Two years ago, my doctor delivered the life-changing news: You have cancer. In an instant, I joined millions of Americans who fight the dreaded disease each day. To say the least, diagnosis of advanced kidney cancer left my wife, Jennifer, and I with serious concern and uncertainty.

But there was hope. As a Christian who believes in the redemption and the promise of Jesus Christ, I had faith that any result would be OK. Incredibly, at the time of diagnosis, a regimen of innovative biopharmaceutical drugs was approved for kidney cancer by the FDA. And, as a southern Minnesotan, I had the fortune of being a local patient of the world’s finest medical institution, the Mayo Clinic.

Over these past two years, I have made the 100-mile trip from my home in Blue Earth to Rochester for Mayo Clinic doctor visits, CT scans, tests, major surgery and 27 infusions of the drug Keytruda – an immunotherapy that revs up my body’s immune system to target and kill cancer cells.

Response to treatment has been extraordinary. In fact, the immunotherapy killed and diminished tumors with such vengeance that when Mayo surgeons resected my kidney 10 weeks ago (a long-planned surgery), they found that all discernible cancer had been removed from my body.

While treatments and regular doctor’s care will continue for the foreseeable future, I feel terrific and continue to work hard and full time. Mayo doctors refer to my case as a “minor miracle.”

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I am exceedingly grateful for God’s healing hands and the Mayo Clinic doctors, technicians and nurses who, day-in-and-day-out, have delivered medical care with exceptional competence and concern. To the Mayo Clinic team that has helped save my life: Thank you!

Southern Minnesotans are fortunate to have the world’s best medical care so close to home. From the Mayo Clinic to our fine rural hospitals and providers, we are blessed with access to timely, quality medical care.

March is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month. But quite frankly, every month is cancer awareness month. Early diagnosis dramatically improves the chance of long-term cancer survival.

My advanced cancer was found “accidentally” and without symptoms through a routine physical examination. During the coronavirus pandemic, many Americans have delayed or canceled medical appointments and annual cancer screenings. I want to stress the importance of seeing your doctor regularly and receiving cancer screenings. Doing so could save your life, as it did mine.

Lastly, to fellow cancer survivors, I understand how dealing with the disease can be painful, tiring and difficult on so many levels. But please hang in there and keep fighting! New life-saving cures, many with reduced side effects, are in development or being introduced for use virtually every day. And as you know so well, it’s amazing how family, friends, medical staff and sometimes total strangers rally around us and join the battle. May God bless you and deliver strength, courage and good health.

Jim Hagedorn represents Minnesota’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and resides in Blue Earth.