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'All For Wade'

Kevin Cederstrom herald@eot.com While his senior classmates started the first day of school last month with hallway horseplay and a look ahead to their final year of high school, Wade Salo began his much different. Wade's first day of his senior ...

Kevin Cederstrom

herald@eot.com

While his senior classmates started the first day of school last month with hallway horseplay and a look ahead to their final year of high school, Wade Salo began his much different.

Wade's first day of his senior year at New York Mills High School started with chemotherapy.

The 17-year-old athlete was diagnosed with testicular cancer in August and has gone through two cycles of chemo, with one to begin Oct. 16 and a final cycle next month.

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The school and community as a whole have rallied to help Wade and his family out, and will hold a spaghetti feed benefit this Sunday. Wade's parents are Dean and Janelle Salo of rural NY Mills.

The benefit is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the school and will feature both silent and live auctions. Money raised will go to help the Salo family defray costs associated with traveling to Fargo for treatment.

School fundraisers, a community fundraiser, and endless support, "All For Wade" - a slogan developed by the senior class.

Discovery

Like so many games before this past summer, Wade, a talented athlete, was playing baseball. He got hit by a ball in early July. One of his testicles swelled but he kept playing for about a month thinking like other injuries, the swelling would go away. It didn't and in mid August he went to a doctor. On Aug. 17 he saw a urologist, and on Aug. 20 was in Fargo for exploratory surgery. Two days later the family received word Wade had testicular cancer. That day happened to be Dean and Janelle's 20th wedding anniversary.

An Aug. 28 CT scan showed the cancer had moved up to the lymph nodes in the abdomen, an indication this was a very aggressive type of cancer.

Shocked, Dean and Janelle went through a typical, yet brief, "Why Wade? Why Us?" stage. Reality quickly set in and treatment needed to start quickly.

"The first two weeks were hell... for me anyway," Dean says.

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The first chemo cycle was Sept. 3-8 at the Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo. Dean and Janelle drove Wade back and forth from NY Mills every day that week, trying to get a grasp on what was happening. The second cycle was Sept. 25-29. They relied on family for help in taking care of their other two children, Kenna, 6, and 4-year-old Bren.

"It was a whirlwind," Dean says of getting through the first couple cycles. "We've leaned on our family quite a bit."

Like many families in rural Minnesota, the Salos consider themselves private when it comes to matters such as this. But in taking Wade's cancer head-on, Dean, who is a teacher in the Perham-Dent School District, and Janelle, an administrative assistant at Perham Memorial Nursing Home, they needed help.

"Everybody in the community asks us: 'What can we do to help?", Janelle says. "It's hard for us to ask. We've never had to lean on anybody. But it's very important to realize you need help."

And this is small-town Minnesota, with countless people ready to help.

Wade's reaction

After being diagnosed Wade was in Fargo every day the last week of August for tests. Things moved pretty quickly.

"Honestly, I didn't think much of it, with all the tests and going to Fargo," he says. "I didn't have time to think."

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Wade did decide early on how he was going to handle the disease.

"You gotta stay positive just to get through this," he says. "You have to take it a step at a time, deal with one thing and move on to the next. Get over one obstacle then get over the next."

Doctors were upfront and honest from the start. Wade had cancer but it was very curable with a very high success rate.

"They told us if there is any type of cancer to have, this is the type you want," Janelle says.

Listening to encouraging words from the doctors was comforting but there is still the chance something could go wrong.

"You can't prepare for the whole thing," Dean comments. "You basically have to take it a week at a time. Now he's got it, now what do we have to do to beat it?"

Wade has a lot more than a positive attitude going for him. His classmates quickly got behind him and supported him. The senior class put together a fundraiser where the students sold pens with the "All For Wade" slogan printed on them. The pens raised over $1,600.

The senior class also gave him a DVD player with movies, and magazines.

When Wade started losing his hair during the first cycle he shaved his head. So did about 20 players on the football team. He had the support of his friends and the entire school. Not bad, since this is only his second year going to school in NY Mills. Wade transferred from Perham his junior year.

"Amazing," Wade says of what his classmates and teammates are doing.

They welcomed him to the school where he participated in baseball and football.

"It's not a great time to have cancer. It's nice to know you're accepted and it's a great community to be a part of."

Wade didn't go into the school blind, as he calls it. He already had friends there through sports and cousin Emily is part of the senior class. But still it was a new school.

Dean adds: "He had no problems fitting in. They accepted him and made him feel comfortable."

Treatment

The main side effects of chemotherapy are nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and tiredness. Since going through two cycles Wade has lost about 10 pounds from when he started at 165 pounds.

Chemo is four times a week (Tuesday through Saturday) every three weeks. Doctors implanted a port in his upper chest area for the I.V. each cycle. The chemo, which Wade says is basically poison to the body, is a slow drip that takes all day. Benedryl is also administered through the I.V. to help with nausea and allergic reactions. He was able to get some schoolwork done during the first couple cycles but the third and fourth are expected to be tougher.

The first week of chemo wasn't that bad, recalls Wade. "It didn't seem to phase me that much until Sunday. I think I slept all day Sunday."

Wade does miss school during treatment and the family did consider home schooling, but doctors advised that getting him in school as much as possible would help him through the battle.

"We decided that Wade needs to go to school and he needs to be with friends," Dean says. "The school has been great to us and the teachers have been wonderful."

The final cycle is scheduled to be complete Nov. 10, and additional treatment officially done Nov. 20. Wade's 18th birthday - his Golden Birthday - is Nov. 18.

"We hope to be cancer-free on his birthday. And by Thanksgiving we hope to be done and have a wonderful Thanksgiving," says Janelle, with tears welling in her eyes.

Looking ahead, Wade will undergo blood tests for five years.

Support system

Dean and Janelle say they are amazed at the amount of support they've received from friends, family, and many others in NY Mills, Perham and the surrounding area.

They are a private family and are somewhat taken aback by how the community has rallied around them. Now with Sunday's fundraiser shaping up to be bigger than many could imagine, the Salos are even more appreciative. The family does have insurance to cover much of the costs and were skeptical at first with the idea of a fundraiser.

"I didn't want a big fundraiser," Dean admits. "It's just hard for us to accept. But we're lucky where we live."

The Salos definitely appreciate the support and look at all the attention as an opportunity to help raise awareness to cancer.

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