September 21, 2017

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I Care for the Community that Cares for Me!

Alan Olson, MD

Alan Olson, MD, Family Medicine, ACMC-Redwood Falls

I guess when I look back you could probably ask my classmates and they would tell you that it was as early as sixth grade that I knew that I wanted to be a doctor. I grew up in rural Spicer, Minn., and I knew that this was the size of community I wanted to practice medicine in after medical school and residency. It seems people that live in small towns do a lot more to take care of each other, that’s what I’ve found here in Redwood Falls.

When the doctor becomes the patient

I’ve been caring for my friends in the Redwood Falls community for nineteen years now. I found out just how much they care about me almost two years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer. It all happened so fast! When I found out something was wrong my wife, Laura, was out of the state for work; lucky she was able to fly home to be with me. Our friends helped us by keeping our three children distracted until we knew exactly what it was we were dealing with and what the outcome might be. The news was shocking to find that I had early stage four colon cancer. I was quickly rushed off to surgery where the part of my colon as well as the five lymph nodes affected were removed. The good news was that with surgery alone, I was looking at a twelve percent chance that I was cured. Looking for better odds, we chose the chemotherapy route which would improve the five-year survival rate to 50 percent or better.

Overwhelming support

The day I came home from the hospital after surgery, I opened the door to sixty-five cards waiting for me; not to mention the many cards and flowers I received while in the hospital. The support from the community was very overwhelming and to this day people still ask me how I’m doing just as much as I ask them.

My partners were also very supportive; they took me off the call schedule and told me to focus on getting better. ACMC as an organization stressed that I do whatever I needed to do to get better. My biggest struggle was with the chemotherapy. I was fatigued and tired and it was sometimes hard to make it through an entire day. I would see patients in the morning, take a long hard nap over lunch and then would be back in the afternoon to see patients again. It was hard to keep my practice going, but I had a great community of people that understood I needed to cut back so that I could get healthy.

So far I have no residual signs of re-occurrence and will be cancer free for two years in February. I think the whole experience gives me a little different perspective both medically and psychologically after being on the other side of a diagnosis and treatment.

A fresh start

I’m back to work full time now and feeling good! I’ve gotten back into the focus on my profession and had the distinct honor of filling the presidency for the Minnesota Association of Family Practice Physicians this past April. I was nominated by my peer group of about 3500 or so practicing members, medical students and retired physicians. Being involved at this level helps me to stay current in my practice and I get to rub elbows with physicians from all over the state. It’s been a great opportunity.

Practicing medicine for ACMC in Redwood Falls has really allowed me to be the kind of doctor I envisioned. Being a family physician in a small town allows me to have long lasting relationships with my patients. That helps me to give them better care over the course of time. What I like the best about my job is that I get to come to work every day and take care of my friends!

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