Former cancer patient embraces life

Jim Walberg has always lived his life to the fullest. He started two successful businesses and participated in sporting events, including triathlons and marathons, just to name a couple. Since overcoming both prostate cancer and a nasty tumor on his pituitary gland, not to mention losing his colon to ulcerative colitis, his zest for life hasn’t wavered.

“My life is incredible,” says 70-year old Walberg who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. “I’m more active than most people I know.”

In addition to managing his real estate business, he frequently travels, sails, exercises and socializes with his extensive network of friends. He promotes cancer awareness by reminding all his male friends to get screened for prostate cancer. And, since he typically sports a mustache, he supports the Movember campaign, which encourages men (and women) to grow or don mustaches during the month of November to improve awareness of testicular cancer.

Walberg also actively participates in Cycle for Survival, a fundraiser for research of rare cancers. Cycling in a spinning studio, his team has raised nearly half a million dollars over the last five years. Every nickel goes to fund research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Center in New York City.

“That does not appear to be someone who is just ‘surviving’,” says Walberg. “I would call that ‘thriving’.” He explains that the term “cancer survivor” reminds him of the time “when I was down to 135 pounds and crawling across the finish line of beating cancer.”

In those days, Walberg’s illnesses kept him in the hospital for long stretches not just once, but three times: in 2001 for prostate cancer, 2004 for ulcerative colitis and 2011 for a tumor on his pituitary gland. All the while, his wife, Ann Marie Nugent, took on his share of responsibilities in their business, while also raising their children and tending to him in the hospital.

“When a health crisis shows up, it’s like a bomb going off in a family,” he says.

Overwhelmed by all the demands, Nugent simply didn’t have the time to email updates to their family and friends. She even stopped answering their many phone calls. While they were ready and willing to help, Walberg says, reaching out to them required too much energy and time.

The Outpatient app, Walberg says, would’ve made life much easier for his wife and family and friends. With a simple message on Outpatient, “she could’ve easily enlisted the help that was there.” He also likes Outpatient because it holds all the crucial information on patient care. From changing bandages to taking medications to return appointments, family caregivers simply turn to Outpatient to get the details. Walberg suggests giving the task of inputting all the necessary information to the hospital, such as bedside nurses who already instruct patients and their families on how to continue care at home.

“You go home with a pile of paper and meds. Now you have to figure out how to do it correctly,” says Walberg of the self-care instructions. “It’s just overwhelming.

“In a perfect world, the hospital would provide [Outpatient] for the patient. They could begin enlisting people to participate in the patient’s care in the midst of a crisis. That would be brilliant,” he says.

As Walberg reflects back on those difficult days, he says that he’s amazed by how his wife was able to shoulder all the pressure and responsibilities.

“Ann Marie is truly my family champion,” he says. “She’s why I’m still here today.”

Laura Lane

Author Laura Lane

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