New Rockford man 'graduates' from cancer center

Bill Beals
Bill Beals of New Rockford, North Dakota, rang the bell on Monday, April 27, 2020, after graduating from cancer treatment at the JRMC Cancer Center. Submitted photo

He rang the bell, knowing he’ll celebrate sometime soon.

“We’ll make up for it,” said Bill Beals, New Rockford, North Dakota. “We need to stay positive.”

Beals "graduated" from the cancer center at Jamestown Regional Medical Center Monday after 18 months of treatment. Doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer in 2018. His family has supported him since the beginning. Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, however, they couldn’t attend the graduation.

Instead, Beals celebrated with his medical team at the JRMC Cancer Center.

Though social distancing guidelines kept them from attending the graduation, Beals’ three grown children kept in touch through phone calls, texting and Facebook Portal.


“We’ll celebrate soon enough,” Beals said.

Beals plans to return to work as the office deputy at the Eddy County Sheriff’s Department. Once the pandemic is over, he hopes to take a trip to Las Vegas with his family.

A blessing in disguise

The timing of Beals' cancer diagnosis probably saved his life.

The victim of a work-related accident, Beals managed his chronic pain with a pain pump. When the pump wasn’t working, he asked his doctor if he could try something new. To do that required a chest X-ray, which revealed Beals needed medical attention. Doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer on Dec. 30, 2018.

“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I don’t feel sick,’” he recalled. “I didn’t want to believe it at first.”

Doctors recommended radiation and 24 rounds of chemotherapy. At the time, Beals needed to travel to Fargo for that care.

“The JRMC Cancer Center was a lifesaver,” he said. “When you have chronic back pain, driving 200 miles in the car is a lot.”


Beals’s attitude to cancer was to stay positive.

“Attitude is the biggest part of this thing,” he said. “I knew I was going to beat cancer. I always believed. Plus, everybody here is great. You couldn’t ask for better.”

In addition to clinical care, Beals made and reacquainted with friends.

Like Beals, oncologist Dr. Shelby Terstriep is also originally from New Rockford.

“’Graduation day’ from chemo is always an awesome milestone,” Terstriep said. “Our staff get almost as excited as the person ringing the bell because with regular infusions, we get to know them so well. With hope, that makes not being able to have family present because of the pandemic a little bit easier for Bill and others.”

Her dad and Beals are good friends and Beals even catered her wedding.

“Being able to take care of people close to home has been a real highlight for me,” she said.

Beals said he appreciates the support of his medical team, his family and his colleagues in Eddy County. Even though he needed six weeks off for treatment in Fargo, Beals said his colleagues donated enough paid time off that he never missed a paycheck.


“You don’t want to be by yourself in this,” he said. “I’m very fortunate.”

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