By Starrla Cray
MONTROSE, DELANO, MN Cancer may be threatening his life, but 48-year-old Ron Banta remains full of hope, gratitude, and selflessness.
“I thank God for my blessings,” he said. “Every time I go in for treatment, I see people who are worse off than I am.”
With Banta’s Stage 3B non-small cell lung cancer diagnosis, it’s rare for a person to live beyond two years.
“It’s not a good prognosis,” he acknowledged, but added that he isn’t giving up.
“There’s always a miracle, and that’s what we’re all praying for and working toward,” Banta said. “I’m fighting, and I don’t listen to the odds. I’m going to make my own future, and be around for a long time, hopefully.”
A benefit to help cover Banta’s medical expenses will take place Saturday, May 15 at Dave’s Town Club in Delano, with a breakfast buffet from 8 to 11:30 a.m. and a silent auction from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. There will also be a bake sale throughout the event, and chair massages from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The breakfast cost for adults is $8, and children 10 and under are $5. There will be pancakes, French toast sticks, scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, meat, fruit, and donuts.
The silent auction will feature Vikings and other sport items, jewelry, household items, oil changes, children’s toys, restaurant gift certificates, hotel stays, and more.
“Any kind of donations would be awesome,” said Robin Harkess of Delano, who is helping to organize the benefit.
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans will provide a matching donation for the money made from the benefit, up to a certain amount.
Banta, who lives in Montrose with his wife, Patti, said he is extremely grateful for the people who have been helping their family through this crisis.
“There are change jars at the local businesses, and I’m surprised that so many people have donated,” Banta said. “A lot of them probably don’t even know me.”
Banta said that he knows that financial situations are tight for many people right now, which makes him even more grateful for the help.
“It really makes a person happy,” he said. “It’s so nice of them to donate. In these times, $5 or $10 is a lot of money I understand that.”
Finances have been tough for the Banta family, as well. Banta was laid off from his woodworking job in Rockford in December 2008.
At that time, he had no idea that he’d be facing a life-threatening illness a year later.
At first, Banta had health insurance through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), which gives laid-off workers the opportunity to continue with the same provider.
Shortly after COBRA expired, Banta was diagnosed with cancer. With no insurance, the chemotherapy and radiation treatments were “quite expensive,” he said.
So far, Banta has undergone about 40 radiation sessions, and 14 out of 18 chemotherapy treatments.
Radiation therapy was nearly $10,000 per week, and each chemo treatment costs about $5,000.
“I make payments, and I’m doing what I can,” Banta said.
He recently was approved for Minnesota Care, and has also been utilizing resources from non-profit organizations. The money that Patti makes through her own cleaning service also helps, Banta said.
Living with cancer
When Banta developed a cough, shortness of breath, and pain in his lungs last September, he assumed it was bronchitis or pneumonia.
He went into the doctor early in October, and they tried giving him medicine. When that didn’t work, he underwent more tests.
A call on Dec. 7 confirmed Banta’s fears. He was diagnosed with the second to last stage of lung cancer, which means that it had spread to his lymph nodes.
“It can happen to anybody,” he said.
Since then, Banta has been trying to make the best out of a tough situation. He faces constant fatigue, and the radiation treatment burned his esophagus.
“It was very painful to eat,” Banta said. He has lost 25 pounds since his diagnosis, but has been trying to keep weight on and eat nutritiously.
Banta’s doctors have decided to take a break from chemotherapy once his last four treatments are over.
“The negatives outweigh the positives after a certain amount of time,” Banta said.
After his body has had a chance to heal, they will decide on a new treatment plan.
“For me, the best medicine is people calling and seeing how I’m doing,” Banta said. “I’ve got more friends than I thought.”
Banta said he’s accepted the fact that he could die from cancer, but is mainly concerned for his wife, five children, and seven grandchildren.
“The hardest part for me, emotionally, is thinking about my family,” he said. “I certainly don’t want them going through any hardships.”
Banta and Patti will be celebrating their 10th anniversary Saturday, June 26.
“I’m trying to figure out something to surprise her with,” Banta said.
Patti, whose maiden name is Morrissette, grew up in the Montrose area, and Banta is originally from Minneapolis. Banta has been in the Montrose/Delano area for the past 12 years.
For more information about the benefit or to donate items for the bake sale or silent auction, contact Robin Harkess at (952) 955-3988.