February 5, 1998 in Nation/World

A Big Dose Of Support For Cancer Patient Post Falls Doctor Heads For East Coast For Radical Cancer Treatment

By The Spokesman-Review

As the seeds of cancer spread in Colin Cross, the compassion of a community blossomed.

Cross, a Post Falls family doctor, is heading back East on Sunday for radical surgery that could prolong his life.

It also might fail, robbing Post Falls of one of its favorite fellows.

Well-wishers filled the spacious lobby of the KMC Health Park Wednesday evening for a surgery send-off party. Friends, patients, neighbors, co-workers and fans stood in line to dispense the simplest form of medicine to the 43-year-old doctor.

“I do hope I can hug everybody,” Cross told the crowd. “I think that positive energy will do me a lot of good.”

The surgery, scheduled Tuesday at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, is not standard procedure. It involves removing as many tumors as possible from Cross’ abdomen and then bombarding his insides with chemicals designed to kill the remaining cancer cells.

“They’re using me as a research animal, but I have a lot to gain from it,” Cross said earlier Wednesday. His chances of dying from the procedure are low, but the odds of being cured are slim, too.

“It’s just going to be miserable,” Cross said. And he knows how miserable feels.

His ordeal began in the fall of 1995 when he was first diagnosed with abdominal cancer. After the initial surgery, Cross underwent chemotherapy for a year.

“No one can tell me I don’t know what morning sickness is like,” he said. The nausea and exhaustion dogged him relentlessly.

When the chemo was over, Cross felt great. He threw himself into building up his practice and keeping his family on track while his wife, Susie, finished her master’s degree in nursing.

“All the tests were normal, and then it was a real blow at Christmas time,” he said. “We’d been lulled into a false sense of security.”

Just before this Christmas, Cross experienced more pain in his stomach that he thought was a hernia from scarring. Surgery proved that the cancer was back.

“At that time, it was a very grim prognosis. It stopped us dead in our tracks,” he said. “I was thinking it was going to be my last Christmas.”

Again the family turned to colleagues, family and friends to help them through. Again his three children, ages 8, 10 and 11, had to face the prospect of losing their father. And again, Cross was reminded of how precious life is.

“It’s a real reality adjuster,” Cross said. “We have a real tenuous grip on life, even though we live in a blessed age and a blessed country.”

Cross researched his options, having exhausted all the routine treatments, and found the work being done in Bethesda, Md., by the National Institute of Health. Doctors there told him he was a prime candidate.

Now, hope has returned.

At Wednesday’s party, Cross won applause when he vowed to come back and vote for the upcoming school bond election in March.

The New Zealand native became a naturalized U.S. citizen about a month ago. Cross has campaigned for past school bond elections, and testified on growth issues at City Hall, even though he couldn’t vote.

Patients say Cross goes out of his way to care for them, too.

He’s among a rare breed that makes house calls and phones patients at home to check up on them. When Post Falls librarian Joe Reiss fell and injured his pelvis, Cross regularly visited him at home to give him morphine.

“He’s a hell of a guy,” Reiss said. “If you were asked if you’d trade places with him in this kind of predicament, you’d have to think twice…This guy’s got a lot to give.”

When asked why she was at the send-off party, patient Kay Nelson said, “Why, we love him!”

Nelson claims she couldn’t have stopped smoking or lose 60 pounds without Cross’ encouragement. Her daughter, Amy Schomer, pregnant with her fourth child, is sorry Dr. Cross won’t be back at work by her mid-March delivery date.

“He’s good for what ails ya’,” Nelson said.

Someone asked Susie Cross what she would do if her husband died - if she’d leave town.

Out of the question, she answered.

“This community has been unbelievable to us,” she said. “This is our home, our kids love it here. There’s no way we’d leave.”

Cross intends to be back at work by the end of March. But just in case, he and Susie are also “putting out feelers” for a possible buyer of the practice. Susie Cross plans to stay working there as a nurse practitioner.

“It’s not the highest bidder, but the right person,” she said. “Someone who really cares about people.”

“I’m hoping that’s me,” Colin Cross said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Color Photos

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