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Man plans to survive cancer for the fourth time

Chris Satterlee shouldn't be alive. He shouldn't have a 2-year-old son from whom he hides the TV because of a fascination with "VeggieTales." He shouldn't have a wife, his small north Moorhead home or a career in computers - his passion for more ...


Chris Satterlee shouldn't be alive.

He shouldn't have a 2-year-old son from whom he hides the TV because of a fascination with "VeggieTales."

He shouldn't have a wife, his small north Moorhead home or a career in computers - his passion for more than 12 years.

"Statistically, I should have been dead long ago," said 29-year-old Satterlee, who has battled cancer most of his life and was diagnosed with the incurable disease three months ago for the fourth time. "I defy all logical statistics."

His fourth battle against cancer started in early October when his doctor at the MeritCare Roger Maris Cancer Center in Fargo discovered tumors spread throughout his midsection during a routine checkup.


He began chemotherapy Thursday for a form of lymphoma from which 90 percent to 95 percent of patients recover.

Satterlee vows to take a positive approach into his latest battle.

"When I got the second and third ones, I asked myself, 'Why do I have to suffer this much?' " Satterlee said. "Now it's, 'Why am I being given so many chances at life?' God is keeping me alive. I think I owe this to help other people."

His triumphant battles in an ongoing war against cancer have produced miracles, he said.

Doctors told him 15 years ago that powerful chemotherapy drugs - some of which were experimental at the time - would cripple his ability to have children. He defied those dire predictions in September 2003 when his wife gave birth to the couple's first child, Marcus.

"We were ecstatic when we found out we were pregnant," said Satterlee's wife, Joan, who's expecting a second child - a girl - in February.

His career in computers may also blossom.

Satterlee is the computer service manager at Fargo's Computer Renaissance.


He's on track to graduate this spring from the University of Mary in Fargo with a computer science degree. He plans to pursue a master's degree in the near future.

"Chris is amazing. You can't know how you'd react knowing what he's going through," said Corey Delorme, owner of Computer Renaissance. "He's always concerned about work getting done in the store and my feelings. I try to instill that he needs to take care of himself and not worry about those things."

Catherine Satterlee, Chris' mother, began worrying about her son the day he was born. Her predisposition that he would have a difficult life proved eerily accurate.

What she believed was mumps that caused Chris' chest and neck to swell at age 7 turned out to be non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, his first clash with cancer.

Satterlee underwent 10 days of radiation treatment at the outset. Eighteen months of chemotherapy followed, which at times left him seriously ill and weak.

His elementary school furnished fold-out cots in the back of classrooms in case he grew tired. Garbage baskets were placed next to the cots so Satterlee wouldn't have to sprint to the bathroom to throw up.

The cancer was in remission for five years after his last treatment, leaving Satterlee and his family with the belief of an impending normal life.

But the disease struck again at age 15.


He was diagnosed with colon cancer and had surgery to remove hazardous polyps. Doctors prescribed a year of chemotherapy.

But constantly being sick from treatments wore our Satterlee. After six months, he pulled the IV from his arm that was used to funnel drugs into his body and handed it to his father, Ward.

He couldn't tolerate puking - even blood at times - five or six times per day. "It was like having a major bout of the flu the first few days" after chemo began, he said.

It took five years to overcome the colon cancer.

At age 18, doctors removed his thyroid after finding it was infested with hundreds of polyps. He later had his colon removed and digestive systems reconfigured at United Children's Hospital in St. Paul.

His third bout with cancer proved the most frightening.

Satterlee's wife urged him to visit the doctor in January 2004 because of fainting spells at home. Doctors discovered his hemoglobin levels were low, so he was rushed to the Roger Maris Cancer Center for blood transfusions.

While there, Satterlee was told he had a rare form of stomach cancer - so rare that statistics to back its history are scarce, doctors told him.


Six more months of chemotherapy followed, including six therapy sessions using a then yet-to-be-released drug. The drug costs $20,000 for each treatment, Chris said.

Chemotherapy didn't appear to reduce the size of what X-rays showed was a baseball-sized tumor in Chris stomach.

Surgery to remove it soon followed.

But the tumor doctors removed was much smaller than a baseball.

"It was pea-size upon surgery," Satterlee said of the tumor. "I think it was a miracle."

Bolstered by his faith, and with the support of his wife and parents, Satterlee said his outlook on life changed.

He's looking forward to seeing his son and future daughter date for the first time and eventually marry.

Ward Satterlee said the family is determined to see Chris survive cancer and defy the odds once again.


"His attitude, at times, keeps us going," Ward said. "We have a lot of hope. Odds are made to be defied and broken. He'll be an inspiration to a lot of people when he gets through it."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Joe Whetham at (701) 241-5557

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