Marion publisher fights cancer
Brandenburg looks to sell newspaper
By Erik Buchinger
Dan Brandenburg has remained positive thanks to friends, family and his faith throughout his recent battle with cancer.
Brandenburg, owner of the Marion Advertiser for more than 30 years along with his wife Patsy and their daughter Angie, was diagnosed in February with stomach cancer.
“We never wavered,” Brandenburg said. “I didn’t throw a fit or throw up my hands and give up or anything like that. I said, ‘OK, game on. I’m used to winning, so cancer, you have a fight on your hands.’”
Brandenburg was a paperboy as a kid and started working for the Marion Advertiser as a sophomore in high school.
“I’ve been in the newspaper business all my life, so it’s meant a lot,” Brandenburg said. “It’s been my life, and since we’ve come owners, it’s dictated what we do every day. It’s a lot of work, but it’s rewarding.”
Since purchasing the paper on Dec. 1, 1985, Brandenburg has been dedicated to putting together the newspaper each week, even now when chemotherapy has him feeling tired and weak.
“That’s been my motivation,” Brandenburg said. “It’s been getting this paper out every week for our readers because they rely on it each week and look forward to it, and we’ve been able to do that.”
Brandenburg had experienced stomach pain and thought he had an ulcer, so he changed his diet and lost 30 pounds with better eating habits and eliminated soda. He said he felt good throughout the summer before starting to lose five pounds a week, dropping a total of 65 pounds.
Brandenburg’s stomach pain returned in the fall.
“During deer hunting, it was getting to be a real pain,” Brandenburg said. “It wasn’t an excruciating pain, but it was annoying.”
Brandenburg figured something was wrong, so he went to the doctor.
“I honestly didn’t think it was that serious,” Brandenburg said. “I thought it was something where I’ve got an ulcer, and let’s get rid of it, but it turned out to be something a little worse.”
Since his diagnosis, Brandenburg has remain focused on his work.
“I told my oncologist that we own the newspaper and work a lot of hours, and I was told to rest more,” Brandenburg said. “I told him, ‘I will, but I’ve got to get this paper out.’”
Brandenburg said test results have come back positively, and the tumor shrunk by more than half three weeks ago and has gotten even smaller since then. He has also been able to maintain his weight.
“It appears to be going good,” Brandenburg said. “Obviously with cancer you don’t always know, but so far all my tests have come back good.”
Brandenburg feels tired for five or six days after chemo treatment and occasionally falls asleep at his desk while working on the paper and struggles to type when he cannot feel his fingers, which is another side effect.
Brandenburg said there has not been a lot of cancer in his family, but a few weeks ago, his brother lost his battle with cancer.
“He was a Vietnam veteran, and we’re suspecting it’s Agent Orange,” Brandenburg said. “He found out four weeks before he passed away, and the cancer was in several organs, so he didn’t have much of a chance for survival.
“It happens. If you live long enough, you’re going to have loved ones and people you know are going to get cancer. It’s just inevitable. Hopefully in my lifetime, I would like to see a cure or something and there’s been a lot of progress.”
Brandenburg said he will sometimes feel down, but his family and faith keep him upbeat.
“We’ve had a strong faith in God, and that’s helped us through this,” Brandenburg said. “If I do get a little down, Patsy and Angie will kick me in the pants and say to look at the positive side, and they keep me up. There are times when I wonder what I’m doing this before, but it’s not for very long.”
Last month, the Marion Lions Club and other volunteers organized “Thumbs up for Thumber,” benefit to raise money for Brandenburg’s medical bills with silent and live auctions, live music and more.
Thumber is a nickname given to Brandenburg when he was 7 years old by a cousin who caught him sucking his thumb while playing in the outfield of a baseball game.
“That was one heck of a day,” Brandenburg said. “It was totally unbelievable what they did.”
The event was scheduled for 11 a.m. until 8 p.m., and Brandenburg showed up at noon, expecting to leave at 5 p.m. to eat and take his chemo pills.
“We didn’t get out of there till seven,” Brandenburg said. “We were having a good time, and I wanted to address the crowd two different times, so once at the auction I went up and did it to the big crowd out there. Shortly before seven, we had a big crowd at Northwinds Banquet Hall, and when the band took a break, and I addressed the crowd, thanked them. Then we ran two-page photo spread with another thank you in the paper and put it on Facebook.”
Brandenburg said he was appreciative of the amount of people who attended to support him.
“I couldn’t say enough about the people who ran that and the people that showed up, which had to be about 2,000 people,” Brandenburg said. “It’s overwhelming what people have done. I still get notes in the mail with kind cards wishing me well.”
Despite Brandenburg’s optimistic attitude to defeat the cancer, he is looking to sell the newspaper.
“Were not in a big hurry, and it’s not critical that we sell it right away,” Brandenburg said. “We’re not going to give the business away just because we want to sell it. We put so much into it, so we’re just patiently waiting, and we’ve had people inquire.”
Brandenburg said some people have expressed interest, but has not found a buyer yet.
“We’re not close, though there are rumors are out there,” Brandenburg said. “We’ve had a few people look at it, but it’s a big decision to buy a newspaper. We’re confident we will eventually find somebody, and I’m always hoping it’s somebody locally-minded.”
Brandenburg said he planned to sell the paper soon, but his diagnosis sped up the process.
“That’s part of it, but I’m 66 years old, and I’ve been here over 50 years,” Brandenburg said. “I think it’s about time to step back. We were going to wait until Patsy got to full retirement age, but this kind of expedited it – mainly because I’m taking treatments right now and I’m able to get the paper done, but down the line there could be surgery or I could have to travel further away. If I’m away from my desk, the paper won’t get done.”
Once the paper sells, Brandenburg said he will miss the job but wants to experience other things, including EAA, Milwaukee Brewer baseball games and the Milwaukee Zoo. He looks forward to do more hunting, fishing and golfing as well.
“Obviously I’m going to miss it, but I’m not going to miss having to be here all the time,” Brandenburg said. “We can do some things we haven’t been able to do because of our schedule. Hopefully within a year we can get this thing done.”
Brandenburg said he has enjoyed working for the newspaper and never felt down about going to work.
“It’s been a great ride, it’s been fantastic,” Brandenburg said. “Who can say they’ve had the same job their whole life? Not many people can say that. In the words of Yogi Berra, ‘If I had to do it over again, I’d do it over again.’ I wouldn’t change a thing. I love what I’m doing, and I’ve never dreaded going to work and always look forward to a new day.”
Brandenburg said he won a lot playing in sports and with the newspaper, and he plans to keep on winning.
“I’m used to winning, not used to losing,” Brandenburg said. “And I’m not planning to lose this one.”