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Cancer claims a friend

One of my least favorite chores in production of a weekly newspaper is writing a column. Actually, I don't mind writing it, it's just that I'm not very good at it. I struggle to find topics to write about and sometimes it's just ramblings of a raving madmen.
One thing I've always tried to do in this space is stay upbeat and positive. However, there are times when that just isn't possible. Like this week, when I was stunned to learn the loss of a friend. I had planned to write about something else here, but not when I knew sharing about my friend who lost his battle to cancer was more important.
I don't know where I saw or heard it, but whoever said, "Cancer sucks!" hit the nail on head. I don't think it can be put any more succinctly, especially when it takes the life of someone you know, and even worse, the life of a loved one.
That was the case for me when I learned that 1985 Windom Area High School graduate Greg Lohrenz passed away over the weekend after a battle with Stage IV Colangiocarcinoma. It's a rare cancer with only 8,000 cases diagnosed each year. According to Greg's Facebook post in November, just after he had finished his third round of chemotherapy, "because it is such a rare cancer, research and clinical studies lag severely behind other more common types of cancer."
Greg was diagnosed in early September and, of course, when you hear "Stage IV" when it comes to cancer, it's never good. However, I know people in an advanced cancer stage who have beaten the cancer and lived productive lives. Unfortunately, that was not the case for Greg, most likely because it was a more rare cancer.
Greg and I haven't kept in close contact over the years. When he graduated from high school, he went his way and I got married and went mine. Still, I consider Greg a friend because when we did see each other, it was always with mutually big smiles and hearty handshakes. That was the case when Greg and his family were in Windom for homecoming coronation in 2017, when his nephew, Christian, was a king candidate. The years melted away quickly and we briefly shared what was going on in our lives.
That was the last time I saw Greg.
Greg and I became friends when I began attending his church, Windom Free. He was in youth group and I became a youth group leader/helper at the church. To be honest, I was more helper than leader and because there were just six years between us, I was probably as much a student in the youth group as was Greg.
Greg played football, basketball and ran track as a student-athlete at WAHS. We connected quickly because I was writing sports at the Citizen then. His best sport was track, having earned a spot in the state track meet in the 100-meter dash both his junior and senior years.
His high school track coach Lyle Riebe said at the time, "He's extremely intense when it comes to competition. He rises to the occasion . . . He has been a real contributor to the program in his attitude in practice."
It was that attitude and his intensity in competition that I had hoped and prayed would be the keys for him beating his cancer. Sadly, sometimes the cancer wins.
Yes, cancer sucks!
My deepest, heartfelt condolences to his parents, Stan and Marge, and his brother, Jason. I join you in grieving his loss.


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