, we get to meet their families, we get to see all of their struggles all of their triumphs, it’s wonderful” she says.

Wagner says she admires Larry and is proud to see how far he’s come throughout his journey. “You know, Larry is a fighter, he is just one of those people who doesn’t stop and that’s the fighting spirit that we come to love in a lot of our patients,” she says.

KX News also heard from Larry Brenno’s doctor who says, “Larry has had lymphoma for over 8-10 years and he recently had a recurrence. There are many new treatments for blood cancers so patients, like Larry, are living longer with a good, quality life.”

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