Young woman is battling cancer
By Jen Bakken
DELANO, MN Independent is a word that very well could have described 24-year-old Betsy Elsen of Delano and how she lived life before cancer entered her world.
“I was independent, self-sufficient, living on my own, and loving grad school,” Elsen said. “Then all of a sudden, I got sick, and I’m back home, out of school, with so many complications.”
With the help of web sites like www.caringbridge.org and www.facebook.com, Elsen and her family and friends have been able to keep in touch.
As a 2003 graduate of Delano High School, Elsen has many classmates who have been sending well wishes and prayers, including Cati (Martinson) Holker.
“My heart just aches for her,” said Holker. “I really wanted to do something, anything to help.”
Wanting to help led Holker to the idea of having a benefit for Elsen.
Holker works for lia sophia, a jewelry company, and is hosting a jewelry party/benefit Friday, April 17, from 5 to 9 p.m. at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Delano.
For Elsen, the struggle began with meningitis in October 2008, and following four days in the hospital and at-home IV antibiotics, Elsen seemed to recover.
Unfortunately, her meningitis symptoms returned Dec. 5, and after some medical tests, a mass was found wrapped around her spinal cord.
Surgery was performed to attempt removal of the tumor, but complications occurred, and surgery had to be stopped leaving 5 to 10 percent of the tumor still wrapped around her spinal cord.
“This type of tumor is very rare, and to find one in the spinal cord is even more rare,” said Lori Elsen, Betsy’s mother. “There are only two other reported cases of this tumor in the world, and those cases did not spread away from the primary tumor site like Betsy’s now has.”
Following the surgery, Betsy awoke to extreme pain, weakness, and numbness in different parts of her body.
After four weeks in a rehabilitation center, Betsy was able to return to her parents home in Delano.
In February, Betsy began chemotherapy infusions to treat the remaining tumor and cells that have spread to her outer brain lining, brain stem and new areas in the spinal cord.
Fortunately, Betsy is walking short distances without crutches, and has regained some of her strength while continuing to work on her balance and stamina.
There have been many complications, including abdominal pain, nausea, and severe fatigue. Most days, for Betsy, are spent in bed and sometimes just getting dressed can completely exhaust her.
“My mom has totally been my caregiver,” said Betsy. “In this whole thing, she has stayed really strong. Her just being there, I’m so thankful for, my dad, my family and friends, they’ve all been supportive.”
Just as the word independent could have been used to describe Betsy and her life before cancer courageous can define her now, during her battle with cancer.
“The hardest part is when people ask how I am doing,” said Lori. “Because she (Betsy) is going through so much more. She’s only had one day where she’s felt good in about four months, and she’s been in the hospital more than at home.”
Betsy’s parents, Lori and Larry Elsen are 1983 Delano High School graduates and high school sweethearts. They have five children Betsy (24), Sara (21), Ben (18), Anna (13), and Grace (3).
Lori’s parents, Mike and Pat Czock and Maxine and Lowell Johnson live in Delano and Larry’s mother, Eileen Elsen, lives in Loretto.
As parents, they are trying to keep things as normal as they can for Betsy and the rest of their family.
“You just take one little thing at a time,” said Lori. “We have a big extended family and that helps a lot.”
For Betsy, part of giving up her independence means putting her goals on hold. She is currently half way through a three year social work graduate program at the University of St. Thomas and doing an internship at Children’s Home Society and Family Services in the field of international adoption.
“I love being involved in social work, social justice, school events and volunteering” she said. “Working with families adopting internationally is what I hope I can do someday. I just love it.”
Though much of Betsy’s future is uncertain at this time, the fact that she is a courageous young woman with extremely caring family and friends surrounding her, is very apparent.
“The Caringbridge site is therapeutic for me, since I kind of live in a bubble and don’t see a lot of people,” said Lori. “The support from family and friends has been great, and for Cati to host this benefit when we don’t know her very well, the Lord put on her heart to help Betsy. We are so grateful for the support and all of the prayers.”
Benefit for Betsy
The jewelry and generosity benefit for Betsy Elsen will be Friday, April 17, from 5 to 9 p.m. at St. Peter’s Church in Delano.
For more information regarding the benefit contact Cati Holker at (763) 360-4749, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Orders can also be placed online by visiting www.liasophia.com/mywordsoflove, and using the hostess name Betsy Elsen.
All profits from jewelry sales will be donated directly to the Elsen family. Donations can be sent to the Betsy Elsen benefit, Crow River State Bank, PO Box B2, Delano, MN. 55328.
For updates on Betsy’s condition visit www.caringbridge.org/visit/betsyelsen.