Brian Rebhahn loved softball and baseball. If he wasn't watching the Red Sox or the Brewers, he was playing ball or coaching his daughters' teams.
In 2015, Brian was at the Gundersen-sponsored Strike Out Colon Cancer game, at the La Crosse Loggers ballpark, surrounded by his family and friends. For the 2017 game, he had an even better seat. He was smiling down from heaven.
Colorectal cancer cut Brian's life short—much too short. He was only 40 years old when he was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer—a disease that claims the lives of more than 50,000 Americans every year and is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S.
Brian had no family history of colorectal cancer, nor any of the classic warning signs. It's one of the reasons his wife, Val, and daughters, Brianna and Danika, are sharing his story. They want to spread the message that colorectal cancer can happen to anyone—even if you're healthy and active like Brian was. In fact, it's on the rise in people under age 50.
The most important thing you can do is get a colonoscopy screening if you're age 50 or older. Colonoscopy not only detects colon cancer but can identify polyps and remove them before they even become cancer.
But, what about people like Brian who are under age 50…who are healthy…who have no family history…and who don't have the luxury of catching cancer through screening?
In 2017, the Bags for Brian event raised over $13,000 for local cancer support programs and research.
If the Rebhahn family could share one piece of advice, it would be to listen to your body. The only warning sign Brian had was sporadic stomach pain. Little stopped him in his tracks, but the words of a Gundersen Urgent Care doctor stuck with him and Val. If you experience pain that keeps you awake, don't ignore it. Go get it checked out and give yourself peace of mind. When discovered early, colorectal cancer can be very treatable.
Those who knew Brian knew he loved baseball but he loved his family more. He showed it through every word he spoke, and more importantly, through every action he took. If he were here tonight, Brian would be the first to tell you to "slow down and enjoy the current day because you never know what the next day will bring."
How you can donate
Donations of any size can help and there are many ways to make a contribution.
- Make a donation and designate it to Brian's Fund
- Mail your donation to: Gundersen Medical Foundation, 1836 South Ave., La Crosse, WI 54601. Make checks payable to Gundersen Medical Foundation and indicate Brian's Fund in the check memo.
- Contact the Foundation at (608) 775-6600 or (800) 362-9567, ext. 56600 to set up a payroll deduction (Gundersen employees only).
- Sponsor a fundraiser.