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Cancer survivor pays tribute to ‘The Man in Black’

Minnesota man, who has battled against melanoma, to perform at area senior centers, nursing homes and assisted living facilities

September 8, 2012
By Cindy Votruba , Marshall Independent

After he survived a deadly form of cancer, Loren Wolfe decided to turn his hobby of entertaining people into a full-time endeavor.

Wolfe, of Shakopee, will perform at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Fieldcrest Assisted Living in Cottonwood; at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Divine Providence Health Center in Ivanhoe; at 12:30 p.m. Thursday at the Hendricks Nursing Home and at 3 p.m. Thursday at the Adult Community Center in Marshall.

About 10 years ago, Wolfe had followed a calling, to visit the elderly and sing.

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Loren Wolfe of Shakopee has entertained as Johnny Cash for the last 10 years, and in the last several months, he’s been performing full time, visiting senior centers, nursing homes and assisting living facilities around the state.

"I started imitating Johnny Cash," he said. Wolfe said he's played music for about 50 years, and one of the programs he's developed is a tribute to Cash.

Pretty soon activities directors from assisted living facilities and nursing homes started promoting him around the Shakopee area, Wolfe said.

"I've been doing it as a semi-hobby invocation," he said. At the time he had a full-time job, so he entertained for "kicks and giggles."

When he turned 60, Wolfe went in for a regular physical. A softball-sized tumor was found under his right armpit. When the tumor was biopsied, it was found to be melanoma.

"When it gets in your lymph system, it was deadly," he said. "It was looking relatively grim."

To treat his cancer, Wolfe opted for a radial lymphadenectomy, where all the lymph nodes are removed from a certain area, and in his case, his right armpit. Then he had his first PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scan

"Everyone was surprised that it (the cancer) wasn't found," he said.

He also got a second opinion at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, meeting with an oncologist who specialized in melanoma. The doctor had looked at Wolfe's chart and stated that "somebody upstairs must really like you." That was one of the most reassuring things he and his wife have ever heard, Wolfe said.

"I can't really explain how I survived this," Wolfe said.

Since his diagnosis and treatment, Wolfe has retired from his "big boy" job and doing an experimental treatment for his cancer. He's two years into a three-year treatment, he said.

Now that he had the free time, Wolfe wanted to pursue his "musical calling." So eight months ago, he delved full time into playing songs by Cash, Willie Nelson and others. He'll play at senior centers, assisted living facilities and other places.

When he performs as the "Man in Black," Wolfe said he tries to make things authentic.

"I do it first person - talk and tell of his times," Wolfe said.

Every few months, Wolfe has a PET scan and all have come back with N.E.D. (No Evidence of Disease) at the bottom of the report. He's slated for his sixth PET scan in October and hopes to be declared cancer-free again.

He has also become a patient advocate for melanoma awareness.

This past February, Wolfe went to Winterland Studios in the Twin Cities to record a CD, which he titled "N.E.D. and Me." The title track is about his journey into the world of cancer, he said.



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