The Drive to Live: Successful Treatment Spurs UW Health Patient to Live His Dreams
Jim Baumgarten still hasn't seen "The Bucket List," starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.
But diagnosed with mesothelioma more than six years ago, he has his own bucket list nonetheless.
In September 2002, Baumgarten was told he had six months to a year to live, due to a form of lung cancer caused not by smoking, but by exposure to asbestos. At first surgery wasn't an option, but that soon changed when a new study began. Jim was an ideal candidate. He had his right lung removed in late 2002, and successfully underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment in early 2003. But in August 2007, the cancer returned.
Lung cancer expert Toby Campbell, MD, from the UW Paul P. Carbone Comprehensive Cancer Center, supervised Baumgarten's chemotherapy. He suspects Jim was exposed to asbestos while serving on ships in the Navy.
A native of North Freedom, Jim, 63, graduated from Reedsburg High School and joined the Navy in 1967, spending two years on active duty and 11 more in the Naval Reserve. Later, he owned the Freedom Inn in North Freedom for 11 years, until 1996, and worked fora medical equipment company in Madison before being diagnosed with cancer. "The cancer's being held at bay," says Baumgarten, who lives with his wife, Linda, in West Baraboo. "I'm a cancer survivor, so to speak."
"Jim has a great attitude," says Linda. "From the start he wanted to know how he could help others." Campbell agrees. "Jim epitomizes the idea of living with cancer," he says. "Others phrase it ‘finding life in dying,' which I suspect Jim would also identify with."
So how about that bucket list? Jim says he always dreamed of owning a red Corvette. Now there's one in his garage. He also wanted to catch a musky. But to do that, he reasoned, he needed a boat. And a place up north. On a lake. So Jim and Linda bought a place on Lake Callahan near Hayward.
He also dreams of visiting the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. He's still working on that one. And the musky? "I've had five up to the boat but I've never landed one," he says. "I could almost have kissed and petted them. But I'm satisfied."
It's all about attitude.