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‘Get tested, get tested, get tested.’

Dale Jensen is 17-year survivor

June 4, 2019
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

Dale Jensen is a familiar voice in Emmet County, touting the benefits of living at Windsor Manor on the radio. A long-time Sunday School teacher and former farmer for 43 years in Ringsted, Jensen is also a long-time member of the Happy Hoofers Relay for Life team out of Ringsted.

"I swept by age 65, 30 years ago and until 2013 I helped the tenant on our farm," Jensen said.

Jensen and his wife, Marge, moved off the farm and into a condo. By then, Marge was showing the effects of Alzheimer's disease.

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It was the Jensens' kids who urged them to look at assisted living. Dale was cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and looking after Marge's medical needs.

"You can't go on like this. You'll wear out before Mom," the Jensen kids said.

One of those kids is now a great grandparent as Dale is patriarch of five generations. Family photos line his one-bedroom apartment, including one of Dale and Marge together, Dale's arm around Marge's shoulder.

Marge was a proud Norwegian, and Dale and Marge dressed in traditional garb, including a dress Marge made herself, to march and ride in parades for many years.

When Marge passed away January 10, 2018, the couple's daughters began gathering photos for the visitation slide show.

Dale smiled when he said, "The girls told me, 'Dad, you have your arm around Mom in every single one of these pictures.'"

Dale, who was a 4-H club leader, a junior high Sunday school teacher in the 1960s, said, "I was always feeling joy when I was helping somebody."

Dale was one of eight children growing up in a tenant farmer family in around Ringsted. Of his sisters who survived to adulthood, three are nurses. After their mother died of a stroke, his sisters urged him to see the head of internal medicine at the Mayo Clinic for an annual physical.

In 2001, the doctor told Dale, "Next year, let's get you in for a colonoscopy." At his first probe, doctors discovered Dale had colon cancer.

After six months of chemotherapy, Dale was free of cancer.

"It's important to get tested early. I had no symptoms," Dale said.

In 2004, the doctor said, "Let's check your prostate," and scheduled a PSA test and prostate biopsy for Dale. That test found cancer, too.

Dale spent the summer of 2004 driving each day to Spencer's Abben Cancer Center for radiation.

"I had no symptoms of prostate cancer, either," Dale said.

Hence, Dale has three things to say to his neighbors about their health: "Get tested, get tested, get tested."

Through all the chemo and radiation, one thing remained clear to Dale. "Whatever the good Lord's plan is, that's what will happen," Dale resolved.

Dale produced from his bookshelf a bible given to him at his confirmation in 1937.

"Dad lost the farm during the Depression. Eventually he rented 25 acres on a big acreage. We were poor during the Depression, but always had enough to eat because we grew our own food. In 1933, I was 10 and it was the depth of the Depression. He couldn't pay the rent and we were kicked off. The farmer asked him to leave. But we found that other farm to rent," Dale said.

Dale's father insisted all his kids pursue a high school diploma at a time when farm and manufacturing work did not require one. One of Dale's sisters died at age 14 of pneumonia. Another passed at age 26.

After high school and a stint in the service, Dale attended Iowa State University.

"The old way of farming meant you fed cattle hay and oats. We started adding protein to their diet with soybean meal. At the time, other farmers thought I was crazy, but then they wondered why our cows looked so full-bodied and had such glossy coats," Dale said.

Farming brought out some of Dale's resilience: "We always raised a crop no matter what the weather. We muddled through no matter what came before us," Dale said.

Dale's father and two of his sisters died of cancer, as well as two of his nieces while only in their 50s. One sister had colon cancer and recovered.

Reflecting on a long life, Dale said, "All that I've done doesn't make me one bit better than anyone else."



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