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Published July 13, 2010, 12:00 AM

One of Roger Maris Cancer Center's first patients reunites with doctor, nurse

Twenty years have passed since Carl Sad first walked into the Roger Maris Cancer Center.

Twenty years have passed since Carl Sad first walked into the Roger Maris

Cancer Center.

The memories, though, haven’t faded.

Which is why returning to MeritCare’s center in Fargo on Monday to celebrate its 20th year brought the Cooperstown, N.D., resident to tears.

“It’s very emotional,” the 40-year-old said. “Just walking up to the building, it just brings everything back … the anxiety, the fear, the tension.”

That is, until he saw Louis Geeraerts and Claudia Axvig.

Reuniting with his oncologist and “favorite nurse” more than a decade after his last hospital visit was a more joyful moment.

“I would’ve recognized you from the street I think,” Axvig said. “It wasn’t always easy, but we had some good times, too.”

Before the center, patients went to multiple places for treatment and doctors like Geeraerts gave chemotherapy treatments, he said, in a “small corner” of the Fargo clinic.

When the center opened in July 1990, it eased things for both medical staff and patients – one of the first of which was Sad, who had just been diagnosed with testicular cancer.

For weeks, the 18-year-old trekked more than an hour from his hometown of Dazey, N.D., to Fargo five days a week for treatment.

The center became his second home as he went through six weeks of chemotherapy and years of hospital visits. While the experience was trying, he said he was reassured whenever he saw Geeraerts and Axvig.

However, he was still left wondering, “Is there going to be any life after this?”

Twenty years later, there’s no question life has gone on.

As a chiropractor and mayor of Cooperstown, a city of about 900 people 100 miles northwest of Fargo, Sad has a busy life with his wife, Kerry, and their 1-year-old “miracle baby,” Aislyn.

“I’m really happy to see that he was able to have a happy life after (treatment),” Geeraerts said.

Since 1990, the cancer center has seen an estimated 400,000 patient visits. For Sad, he credits people like his doctor and nurse not just for saving his life, but making the center more than just a hospital.

“This place has helped so many people I know personally,” he said. “This isn’t just a place to get treatment; these people care about you.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515