By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – Most of you might know him as the “Voice of De Pere Athletics,” but he’s also a father to three children – Matt, Chris and Lauren – and a husband to Jayma, married for more than 31 years.
When a difficult situation arose almost three years ago, the Dan Van Straten family approached it like they always have – move forward, live life and stay positive.
In July 2019, Jayma started slurring her words and was taken to the hospital.
“Nothing was making sense from her, and she was going off in several different directions,” Dan Van Straten said. “We knew something wasn’t right and took her to the emergency room. About an hour into the visit, she had a full-blown seizure. They determined she had a significant-sized brain tumor.”
Van Straten said Jayma basically went into a coma for five days.
“With the seizure, she ended up on a ventilator,” he said. “A biopsy was performed and an operation ensued. About 80% of the tumor was removed – at that time, it was already Stage IV. Jayma was given 12-18 months to live. Here we are, three years later this summer, and we’re still battling along.”
Van Straten said Jayma has had a few more surgeries.
“Every three weeks, we’re seeing our doctor,” he said. “She’s getting regular MRIs, has had chemo and went through another round of radiation. She’s also on several anti-seizure medications, can’t drive anymore, is losing her balance more and it’s harder to have a conversation with her.”
Van Straten said the support from the community has been amazing.
“It helps lift you and keep you positive,” he said. “Every family has been touched by cancer one way or another, but you have to keep positive. We don’t know how much time we have left on this earth, but we have to try and make a difference while we’re here. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.”
Van Straten said the tumor that initially caused the problem is still there, and another one has formed.
“The new tumor hasn’t changed in size during the last three MRIs,” he said. “They monitor that one, and there’s another area they are keeping an eye on, too.”
The family, along with the De Pere High School Sting Cancer Club, is hosting the First Annual Redbird Ribbon Walk from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 15, at the high school track.
“Donate for each lap you take around the track,” Van Straten said. “Walk one lap or walk 10. Walk alone or with your family. Walk in honor of someone currently battling cancer or in memory of someone.”
T-shirts will be available for purchase, while food trucks will be on-site.
All proceeds from the event will benefit the De Pere Sting Cancer Club to support its effort.
“We were lying in bed one night, and said, ‘We need to give back and do something,” Van Straten said. “During the Redbirds’ basketball kickoff event (last November), the support from the community was unbelievable. We vowed to give back.”
Van Straten said as soon as word got out about the event, things took off.
“We thought if we could use our platform to raise money, that was a good thing,” he said. “We want it to benefit all people affected by cancer.”
You’ll still hear Van Straten at the microphone next basketball season introducing the starting lineups and announcing the game, something he said he enjoys.
“I’ve been doing it for about 15 years now,” he said. “I still get amped up before every game. We have great coaches and great kids. I’m a De Pere graduate and on my fourth term on the school board. It’s like I never left high school.”
By Rich Palzewic