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Friday, May 6, 2016

Inspiration: Supt. Kwikkel turns cancer into learning opportunity

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Storm Lake's Dave Kwikkel is a dedicated educator, currently serving as superintendent in four school buildings - the Schaller Crestland School, the Galva-Holstein Elementary, the Ridge View Middle School and Ridge View High School.

He never passes up an opportunity to share a lesson that will improve someone's life.

He is currently and quietly being treated for cancer and he wants others to know the importance of going to the doctor when there is any inkling that something may not be right and how lucky Storm Lake is to have the professional medical staff it does.

While there are no dates for when he will retire, Kwikkel is looking ahead to that next chapter of his life. He does know that what he doesn't want to do is just sit at home and do nothing. He got it in his head that he could be a truck driver, in fact it turned into "a burning desire."

He learned before he could be issued an over-the-road license, he would need to go through a full medical exam. He jumped the gun and decided to get it done before the year ended.

That forethought may have made all the difference.

Following a colonoscopy, his physician, Dr. Barber, told him there was a problem spotted - a small tumor had been found. Through further evaluation it was determined the tumor in his colon was cancerous.

His first reaction, like most hearing of a cancer diagnosis, was, "Am I going to live?"

In December, Kwikkel went through a five-hour surgery with Dr. Jason Dierking.

"Storm Lake is blessed to have him," he said. "He is so good."

He spent five days in Buena Vista Regional Medical Center where, he says, "I was treated like a king."

The nursing care was exceptional as well, he said. And he thanks neighbor Don Gallagher who visited him daily. "He was my very own candy striper!" Kwikkel said.

As he looks back on his situation, he did notice a few body changes as far back as April, but blew them off, not mentioning them to anyone.

"It was probably denial," he said.

Had he waited longer to get in for his exam, he may not have had the prognosis he received, he believes.

It was caught early enough and while 17 of 18 lymph nodes were affected, his cancer was said to be "low grade."

Kwikkel has seen many of his own employees going through medical issues and he will forever look at them differently.

"My going through this has made me more sensitive. My empathy has definitely gone up."

While taking time to heal from the surgery over the holidays, he is putting in more hours at the school. He has been overwhelmed with the many "good wishers" from community members to parents of students to employees to students themselves.

Monday, after press time, he met with the oncology department to find out what is next in his journey. He is not worried about what is ahead because he has heard of the terrific care provided in the local oncology department.

"Dave's gonna be OK," he said. "I'm here and I have a chance. I'll keep smiling; it is what it is. I need to keep a positive attitude and move on."

He went on, "I feel bad for those who have lost someone to cancer. I want everyone to know how important it is to take care of yourself. Read the published symptoms and take things seriously; don't ignore it."

As an education profession, he plans to use every opportunity to help people learn about keeping themselves healthy, and how to deal with surviving life's serious challenges.

And as for that colonoscopy that so many people put off because of what they have heard, he said, "It's so easy. Just do it. It's fast and quick."

And it may just be a life-saver.

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