Support pours out to Cassopolis farmer

Published 4:40 am Friday, December 12, 2003

By By MARCIA STEFFENS / Cassopolis Vigilant
CASSOPOLIS -- Except for when he turns the side of his head where the hair hasn't grown back and you see the raised area that's healing where the stitches were removed, you wouldn't know Lance Purkhiser, 38, has a brain tumor.
His rapid recovery since Nov. 20 when he had a mass the size of a fist removed, has even surprised his doctors.
Lance's story starts back in August of 2001, both the story of the tumor and the story of meeting his wife.
He had just met Diann Boomershine of Elkhart, Ind. and one week later had a grand mal seizure. A corn, soy bean and hog farmer on Gage St., east of O'Keefe St. in Cass County, Lance was with his brother Ty and a salesman when the seizure occurred. "Thirty minutes later I woke up in Lee Memorial Hospital drenched in sweat," he said.
A month later after a CAT scan and then a MRI, a brain tumor was confirmed -- the size of a softball.
Unfortunately unlike a ball, it was similar to an octopus, Diann explained, with fingers extending and interwoven in his brain.
He went from Kalamazoo doctors to Mayo Clinic and finally to Duke Medical Center in North Carolina. He was put on anti-seizure medicine.
In 2002 a biopsy showed the tumor to be a stage two, slow growing. They watched and checked with a MRI every 60 days and used non-evasive chemotherapy.
From September to November one spot had doubled in size. On Nov. 20th this year he returned to Duke and 90 percent was removed. A newer part was found to be in stage four.
Two days after surgery he was up and at the hotel with his wife, who he continued to date and married this past March.
Lucky for him she is a nurse, now taking a leave from working in Three Rivers to be with her number one patient. She even saved him a trip to the hospital and removed his stitches herself.
Lance will be taking six weeks of radiation and then another MRI. He will be receiving chemotherapy through an IV for an hour, one day a week in South Bend, Ind.
They feel fortunate he had been monitored so well and that the tumor caught in time.
Since they took out "a fist full of brain matter, I can really call him an airhead," Diann joked. She admits he sometimes is forgetful, but questions if it is just because "he is a man." When she gives him a hint, he usually can recall what he forgot.
She thought he was joking when he first told her he had a brain tumor. They had only been out twice. Still she thought, "it could happen to anyone. I could go home and get hit by a truck."
Lance grew up in Cassopolis, returning to Cass County from studying animal science from Michigan State in East Lansing. His father Dale, a professor of animal science worked for the Michigan State Agriculture Extension office in Cass for 32 years. He died in February, 2002 of skin cancer.
Lance's illness came as a shock to his family and friends, as he had never been sick. His health, Diann added, "is a bonus in recovery."
Another bonus are the many prayers which have been going out to Lance from people in the community, their families and friends and church communities.
Rachelle and Brian McKenzie, who wanted to find another way to help, have put together a pancake breakfast and bake sale will be held at the United Presbyterian Church across from Arby's in Cassopolis, Saturday, Dec. 13 from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m.
Lifelong friends and fellow farmers, like the Meskos, Bob File and Brad Walker, have come forward to donate food and time to cook. "That everyone's coming together makes you feel good," said Diann. "Lance will be overwhelmed."