Last Updated on Saturday, 25 August 2012 08:40
LINDA TYSSEN staff writer
AURORA, MN — Ron Landa was visiting on chatroom with a young woman with a life-threatening illness. She was feeling a sense of hopelessness, of despair, that her dreams had been shattered.
“I told her, ‘If you don’t have your dreams, you don’t have anything’,” Landa said in a recent interview.
The 56-year-old Aurora man has dreams of his own — even as he faces terminal colon cancer. He and his wife of many years, Karen Landa, like to spend their time looking for hidden treasures on beaches and he recently was presented a metal detector by the Dream Foundation, similar to the Make-a-Wish Foundation for children with terminal illnesses.
Landa was diagnosed with colon cancer in September 2010. “I don’t know how much time I have left,” Landa said. “I really don’t want to know.”
His mother, Barbara Ramme of Virginia, found the information about Dream Foundation on the Internet. “What my dream was and had been for quite a while was a couple metal detectors for my wife and I,” Ron Landa said. “I retired and figured we would go out and play. I never got the opportunity because of this cancer. I thought I’d have all the time in the world. It turns out I don’t.”
Landa had worked at Erie Mining Co. and LTV Steel for 27 years as a master trackman. After LTV shut down several years ago, Landa worked as a security officer at Fortune Bay. “Then it got to the point I could hardly walk anymore” because of his illness, he said. He had to stop doing the job he really loved — being an Aurora volunteer firefighter and EMT.
“I don’t know where I’d be if she wasn’t around,” he said of Karen, whom he calls his soulmate. “In sickness and health... people don’t do that no more.” The Landas have a son Joe. Their other son David died in 1996.
The Dream Foundation representatives visited the Landas last weekend, and he was surprised to be given a metal detector and a three-wheeled scooter. He was eligible for both because of his mobility issues. “These people are great,” he said. “They gave me a guide for metal detecting. I tried it out in the backyard. I haven’t felt that good in a long time.”
The Landas plan to use their metal detector on the beaches in the area, looking for “old silver coins, rings and jewelry,” he said. “It’s gonna be fun.”
Asked how he faces the disease that will eventually take his life, Landa said he applies what he learned through being an AA member, about accepting things one cannot change. “Otherwise it would probably drive me nuts, I’d be a basket case,” he said.
Karen Landa said, “The first time he had surgery they didn’t think it was that bad.” He was later sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and doctors were unable to remove the tumor. Landa underwent a colostomy. Landa then contracted a flesh-eating bacteria and also has degenerative disc disease, so his 6-foot-5 stature is now 6-foot-3.
Landa feels bad that some of his friends seem uncomfortable about the cancer. “They quit coming around. I says, I’m still me. I got cancer, otherwise I’m the same person I always was. I want a friend to talk to.”
About the Dream Foundation Landa said, “If you’ve got a dream, let them know. I believe in dreams.”
And one dream that has been realized, Karen Landa said, “He got to see his little grandson and he’s a doll.”
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